About Sarah: Who am I? I'm a part-time library science student, part-time librarian, and full-time mom. When I'm not wrangling my little girl or my husband, I'm reading all sorts of books to be able to recommend that "next" book for shy readers or those new to the romance genre. I can be found on Goodreads or on my blog at sarahsbookshelf.com.
Tell me if this sounds familiar to you. You have a huge TBR pile, but there are a few books in that pile that you don't want to read because you know you are going to read them way too fast. You know that you are going to love them and you know that you are going to be sad when you have to move onto something else when you are finished. So you procrastinate and procrastinate reading the book, simply because you don't want it to end. Lisa Kleypas is the author that writes books that fall into this category for me. I cannot help myself when I pick up one of her books. It's like a buffet on a cruise ship: you know you can eat as much as you want, and it's so yummy, but you also know that your time is finite. So the question becomes do you want to savor it? Or do you want to stuff your face as fast as you can, while you can, and suffer the heartburn? For me, it's the face-stuffing/heartburn, because I just can't help how quickly I read when I really like a book. If it's a book I own, I'll probably give it another read in the future when I have more willpower to pace myself.
This book takes place about seven years after "Midnight Angel", the earlier book in the Stokehurst series (although Ms. Kleypas doesn't really consider this a "series."). That book introduced us to the Stokehurst family, including little Emma Stokehurst. We meet Emma again in this book once she's grown up and ready to begin her final "season" to land a husband. Unlike her peers, Emma isn't the beautiful, or even charming, potential mate that she longs to be. She's too tall, too red-haired, too independent, and too odd to find a suitable mate, although she believes she has found her true love in Adam Milbank. Adam is an interesting character. A young man from a titled, but not financially stable family, Adam is interested in finding a wife that has some wealth so that he can live the life he wants. Unfortunately, Emma is blinded by her longing to be loved by someone--anyone--that she doesn't see Adam for who really he is. It's only the men in her life, both her father and Prince Nikolas Angelovsky, her step-mother's relative, that see him for what he is. Unfortunately, the Prince also has ulterior motives. He wants Emma for himself, and has since he first met her (yes, this was a little creepy in the first book). He has waited a long time (until she was legal) and he's now taking all the obstacles out of his way in order to marry her. Against the advice of everyone she cares about, Emma stubbornly decides to marry Nikolas. The two have a friendly, but loveless marriage, which starts to grate on Emma as time goes on.
It's difficult to talk about this book without divulging too much, and I truly don't want to spoil it for anyone. Suffice it to say that stuff happens to make Nikolas understand that he cannot be in a marriage without love, and that Emma is the love of his life. I really enjoyed the turn this book took in Part II. Again, no spoilers, but it definitely deepened the plot. As with all the books set with any Russian characters, this book was much more dramatic than funny (although there were a few moments of comic relief). Emma, in many ways, is ahead of her time. She's a vegetarian, prefers wearing pants to dresses, and is an animal activist complete with her own menagerie of abused animals. She's such a fun character and I really enjoyed her in this book. I also loved the progression Nikolas took through the course of the book. I think that's one of the things that I love best about Kleypas's books: that she can take someone who, in any other book, would be an unredeemable villain, and turn him into a hero. There's a lot of history and folklore in this book, which I also found to be interesting. You might even learn a word or two of Russian.
If you are looking for a romance that you can sink your teeth into, I highly recommend historicals by Lisa Kleypas. Although it's an older book, this one is still a gem. Kleypas also has a number of contemporaries that are also worth checking out if historicals aren't your thing. This book and " Midnight Angel " are both considered stand-alone books, but she has some great series that I highly recommend. If you prefer lighter historicals (some drama, but also funny), both The Wallflower series and The Hathaway series are great choices. I recommend reading all her books in order, but it won't ruin the story if you don't. I haven't read much of The Bow Street series yet, as I'm trying to pace myself.
PS: I'm always looking to broaden my historical palate, so if you have suggestions of books or authors I should check out, add a comment below.
Review by Guest Reviewer Sarah
A wealthy and bitter exile, he most dangerous and desirable man in all of England, he burns to possess a proud, headstrong beauty who is promised to another. But winning Emma Stokehurst's exquisite hand through threats and determination does nothing to fill the empty spaces in Nikola's heart—until passion's magic carries the handsome, tormented prince back to a bygone era of splendor and romantic dreams. For there his destiny awaits him in a distant life. And in one remarkable woman's tender touch—achingly familiar but gloriously new—he must seek the elusive promise of ecstasy . . .and learn, at last, to love.
Avon. August 1, 1995