Saturday, December 18, 2010

When Strangers Marry - Lisa Kleypas

Ravishing and desperate Lysette Kersaint flees an impending marriage to a man she hates to seek sanctuary with a man she fears. For rumors abound throughout New Orleans concerning her handsome, brooding protector, Maximilien Vallerand -- whispers of his cruelty, his rages, his dark, mysterious past. Forces by circumstance, Lysette consents to wed the dangerous rake, becoming the unwitting instrument of his sworn vengeance. But the flame-haired beauty's innocent heart will awaken within him a soul of passion and poetry... and spawn a love magnificent, wild, and true.

Lisa Kleypas earlier books, of which this one is an example, have a totally different feel from her new ones. This is a rewrite, I've read the original a few years ago, but it still has a lot of that old school flavour. For one there is a big age gap between the hero and the heroine and it shows in their actions, then the hero tries to dominate the heroine instead of it being more of an equal partnership.

It's not that I did exactly dislike it. There was an intensity to the characters that is the usual Kleypas trademark and that I usually enjoy. It's just that I feel she has done much better.

Lysette was around 18 years old, running from a marriage to an older man when she is found by Max Vallerand's sons. They take her home to their father who quickly sees Lysette as an instrument of revenge against an old enemy - the man she is running away from.

Max isn't particularly nice in the beginning and Lysette does distrust him. However she becomes ill and Max decides to be the one to nurse and his attitude starts changing then. Instead of just making her his mistress he will make her his wife. Max is a tortured man, he was betrayed by his first wife and he doesn't seem to have recovered from that. The problem is that more than tortured he sounded arrogant and domineering most of the time.

He gets a bit better after they marry as he decides to give her time to get to know him before consummating the marriage. But he is still the one who makes all the decisions and Lysette tries to maneuver him when she wants something. This dynamic seemed, to me at least, their age gap, instead of making me believe that they could be equals in their relationship (which would be my preference).

I did like the feel of New Orleans we have and that Aaron Burr is mentioned. Reading Anya Seton's My Theodosia made me aware of whom he was and the political projects he was involved in. The mystery about Max's wife’s death was also interesting although I got suspicious pretty soon about who the guilty party might be.

Grade: 3/5

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