June 2010, European Historical Romance (1852 England)
St. Martin's, $7.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312605382 Part of a series
Those who have been following Lisa Kleypasí Hathaway series have been greatly anticipating Leoís match with Catherine Marks, which finally happens in Married by Morning. While it certainly doesnít disappoint, it doesnít quite reach its full potential. That said, this is a Lisa Kleypas novel, so itís guaranteed to be better than a lot of the historical romances out there.
After Leoís fiancť died in his arms, he lost himself thoroughly in grief, alcohol, and vice. Though heís since mostly reformed, his reputation precedes him. His sistersí straitlaced governess holds a particular prejudice against him, which causes sparks between themóall interactions are filled with insults, sparring, and general unpleasantness. However, behind Catís uptight faÁade is a secret past that may jeopardize her future with the Hathaways.
Meanwhile, the copasetic and eccentric life the family has built for themselves is also at risk; a complicated and previously unnoticed clause in the inheritance requires Leo to marry and reproduce an heir by a deadline, or they lose the house they have rebuilt to the previous viscountís widow and daughter. However, remnants of his own heart break, and the attractive and feisty Cat Marks and the mystery she poses, are deterring him from finding a bride and saving the Hathawayís beloved home.
Though I could tell they were meant to be matched, I never really appreciated the antagonism between Leo and Cat in previous books the way other readers did. In this book, though, I really liked their chemistry and got a better understanding of the tension underlying the hostility. The transition from vexation to affection left me with mixed feelings, though. At first I thought it wasnít really there, that it just happened with no cause or motivation. But looking back, I wonder if itís just so subtle that I didnít pick up on it while it was happening. I still havenít fully decided which was the case.
Leo is a truly funny character. I loved him. One of my pet peeves in writing is authorial self-awareness of their own wit. Thereís nothing worse than ruining a good joke with dwelling on the uproarious laughter that follows it. In this case, though, Lisa Kleypas thankfully lets Leoís humor stand for itself, and itís all the better for its unadornment. Aside from his wit, though, he has a darkness to him that canít be ignored. I loved the contrast and trying to understand his motivations, but he makes a drastic switch in position in the second half of the book that lacks sufficient explanation or motivation.
Cat was a bit more elusive in general for me. The heroine I got to know in this book didnít quite match up with who was presented in the previous Hathaway novels. She was still an interesting character, though, and a likeable one despite her stubbornness and prickliness.
The end, unfortunately, was entirely predictable. I donít remember a Kleypas novel without a kidnapping tacked on at the end, and this one was no different. However, despite its flaws, itís still a fun book. The animal-loving Beatrix is next to get the romance novel treatment, and I for one canít wait.
-- Jane Granville
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