Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Secrets of a Summer Night," Lisa Kleypas

The Chick: Annabelle Peyton. One of the four "wallflowers" who decide to combine their feminine wiles to find husbands for each other, her excuse for her dreadful luck with the menfolk is that despite being gentry, her family's dirt poor, and there's a whole flock of unscrupulous noblemen waiting for her to sink low enough to consent to being a mistress, rather than a wife.
Shady Past: Annabelle's mother consented to an affair with a repulsive lord in order to pay the bills, and that same lord's got eyes for Annabelle...

The Dude: Simon Hunt - who, despite being a butcher's son, has managed to climb out of the middle class and become an insanely wealthy industrialist. Despite doling out priceless financial favours and investment advice to the economically-challenged aristocracy, he's only invited to the fancy parties out of condescending gratitude and is still seen as little more than a peasant. In response to constant snubbing, he does away with tact and tradition altogether, which makes him come off as something of a boor to the ladies.
Shady Past: Despite being rich enough to purchase a thousand butcher shops the equal of his father's, his parents still sniff about him abandoning the family business and working with intangible things like investments and stocks.

The Plot:
Annabelle: I need money!
Simon: What a coincidence! I have money!
Annabelle: You willing to buy the whole cow, or do you just want some milk?
Simon: Milk would be nice.
Annabelle: Wrong answer!
Simon: Only a matter of time.
Lord Hodgeham: *various inappropriate sexual advances*
Simon: Alright, I give! I drink your milkshake! I DRINK IT UP!
Annabelle: Huzzah!

Romance Convention Checklist:
1 Interclass Romance
1 Unscrupulous Sexual Rival
1 Harmless but Boring Sexual Rival
1 Life-saving (or at least comfort-saving) Act On the Part of the Hero
1 Obvious Sequel Set-Up (Earl Westcliff + half naked Lillian Bowman = Romance?)
2 Inappropriately Public Groping Sessions

The Word: People in the romance blogger community have called Lisa Kleypas' books "romantic novel crack," and HOLY CRAP ARE THEY RIGHT. I picked up this book during Reading Week since I figured I was far enough ahead in my university reading to do some fun reading of my own, and I kept picking this novel up to read more ("just one more chapter - ONE more chapter? Then I'll get started on my essays, yeah...").
Lisa Kleypas builds strong, interesting characters and infuses her Victorian settings with a wealth of colourful detail, particularly on fashions and food. I also like the idea of four girls teaming up to find husbands for each other one by one -- I mean, we've had what, fifty years of ninja movies and the ninjas never think to attack the hero all at once instead of one at a time, only to lose each time? This is progress! The ending is also fairly realistic -- Simon Hunt's social problems don't all blow away in the wind just because he marries Annabelle. Annabelle has to come to terms with the snubbing she receives from both side of the class line -- the nobles think she's married down, and Simon's folks think she's a gold-digging aristo. Still, despite all the "reality" that seeps into this novel, it's still a terrifically fun read. B+

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