One of Kleypas's very first books. I was planning to read this for sometime. Interesting premise. For one of her very first books and early works the writing quality was still impressive and pretty strong. I just wasn't as enthralled w/ the story as I was with some of her other books (okay pretty much everything else lol). Still, it definitely had that Kleypas edge and dark tone which I loved. Plus filled with facts and descriptive detail to the historical/economic time setting. I adore Kleypas for always being so thorough and accurate to the time setting of her story.
What I struggled with were some of the hero and heroine's actions and story pacing. The first half I delved right into, Lucy the heroine did irk me in the beginning. Her stedfast belief that her prissy uptight fiance was *everything* she wanted and needed just made me roll my eyes. She was smart but incredibly naive and a tad self-serving. The thing I couldn't stand was her constant coddling and motherly simpering nature around Daniel, the ridiculously effeminate fiance. (RME) I swear the minute that man sniffled or was offended she would rush to sooth him you'd think he was a five-year old who scraped his knee. Gag me. Those scenes did make me a little uncomfortable with how motherly she was towards him and how quickly he would be offended, cause gosh darnit, he has such delicate sensibilities! The poor dear. Major
eye roll moment. I don't know who I was embarrassed more for here Lucy or the simpering idiot Daniel.
Anyways, I'm SO glad Heath snatched her up and saved her from that idiot. Kleypas does describe Lucy as spoiled, while I didn't see that with how she was brought up but I did see it in her over-emotional quick temper that came out at times and the martyr act she pulled during the wedding ceremony w/ Heath. That really infuriated me. That whole scene and the snarky shrewish attitude of her's was utterly ridiculous. I was embarrassed for her. There were definitely a lot of contradictions with her personality. She's a spitfire with a sharp tongue but prudish with haughty sensibilities that irked me at times and confused me at others. I admired/loved her at times but got annoyed with her at others. A lot of hot/cold moments for me.
As for our hero Heath Rayne, the Southern rascal who's the outsider in the Northern world, he was a scene stealer and so charming and such an engaging hero. But he lost some of that charming rakish wit and sense of humor in the second half that dulled him down a little. He frustrated me at times especially near the end. I wasn’t crazy about how Heath acted after they got married. His complete cavalier insensitive attitude towards Lucy regarding the Raine issue was just rage inducing. For someone so smart, sharp and knows how to read people his complete disregard for Lucy’s position and feelings was baffling for me. You bring home a woman who you once shared a history with (and didn’t bother to tell your wife about it) and expect your wife to be gracious and docile about the whole thing? Fuck no. That was beyond tactless and unfair. Yes he did expect her to be angry and it was unplanned but still. As much as I hated Lucy’s relationship w/ Daniel I didn’t like or agree with his comparison between Raine and Lucy. Lucy’s suspicion and distrust of Raine was justified and she had her number the minute that woman walked through the door. Heath on the other hand acted like it was no big deal and argued and threatened Lucy w/ ultimatimums. Ridiculous. He just completely lost me and baffled me with how heavy handed he acted. Another part that disappointed me was the aftermath of Heath's illness. He was on the verge of death, in delirium with Lucy fearing that she would lose him only for him to act distant and cold to her afterward. And the reason being? Because it wounded his pride to have her look after him. :/ Yeah he was raised in a culture where the man has to look after himself and everyone else, it was clear Heath was uncomfortable w/ the idea of his wife fussing over him and taking care of him. But it was disappointing nonetheless. I wanted to throttle Heath and hug Lucy.
I did enjoy moments where Heath and Lucy would goad each other, sass, tease and taunt one another into playful sometimes heated arguments I just wish we got more of that playful banter and not long drawn out periods of tension and disconnect. It really
dragged the story out torturously slow in the second half and drove me nuts how Heath and Lucy would take turns pushing the other away for IMO stupid reasons. All that distance and hot/cold tempers made it a little hard to buy into their chemistry. Heath was described more than once as being crazy about Lucy and near-obsessed, I wanted to feel that but I didn't at times. Because of that I guess I wasn't as enthralled with them as I wanted to be.
The golden moment for me from the entire book were the two days Lucy spent w/ Heath when he saved her from the river in the early chapters. I loved everything about those scenes. It charmed me completely and sucked me in. I really wish moments like that were strewn in throughout the book more.
Overall, I did see how the conflicting personalities, lifestyles, ideologies and cultures clashed here. It was a major conflict/battle that caused repeated tension and angst between the H/HR and was very symbolic of what was going on between the South and North history wise. Heath and Lucy were the physical manifestations and symbolic of what was going on between both conflicting sides of the nation at the time, the parallels played out fully with how Heath and Lucy meet and share a life together. It was interesting to see how they finally found happiness. It's not a fav LK book of mine but I still enjoyed it.
Also this kind of side note, but I was really intrigued yet disheartened by Heath and Lucy's friend Damon Redmond. A quiet reserved yet mysterious businessman who ends up falling? for Lucy near the end. It made me sad for him and made me wish Kleypas wrote a book for him. I saw little hints here and there but wasn't sure where it was going to go but he definitely alluded to secretely harboring feelings for Lucy at the end. I'm just not sure what was the point of leaving it there at the end like that. That last scene in the carriage w/ Lucy broke my heart a little for him. I was hoping that he would find a happy ending as well. :(