Married by Morning & Love in the Afternoon (CBR9 #34 & 35)

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The Hathaways series by Lisa Kleypas was supposed to be my “read during the year” romance series for 2017. Five books spaced out over 12 months would give me something to look forward to and get some more classic Kleypas under my belt. But then I read book three, Tempt Me at Twilight and realized that book four took place immediately thereafter and decided why bother savoring? Give me all the books right now.

I am so glad I did, and it is probably why I’ve rated Married by Morning higher than some of Our Ladies of the Kissing Books, because its links to the stories around it helped to buoy it in to steady 4.5 stars territory for me. While Love in the Afternoon takes place a few years later than the middle three books in the series, it is also aided I think by having the previous plots, characterizations, and memories of its heroine so firmly in the mind’s eye.

It is nearly impossible to summarize these two outside the other three, so I won’t bother and instead give you a series rundown.  The Hathaway family have been elevated in society by a seemingly cursed estate (the males keep dying). Leo Hathaway inherits, and as he is hell-bent on self-destruction, his sister Amelia takes over – the events of Mine Till Midnight cover this time.  Once the family gets its feet under it, and Leo chaperones second sister Win to France so that she can regain her health (and to a lesser extent his) they return and the should be skipped or at worst skimmed for the  Amelia and Cam parts book two, Seduce Me at Sunrise takes over. (Seriously, just… Merripen in that book is terrible and it feels off entirely to who that character is in the rest of the series.) In order to get the family into society for the benefit of the younger sisters, Poppy and Beatrix, a chaperone and governess is brought on, one Miss Catherine Marks. She helps, but that does not stop Poppy from marrying the manipulating hotelier Harry Rutledge in what is perhaps the most twee, and certainly has a premise that should be beyond frustrating but is instead delightful (Kleypas writes great characters).

Which brings us to book four. It is uncovered that Catherine Marks is really Harry Rutledge’s half-sister and is in hiding from something terrible in her past. She and Leo Hathaway have spent the previous two books bickering in only the way that people who are going to end up together do. Now Leo is set on discovering why Marks has been lying, and eventually putting himself on the line to protect her. Once those two are settled in (your mileage may vary on how Kleypas makes that all work) we are off to book five, a few years later, when a now 23 year old Beatrix is probably firmly on the shelf and declining another London season, but has accidentally fallen in love with a soldier in the Crimea. Now she has fallen in love with Christopher, but he thinks she is someone else, and she has sworn not to reveal the secret. That is, until it is impossible for Christopher not to realize that the woman he believed himself to have fallen in love with possess none of the qualities he fell for.

Married by Morning and Love in the Afternoon do not stand out in a plot summary, but rather in the execution of what Kleypas is after. She builds strong characters with strong familial ties, who are bucking the system (whether that be Society, Family Expectations, or the Limelight) and places them in a situation where the reader is able to happily ride along. It is difficult to find the words for why I found these two so lovely and enjoyable (partly because I put this combined review off for nearly a week), but also because what Kleypas achieves is so subtle as to be difficult to describe. I wanted more time with these characters; to see them improve over time and be strengthened by their relationships, and enjoy a good bit of smolder as well.

What greater compliment could I pay them but to say I wished to reread them almost immediately?

These books were read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read, where we read what we want, review it however we see fit, and raise money for the American Cancer Society in memory of a fallen friend.

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Seduce Me at Sunrise and Tempt Me at Twilight (CBR9 #28 & 29)

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I was told, repeatedly, not to read Seduce Me at Sunrise, otherwise known as the Win and Merripen book. I swear I was listening, but then someone mentioned that there were several Amelia and Cam scenes in the book worth seeking out. So… I checked it out along with the book I meant to read, Tempt Me at Twilight, and got to skimming.

More of the book was okay then I feared initially, but it is still only a two star/okay book, and that’s not great for a Romance. Usually the happy feelings push me to rate these about a half star higher than I would more traditional, non-genre fiction. What can I say, I’m not perfect and my emotions can and do get the better of me.

I am glad however that I got these books from the library at the same time, and didn’t do my usual habit of spreading out the series to savor it. These two books occur in rapid succession in the series’ timeline, and I have a feeling book 4, Married by Morning, is also set immediately after (I’ve requested it and book 5 from the library to arrive sometime late in May or early in June – don’t worry). This allowed me to sink into the family dynamic that Kleypas is building. I missed this same experience with Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books and in retrospect; I wish I had read them closer together.

These two books are set about two and a half years after the events of the first book and Kleypas is telling one large story. It is entirely typical of the genre to tell serialized stories of one family, or in the case of the Wallflowers one group of friends, but generally other than winks and nods and updates on previous characters there isn’t usually much interplay between each book’s lead protagonists. That is not the method at hand with these books: instead Kleypas is using the tight family she has created to tell a tightly woven story. I have to say, I prefer this method. There is story and plot points for everyone in Seduce Me at Sunrise, which means that while the main couple have major problems as a pair, there is still plenty of story to carry the book to a two star rating. When a better pairing happens, then we get a better book as well.

I do not know what exactly about Tempt Me at Twilight that won me over to a five star. The book teeters on the edge of too much, our self-made hero Harry is able to do all the things, and upsets Poppy’s possible marriage proposal in order to trap her into choosing to marry him. Kleypas is often playing with the themes of hard work and getting out of your comfort zones, and that is exactly what this pairing is built around. Perhaps the decisive factor was the inclusion of a not physically pleasing first experience for the virgin, which then puts other important plot points into action.

Kleypas isn’t afraid to make and keep her heroes and heroines imperfect, and that is more often a strength than a weakness for her writing.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. We read what we want, review it honestly, and help raise funds to support the American Cancer Society in the name of one of our fallen friends.