Suddenly You

Lisa Kleypas
2001, European Historical Romance (1830s [Victorian] England)
Avon, $7.50, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0380802325

Grade: B
Sensuality: Burning

Though her family expected her to retire into a genteel spinsterhood, Amanda Briars has instead created a new life for herself as one of the most popular novelists in bustling London. But while a content Amanda cherishes her independence, she's still curious enough about the ways of love to buy herself an unusual thirtieth birthday present - a night of passion with a male prostitute. "Jack," the darkly handsome Irishman who arrives at her door, excites her passions but leaves her still a virgin. Amanda chalks the whole evening up to experience - until she meets London's most notorious publisher and discovers he has power over her in more ways than one.

John "Jack" Devlin has risen from a miserable childhood as the bastard son of a cruel earl to become the very wealthy owner of the 19th-century equivalent of Barnes and Noble. What's more pressing to Amanda is the fact that Jack has obtained the rights to her unpublished first novel and plans to publish it in serial form. Despite her anger at Jack's deception, Amanda agrees to work with him to revise the novel. The two build a bantering friendship that only intensifies their attraction to each other. And though Amanda doubts her own attractiveness and knows that Jack has no interest in commitment or children, she decides to enjoy what time they have together. Amanda insists to Jack that they conduct their clandestine affair in as practical a manner as possible, but an interfering sister, a gallant suitor, and their own fears ensure that the road to happily ever after will not be smooth.

While Jack and Amanda are familiar types of characters to romance readers, they are still enjoyable and sympathetic. While Amanda is sometimes pricklier than I prefer my heroines to be, she is also smart, determined, and independent. Best of all, she realizes that she doesn't need a man to survive, despite her passion for Jack. Jack, despite his rakish exterior, is a workaholic who, though scarred by his awful childhood, is a decent man capable of great feeling. Kleypas' best characterizations come in the supporting characters, such as Gemma Bradshaw, the likable matchmaking madam, and Charles Hartley, the kind and noble children's writer who courts Amanda. Ironically, this book probably would have gotten a higher grade if I hadn't liked Charles so much; I actually found myself wondering what the book would be like if Amanda chose him instead. Ms. Kleypas, please give Charles his own book!

The front cover proclaims Suddenly You "the most sensual romance of the year." Well, the year's only half-over, but this book is shooting to the top of my personal list of Luscious Love Stories. The love scenes are very hot and more sensual than purple (though I couldn't help but giggle at the reference to Jack's "fuzz-covered pouch"). However, the book does have the same problem that many steamy reads do: the amount of time spent in the bedroom slows the pace of the book. Still, while the book is clearly romance and not erotica, I think fans of sensual romance will be pleased.

This was first experience with Lisa Kleypas, and I look forward to exploring her backlist. Though parts of the book are novel, others are a bit too familiar to be flawless. Even so, Suddenly You is certainly a cut above this year's crop of historical romances.

-- Kelly Parker

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