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Secrets of a Summer Night (Wallflowers, Bk 1)
Secrets of a Summer Night - Wallflowers, Bk 1 Author:Lisa Kleypas Four young ladies enter London society with one common goal: they must use their feminine wit and wiles to find a husband.So a daring husband-hunting scheme is born. — Annabelle Peyton, determined to save her family from disaster, decides to use her beauty and wit to tempt a suitable nobleman into making an offer of marriage. But Annabelle's ... more »most intriguing--and persistent--admirer, wealthy, powerful Simon Hunt, has made it clear that while he will introduce her to irresistible pleasure he will not offer marriage. Annabelle is determined to resist his unthinkable proposition...but it is impossible in the face of such skillful seduction.
Her friends, looking to help, conspire to entice a more suitable gentleman to offer for Annabelle, for only then will she be safe from Simon--and her own longings. But on one summer night, Annabelle succumbs to Simon's passionate embrace and tempting kisses...and she discovers that love is the most dangerous game of all.« less
ISBN 0060091290 - Not following too many of the generic rules of romance novels has worked for Kleypas, making her one of the few romance authors I would read from again of my own choice.
Since her father died, Annabelle and her family have fallen on hard times, financially, when she discovers that her mother has taken a different fall of her own - assuming the role of mistress to a pig of a man to help pay the bills. Annabelle feels the pressure of the need to marry well, which will save her mother from Lord Hodgeham and keep her brother in school. Landing a man with a title and money isn't just an issue of snobbery, it's a must. Her upbringing has taught her that she should marry a peer and her families dire straits requires that he be wealthy enough to help them. Unfortunately, Annabelle doesn't have a dowry and without a dowry, she's just a pretty face, more likely to end up someone's mistress than the wife of a peer. After almost 4 seasons without an offer of marriage, Annabelle's on the verge of becoming a spinster.
Decidedly not the right man, Simon Hunt is the son of a butcher. He's wealthy, but in the low-class way of having worked for it. Worse, he likes to talk about work and making money. Some of the peerage invites him to places he really doesn't belong, throwing he and Annabelle in each other's way. She admits she finds him attractive, but she's got her mind set on marrying a certain sort of man. And she has a plan.
As the season began to draw to a close, Annabelle found herself sitting with 3 other girls. They'd sat together often, watching others dance, but never spoken. One night, however, that changes and the four girls make a pact to help each other find husbands. They've all got their own reasons for ending up wallflowers: Evie's family is wealthy but common and the Bowman sisters, Lillian and Daisy, are American and a bit too rough around the edges. They're only accepted at all into society because their father is very rich. The four become fast friends and the husband hunting begins with Annabelle's plight, since she is oldest.
The story of the girls' friendship is given more ink than the usual romance novel drivel, which is a huge plus. The girls are funny and real and I hope Kleypas realizes, through the next three books, that the romance isn't nearly as interesting as they are and keeps them centerstage. Simon and Annabelle don't follow the standard romance novel pattern too closely, either, with no other man/woman thrown between them and no major misunderstandings to muddy up the romance. That alone makes this one worthy of a quick read.
This is the first book of a 4-book series about the "wall flowers". I ended up reading it last, however, it is not a problem to read them out of order. I think this and the second book of the series are the best.