What do you do when your heroine ends up married to the villain? Well, if your author can't build tension between a mismatched couple any better than Lisa Kleypas did in Tempt Me at Twilight, I'd say chuck it & start again with a new premise. It clearly didn't work here. I had high hopes for this third installment in the Hathaways series and I'm supremely annoyed that it ended up being about as exciting as watching grass grow. The premise of this story should have been a walk in the park for Kleypas. After all, look what she did with an established villain in Devil In Winter.
Harry Rutledge, the handsome and mysterious owner of the Rutledge Hotel - the Hathaway clan's home away from home during the London season - is certainly "handsome & mysterious" enough to make for an intriguing antihero (i.e. "sympathetic despite his rejection of virtue"). Sadly, Kleypas decided to pair him up with Poppy Hathaway, which in and of itself shouldn't necessarily present a problem, had she done a bit more character development with Poppy prior to the girl you see in this book. I went into Tempt Me at Twilight with no real sense of Poppy, except as a secondary character, younger sister to the heroines in the two previous stories. Kleypas never sets her up as heroine material prior to this book, and she never actually develops her into a full fledged heroine in this story either.
The opening scene with Harry and Poppy does show a good bit of promise. It's a great scene and they appear to have some great chemistry. He wants her. He has to have her, whatever it takes, and he's willing to be ruthless in his pursuit, even to the point of sabotaging a budding romance and *possible* impending marriage between Poppy and her young stylized "hero", Michael Bayning. Taking unfair advantage of a golden opportunity, Harry throws a pretty big obstacle in Michael's way, and when forced to make a choice between doing whatever it takes to have Poppy - as Harry is well prepared to do - Michael opts to tuck tail and run. Harry then proposes that Poppy marry him instead, after deliberately putting her in a compromising position, mostly because he knows she'll run back home to Hampshire if he doesn't do something quickly.
Poppy agrees to marry Harry, and then Michael shows up at the wedding, finally resolved to fight for her (but only so hard), and carrying tales on Harry & his role in breaking up their courtship. Poppy decides to send Michael on his way and go ahead with the wedding, but she's resolved to teach Harry a lesson for manipulating her and spoiling her HEA.
All things considered, it's not a great premise to work with, but I think it's one that can be done, and given Kleypas' past track record in working with less than perfect heroes, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect her to rise to the occasion here. This kind of story line, however (IMO) really called for a great deal more character development than she put into this heroine. I think this is where this story failed; Poppy just wasn't interesting, Kleypas doused the chemistry between Harry and Poppy with cold water, literally at the altar, and then just never quite re-established it until ten chapters later. There are no close calls, no kissing & clenches, and no real tension building in the interim. They make one stab at fully consummating the marriage and it's basically a disaster, and then Poppy packs her bags and runs back home to Hampshire. I was literally gritting my teeth for several chapters, just waiting for this to happen anyway, yet hoping against hope that Kleypas wasn't actually going to write it that way. I should have known better.
To be fair, once Harry and Poppy get away from London and the Rutledge, their romance gets back on track and becomes interesting reading once again. It's just a shame, IMO, that you have to suffer through ten chapters of so-so before you get to it. I started to enjoy it after Chapter 21, and this continued on until Kleypas decides to throw in a silly little external conflict in the final chapter that didn't serve any discernible purpose beyond padding out the word count. My overall impression of Tempt Me at Twilight is that on its own merit, there's some promise, but none of it really comes to much. It's certainly required reading if you're following this series, if for no other reason, than to keep up with the ongoing saga of Leo and Miss Marks, but it's not nearly as good as the two previous books.
Sensuality Rating: R
~ A SOLID KLEYPAS READ WITH A WONDERFUL "VILLAIN" HERO AND ANOTHER CHARMING HATHAWAY SISTER ~
At last!! Another Kleypas novel --- now we all just have to survive the wait for the story we've all been waiting for: Leo and "Marks" (or Catherine/Cat, which we learn in this novel is her first name). I completely agree with the reviewer Luckee that this book was definitely satisfying and enjoyable, but there was just a little something missing. Is it worth rushing out to your nearest bookstore and buying though? Yes. Will you be left feeling giddy after you read it? Yes. And are there the classic characters we all love, the chemistry Kleypas excels at writing, and the humorous and witty scenes we adore? Yes. So basically: yes, buy it, steal it, whatever, but read it!
SUMMARY (from back cover):
~ He was everything she'd sworn to avoid. ~
Poppy Hathaway loves her unconventional family, though she longs for normalcy. Then fate leads to a meeting with Harry Rutledge, an enigmatic hotel owner and inventor with wealth, power, and a dangerous hidden life. When their flirtation compromises her own reputation, Poppy shocks everyone by accepting his proposal --- only to find that her new husband offers his passion, but not his trust.
~ And she was everything he needed . . . ~
Harry was willing to do anything to win Poppy --- except to open his heart. All his life, he has held the world at arm's length . . . but the sharp, beguiling Poppy demands to be his wife in every way that matters. Still, as desire grows between them, an enemy lurks in the shadows. Now if Harry wants to keep Poppy by his side, he must forge a true union of body and soul, once and for all . . .
MAIN CHARACTERS, Harry Rutledge and Poppy Hathaway:
Harry (early 30s) is a wonderful hero --- the kind of bad-guy-whom-we-love-to-love hero that Kleypas created for DREAMING OF YOU, THE DEVIL IN WINTER, and WHERE DREAMS BEGIN. Harry is ruthless, complex, very emotionally closed-off, and will stop at nothing to get what he wants --- which usually comes very easily to him now. However he's also fair, humorous, extremely hardworking and intelligent, intense, passionate, loyal, and can be extremely tender and sensitive.
Here LK has created a "hero" Ã la Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent (from DEVIL IN WINTER), because as Harry himself says in the scene that was being used as the teaser-excerpt: in this story, it's the villain of the fairy-tale who gets the princess, not the prince. Harry definitely does some questionable things, though I would say that Kleypas does a very good job of having her character toe the line, but never quite crossing it --- and writing him in such a way that one can't help but understand why Poppy is so attracted and drawn to him, because frankly what woman wouldn't be?! Basically, you know him . . . he's the bad/cold guy who just secretly (even unconsciously) wants to love and cuddle / be loved and cuddled but was --- surprise, surprise --- just waiting (even if he didn't know it) for the right woman to come along. Let's not even pretend that we don't all (or okay, to be fair, *most* all of us) absolutely **LOVE** this type of hero, lol.
Poppy (23) is a great counterbalance to Harry --- as he so eloquently puts it in one scene in the book when he compares her to a clock mechanism ;-). She's charming, friendly, outgoing, loving, intelligent, and a wonderful conversationalist (sounds like a mundane attribute, but really isn't in this case) who is interested by almost everything and everyone. All Poppy has ever wanted is a calm and quiet life --- something not often found in the Hathaway household --- with a partner whom she loves, and though she thinks she has found this in the form of Michael Bayning, Harry maneuvers everything so that . . . well, let's just say that path becomes somewhat obstructed for Poppy.
I liked Poppy's freshness and honesty --- there is no guile with her and it's easy to see why someone like Harry (or anyone, for that matter) would be drawn to her. One of the things I loved best about Poppy was that she wasn't written as being so perfect that it was almost hard to like her or feel any kinship with her; she has flaws --- though admittedly not as many as Harry, lol --- and there's one scene in particular where after speaking with Leo about something, she decides that she was in the wrong and is going to apologize. If you want to know what other LK heroines she's most like, I would probably say a combination of Sara Fielding (DREAMING OF YOU) for her honesty and friendliness, Daisy Bowman (SCANDAL IN SPRING) for her simplicity and positivity, and Charlotte Howard (WORTH ANY PRICE) for how her relationship with the hero is portrayed and in the way that he needs/wants her.
We see lots of the whole Hathaway clan (and are given great teasers about Leo and Marks, see P.S. for more details) and the staff of the Rutledge Hotel are great additions to the book. They really add to the story, as well as giving further depth to Harry and the relationship he develops with Poppy. They also provide some wonderful humor, which is always a great thing for any romance book, and this book definitely has some of the LOL scenes that I always come to treasure in LK's novels --- one of the greatest ones is when the hotel top-staff are in the kitchen discussing the intimate side (or lack thereof) of Harry and Poppy's relationship and the chef is making all these vegetable metaphors. :-))) Couldn't stop laughing!
The "there's-something-missing-but-I'm-not-exactly-sure-what" factor is hard to describe because, yes, I'm not exactly sure what it is. The whole relationship feels somewhat rushed to me and takes place over a shorter period of time than I feel is usually used in Kleypas' books (at least in her historicals). Because they know each other for so little time and the period (time-wise) that the book covers is somewhat on the short side, I think that the development of their relationship seems a little rushed or stilted, not containing as much plausible depth as some of Kleypas' other main characters, and problems that dog the story and their marriage seem to conclude almost too quickly right before the end.
Also, although the chemistry between Harry and Poppy is definitely there, it's not AS shimmery/practically-tangible as in some of her other novels. Compared to a lot of other authors out there, it's still absolutely wonderful and excellently written when it is there and you definitely will NOT feel like you were short-changed on the romance part --- however compared to the first two Hathaway books (MINE TILL MIDNIGHT and SEDUCE ME AT SUNRISE), it just was not as "charged."
Finally, most authors have to include some mystery/villain twist at the end and LK provides this obligatory plot twist. I myself thought it seemed a bit superfluous and could have been done without, but no more details since then I would have to include spoilers.
It's still a great read, and I definitely do NOT regret rushing out this morning and buying it at the nearest bookstore (my apologies, Amazon.com). We're teased at the end that Summer 2010 will see --- get this --- TWO NEW HISTORICAL ROMANCES by LK. Yes, I know, take a moment to sit down, take a deep breath, and collect yourself (. . . or was that just my reaction?). They are the remaining two books in the Hathaway series: MARRIED BY MORNING and LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON.
P.S. FOR ALL THE LEO AND MISS MARKS FANS (i.e. everyone in existence who is aware of them):
I'm not sure which of the two books is Leo's (and Marks/Catherine/Cat's, because really, it's just too cruel to even IMAGINE she's not his heroine) and which is Bea's, but I hope his comes first --- I don't know about the rest of you, but even the thought of the Leo/Cat story has me jumping up and down like a kid in a candy store (but no pressure LK, lol). This book is choc-a-bloc FULL of little teasers and further developments in their relationship (plus some new and *very interesting* disclosures about Cat's past --- though still not everything, of course). Whenever their book finally DOES come out, it will be an absolute must to reread the previous Hathaway books first so the anticipation can really build . . . and then we can just wallow in enjoyment, lol. I can (seriously) barely contain my excitement --- good to know I have a whole ~10 months to work on it ::sigh::.
I enjoyed this book, like both leads a lot and enjoy the family scenes as well. I wish i could have learned more about Harry, i like his dark side. As for Poppy, a heroine who can go with the ups and downs. You can read this stand alone, however you will want to go out and get the books relating to the other relationships in the family and you will be anxious to read about ones that haven't happened yet!
1852 - London
third in the hathaway series - Poppy and Harry
Very interesting read. At first, I found myself diappointed at how little contact and chemistry there was between the H/H, until I put all the pieces into place. I will say, it was very good in that it represented real human behavior a good deal more than typical romance novels tend to. Poppy's reactions to her marriage were normal. The feelings she eventually developed were after due time (for a novel anyway :) My only complaint is that I would have liked there to be more sparks from the beginning. The ending was satisfying, and even had a bit of a cliff-hanger for the nest and I think last book in the series.
In my experience you can not go wrong with Kleypas. I love all of her historicals. This one was no exception. The characters were real and you watched them grow throughout the story. The plot line was new and different, the only hiccup is that the end winds up too neat too quick.