You, me, chiclit…and how I stopped reading chic lit.
Seriously, after reading this over the weekend, I think I may have officially outgrown adult romance.
I have generally very positive feelings about Lisa Kleypas. I’ve read quite a few of her books in the past (when I was still reading chic-lit) and while her books were a little too sex-drenched they were always light, breezy, witty, with some good touches of emotional depth and genuine affection and convincing compatibility between the leads.
This? Is tripe dressed up in pretty clothes. First off, notorious bachelor Rafe Bowman, just-arrived in London to have an arranged marriage with a pretty noblewoman, meets, and instantly finds insanely sexy, the average-looking Hannah, his intended’s paid companion.
I really dislike romances predicated on the idea that the hero wants to bed the heroine as soon as he lays eyes on her, mainly because a)it presumes that’s the main way that he wants her and undercuts any affection that is later layered on because sex was the first thing he wanted from her and b)it’s wildly, wildly unrealistic. Generally when this setup is used in a romance novel, the heroine is genuinely stunning, whether with a clear beauty or with an offbeat but striking attractiveness – but there’s a convincing reason that a confirmed rake who has interacted with literally hundreds of society beauties finds her unusually beautiful. Hannah is neither of these – she is pretty, attractive even, but with a girl-next-door prettiness, there is certainly nothing standout about her that Kleypas brings out or that any character mentions.
Furthermore, as just mentioned, Rafe Bowman has had his pick of women on two continents. So you’ll understand why I found it hard to swallow when Hannah walks in and he’s immediately, overwhelmingly physically attracted to her, without Kleypas giving any details as to why, out of all women, he would have this animalistic response to her. We are just supposed to accept as fact that this man wants her, and find that reasonable and appealing.
Rafe forcibly and lengthily kisses Hannah the first time he meets her, despite her initial strong protests and resistance. From there, almost every step in their relationship is marked by increasing physical intimacy. They have reasonably good banter (which generally ends with Rafe making a move on her, heaven forbid conversation lasts for more than 10 minutes without someone jumping someone else’s bones) and a few genuinely lovely scenes. During two scenes, Rafe watches Hannah read Christmas stories to children with warmth and humor, and catches a glimpse of what a “real” life could be like, one marked with tenderness and love and family rather than loose relationships and business deals. They also share some tender moments climbing a Christmas tree. But there are almost exactly three genuinely romantic scenes in total – and by that I mean they have a grand total of three one-on-one conversations.
Their other interactions are purely and immediately sexual, and include one, the scene that turned me off the book more than anything else, in which Rafe insults Hannah by saying she’s going to end up as a rich man’s mistress, and follows that up with forcibly kissing/assaulting her, over her repeated verbal and physical attempts to stop him and to get away. She doesn’t resist for just a moment – she genuinely resists, and he utterly ignores her. It’s a perfect paradigm for the “women really do want sex, they just don’t know it” idea. It’s disgusting, and I think the first time I’d come across such a specific example of that in a Kleypas book.
The supporting characters are fantastic and often more interesting than the leads – I think I would like the rest of the Wallflower series. But thank God this is the final book in the series, because Kleypas has clearly lost her touch.