Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas
Published November 1st 2004 by Avon
More at: Goodreads
For those privileged enough to count themselves amongst the members of high society, the London Season is one of the most anticipated events of the year. Several months of lavish parties, decadent dinners and balls the likes of which inspire fairy tales, bring out the decorated favored that is the British ton to take in the delights of the season, and of each other. For young, unmarried ladies and debutantes, it is a period of great suspense and excitement where every evening and every party could mean catching the eye of an eligible man and the hope upon hope of his making her a wife.
Annabelle Peyton is embarking on her fourth season. Her final season. Three previous, uneventful forays amongst the husband seeking peerage have left her in danger of being branded a failure, or worse, a spinster. In gowns and slippers almost beyond mending, and jewelry who's stones have long since been replaced with paste, her family's poverty is becoming increasingly difficult to disguise and her desperate need of a husband even more so.
With the clock steadily ticking away, and a deadline fast approaching, Annabelle can no longer afford to spurn the advances of any eligible bachelor. If the season closes with no success, she may have to consider the advances of some not so eligible men. To become a man's mistress would mean money and food for her family, tuition for her brother, but scorn and disgrace for Annabelle. To become the mistress of Simon Hunt, the common, upstart son of a butcher made monstrously successful by his cunning rush on the railroad industry, would forever remove her from the society she has her whole life struggled to embrace.
Mr Hunt is very wealthy, strangely attractive and unused to being told no and he wouldn't be described as the marrying kind. In playing a precarious game with her family's future, Annabelle will have to take an even greater gamble with her own heart.
I thought Evie's story warranted the most pity until I read Annabelle's. Her father has passed leaving the family nearly destitute, and every day bringing them closer and closer to abject poverty. Here we have a young lady who has spent her whole life with the elevated members of London society only now to find herself and her family a step away from being scorned by them. Why would a man propose marriage to a penniless girl who's just about past the prime of her youth when he can bide his time and enjoy all she has to offer for much less than a marriage would entail. Though Annabelle is considered to be quite beautiful, beauty still has little to recommend it when there is no exchange of title or dowry to take place.
Simon Hunt is allowed to socialize amidst the English peerage because most of them owe him money. He is the very enterprising son of a plain everyday butcher, and though the elite quite resent his parentage, they can't snub the powerful man to whom so many of them are deeply indebted. Simon doesn't want or need a wife, but he can't deny his strong attraction to Annabelle and he has wanted her for, well, years. When his money fails to procure her, his heart might just demand that he pay any price to have her.
Secrets of a Summer Night marks the beginning of the friendship between Annabelle and the three other women she's sat next to all season. They never really speak, just sit there in companionable silence, each secretly taking comfort in the fact that if they have to be sitting forgotten and dejected at a dance, at least they aren't sitting alone. I've read The Wallflowers series, albeit back to front instead of in order and I've been delighted with each and every character I've encountered. All the Wallflowers are suitably married and settled and I can't help but feeling a tiny bit sad, like I've had a dear friend move far away and though I'll get to talk to her occasionally, we can't have lunch as often as we use to.
I can now unabashedly admit to being a romance reader and no longer blame Lisa Kleypas for it, but thank her.
Thursday, October 21, 2010