Sunday, July 18, 2010

Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas

Beatrix is the youngest and quirkiest of the Hathaway siblings. Most of the time she prefers the company of animals to that of people. That might explain her unmarried state even though she's in her mid-twenties. She knows she should marry, but since all of her siblings married for love, Beatrix can't bring herself to settle for just anyone. When Beatrix's friend, Prudence, refuses to write back to a suitor who is a soldier away at war, she takes pity on the man and writes the letter for Prudence. When the soldier writes back, Beatrix continues the correspondence using Prudence's name and falls hopelessly in love with him in the process.

Captain Christopher Phelan was a shallow rake when he left for war, but the experiences of death and suffering have changed him. He knows that he would not have made it through the war without the letters from his beloved Prudence. When Christopher returns home as a hero and starts making plans to marry Prudence, he is disturbed by his reactions to his neighbor, Beatrix Hathaway. He used to think she was odd, but now there is a strange attraction. And for some reason, Prudence does not seem to remember what she wrote him in her letters. Chistopher is in love with the woman who wrote the letters, but he's no longer sure who that is.

Beatrix was my least favorite Hathaway, but this book changed that. I think this might be the best Lisa Kleypas book I've read to date. Kleypas writes the best quips of any writer I've ever read and older brother Leo's dialogue was especially entertaining. Of course, he usually runs away with his scenes. The part that really nailed it for me was the letters between Beatrix and Christopher. The progression of their feelings felt just right and who doesn't like the notion that someone could fall in love with who you are, sight unseen.

BEST FEATURE: The letters between Beatrix and Christopher.

WORST FEATURE: The simplification of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Don't get me wrong, I applaud the author's use of this plot device since it would have been unrealistic for a soldier to come back unchanged after experiencing war. It's also a timely topic given Iraq and Afghanistan. The problem was that the book seemed to imply that the love of friends and family could quickly resolve the symptoms. But that's the good and the bad of a romance novel, love and happy endings are not always compatible with reality.

PARENTAL WARNING: Minor violence and sexual content that isn't overly explicit.

MY RATING: 5 - If you're a fan of romance novels than you need to read the Hathaway series.

Captain Jack's Woman by Stephanie Laurens

Kathryn "Kit" Cranmer was raised to be a lady, but her rebellious streak and habit of dressing like a young man frequently land her in situations no well-bred lady should ever be in. Such as leading a gang of smugglers, just to name one example. Her success as a smuggler results in Kit crossing paths with the leader of a rival smuggling gang, Captain Jack.

Captain Jack is actually Jonathon, Lord Hendon... the High Commissioner appointed to stop the smuggling activity in the area. Since spies are one of the things being smuggled in and out of the country, Jack allows the illegal activity to continue so that they can trail the spies back to their source. In order to accomplish this, Jack needs total control of the smuggling in the area which means that he either needs to put a stop to Kit's gang or incorporate them into his own group. A power struggle is inevitable between these two strong personalities and, when Jack discovers that Kit the lad is actually Kit the young woman, he'll end up pursuing more than just spies.

This is the first book that I have read by Ms. Laurens and I wasn't overly impressed. The story is interesting and there are numerous sex scenes that practically scorch the pages they're written on, but the book is too long and the main characters were annoying. Jack is a bit of a sexist brute, but you could write that off as being historically accurate. It's Kit's character that ruins this book for me. She is spoiled and self-absorbed and her inability to maintain a coherent thought when Jack is touching her should be insulting to females everywhere. I have never hated a female literary character this much. Even Scarlett O'Hara had some redeeming qualities.

BEST FEATURE: The sex scenes. They were explicit enough and frequent enough to meet my romance requirements.

WORST FEATURE: Kit. Here's hoping that this character does not resurface in any other books I decide to read by this author.

PARENTAL WARNING: minor violence, but sexual content explicit enough to be considered adult only.

RATING: 2 - For die-hard romance lovers and Stephanie Laurens fans only. A friend recommended this author so I will be checking out the Bastion Club series next to see if I like them better.