“The most sensual romance of the year.” Thus trumpets the cover of Lisa Kleypas’ new historical romance. Is this truth in advertising? I think so. Suddenly You is certainly the most sensual romance I have read this year. Yet while the love scenes are plentiful and generally very well done, I admit to being a wee bit disappointed when I finished the book and I have to ask myself why.
I have to conclude that my disappointment arises from the inevitable comparison that arises with my favorite Kleypas book, Dreaming of You. In both cases, the heroine is an author of genteel family and some renown and the hero is a self-made man of dubious origins. In both books, the hero is convinced that he is unworthy of the woman he has come to love while the heroine is, beneath her respectable exterior, a woman of great passion.
While Dreaming of You resides on my keeper shelf and is somewhat dog eared from rereading, Suddenly You, for all its sensuality, lacked the character development and sexual tension that made Derek Craven’s and Sara Fielding’s love story so memorable. This may well reflect my own personal preferences because it is quite clear that the author created a scenario that would get the hero and heroine in bed pretty quickly.
Amanda Briars is approaching her thirtieth birthday. She can look back on her first three decades with some pride. She cared for her ill parents until their deaths and found time to write successful novels. She moved to London where she moves in the less tonnish but more interesting social circles. She can support herself quite comfortably. But, Amanda has never had an admirer let alone a lover and she decides that she does not want to enter her fourth decade not knowing about passion.
Always practical, Amanda visits Mrs. Bradshaw, London’s best known madam, to hire a lover as a birthday present for herself. When she opens her door that night, she has pretty much decided that this is a bad idea. The man on her doorstep is incredibly handsome, with piercing blue eyes, a fine body and luscious black hair. “Jack,” as he introduces himself, does not simply go away as she asks. If he doesn’t take her virginity, he certainly shows her what physical pleasure is all about. Happy birthday, Amanda!
Several days later at a social event Amanda makes a startling discovery. “Jack” is no male prostitute; rather he is Jack Devlin, business man and publisher extraordinaire, a man whose ruthless ambition and business acumen has shaken up the comfortable world of publishing. Jack had come to Amanda’s not to seduce her but to offer her a deal. (Mrs. Bradshaw has a strange sense of humor.) Jack wants to publish Amanda’s first novel whose rights he has purchased as a serial novel. Amanda’s first reaction is to say no, but he makes her an offer she can’t refuse.
Jack and Amanda work together on the manuscript, become friends, and decide to become lovers. The attraction between them is palpable and irresistible. But Jack believes himself incapable of marriage and fatherhood because of his dreadful experiences as the bastard of a selfish nobleman. Despite his deep feelings for Amanda, he believes he has to let her go to someone more worthy until fate takes a hand.
Jack and Amanda are both well drawn characters. Jack’s childhood was absolutely dreadful, yet his strength and determination allowed him to rise above the horrors. But he does not understand what an honorable fellow he really is. Amanda is likewise unaware of her own attractiveness, both personal and physical. Short and plump, she is far from the accepted model of beauty but doesn’t realize that her face and figure are appealing. Nor does she understand that some men appreciate intelligence in women. These two learn their own value by seeing themselves through the eyes of their beloved.
I thought long and hard about rating this book. I finally decided to recommend Suddenly You. I realized that I was holding it up to a pretty high standard - one of my favorite romances ever. I also realized that many readers will really appreciate the strong sensual element in Suddenly You. If I find myself quibbling a bit with some of the elements in the story, I nevertheless recognize that the love scenes are very well done. Jack may not be Derek Craven, but after all, there is only one Derek Craven.