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Paperback: 352 pages
I ordered this book from amazon recently, having read many of the other books from the hathaway series. I found it for a relatively cheap price and was eager to get reading. The book charts the relationship between Catherine Marks and Leo, which has been developing in the background of several of the previous novels.
Although the plot was not absolutely exceptional this novel delivered what I expected: a great romance novel perfect for a general relaxing read. I did not necessarily enjoy it as much as some of the other Lisa Kleypas books I have read but this may have simply been because I did not find the characters as engaging. It was interesting that Lisa was able to bring back characters from some of the previous novels and weave them into the storyline, which I feel added an extra dimension to the book. It delivered a good read with a generally satisfying conclusion to the relationship which I had been waiting to see.
As a respite from an overload of urban fantasy and a surfeit of historical biographies, I turned recently to some good old fashioned romantic fiction for a change. You know exactly where you are with this genre: there'll be some conflict but all relationship problems will ultimately be resolved to the satisfaction of everybody. With one or two notable exceptions, romantic fiction always has the tacit final sentence "And they all lived happily ever after."
I picked this book up in my local library hoping that it would offer an absorbing and enjoyable story which wasn't too fluffy but sadly that wasn't to be. Married by Morning is the fourth book in a series featuring members of the Hathaway family and, although it probably helps to read the previous three books (which I have), it isn't absolutely necessary because some of the back story, or at least enough of it, is incorporated into this novel so it can be read as a standalone story.
Catherine Marks has been governess/companion to the Hathaway sisters for two years now and during her time with the family, she has frequently butted heads with Leo, Lord Ramsey, their brother and head of the family, whom Catherine finds absolutely infuriating. When one particular argument ends in a passionate kiss, it surprises both of them.
Under the terms of his inheritance, Leo needs to marry and produce an heir within a year and his fascination with the enigmatic companion just might tempt him into a proposal. But Catherine has a secret and when someone from her past recognises her, she fears exposure which will destroy her carefully built façade of respectability and won't help the Hathaway family achieve acceptance in Society either.
Price and availability:
£4.39 new from Amazon or £2.84 used from Amazon Marketplace.
Having previously read and enjoyed many of Lisa Kleypas's historical romances, including the three earlier books in this series about the Hathaways, I was looking forward to an absorbing and romantic read but, sadly, on this occasion I was destined to be disappointed.
Lisa Kleypas is a well established writer of historical romantic fiction mainly set in Britain and, despite being American, her books have always contained a good sense of time and place and in that regard, she didn't disappoint. With this fourth book in the series, however, I gained the distinct impression that she had run out of romantic steam, certainly with regard to the main protagonists, Catherine and Leo. The previous three episodes in the series, all of which I've read and found reasonably enjoyable have had this potential romance bubbling under the surface and I'd expected this book to produce a suitably explosive and dramatic conclusion to the budding relationship between Catherine and Leo but it seems that wasn't to be, which was largely due to weaknesses in both the storyline and the characterisation.
It has to be said that most romantic fiction is less concerned with plot and far more with character but that doesn't mean that there isn't some amazingly good romantic fiction out there. This book, however, fell far short of the mark in my opinion. The characters of Catherine and Leo just weren't strong enough to propel the story along with any verve and the rather hackneyed plot was practically non-existent with a stereotypical villain added in for good measure who was all but twirling his moustache like a baddie in a silent movie, he was so wicked. He certainly wouldn't have seemed out of place in a Victorian melodrama. Altogether, I got the impression this was a case of an author just going through the motions, probably because she had a publisher's deadline to achieve.
Of the main protagonists, Catherine was possibly the stronger character. Catherine has suffered in childhood, both from the stigma of illegitimacy and abandonment and so at age fifteen she fell into the wicked clutches of her maternal relatives who were grooming her for prostitution. However, through courage and fortitude (plus a great deal of artistic and historical licence taken by the author), Catherine has managed to educate herself, take on a new identity and find a secure job helping the Hathaways achieve respectability!
As for the love scenes in the book, rather than adding spice to the rather bland prose, they just made matters worse. Considering Catherine had supposedly been groomed for a position as a high-class courtesan, she seems singularly innocent and virginal and totally ignorant of what to do in bed. She obviously didn't pay enough attention to her theory lessons!
To my mind, Ms Kleypas has taken a well-trodden path with her characterisation which shows a remarkable lack of originality and she compounds this sin with an equally lacklustre hero.
Leo simply wasn't my idea of a romantic hero at all. He had lost his fiancée to Scarlet Fever for which he felt largely responsible and he's sworn never to love again. This plot device which was frequently used in the seventies and eighties when bodice-rippers were at the height of their popularity, again lacks originality to say the least. Following his fiancée's death, he decamped to France and embarked on a period of sin and debauchery, just like practically every rake portrayed in historical romances. Of course, he was really just waiting to meet the right woman before changing his ways and Catherine is she! But, quite frankly, I felt she lacked enough personality to make any man leave his wicked ways behind.
Some of the characters from the previous books in the series make fleeting appearances and most of them seem to have undergone changes in personality when consigned to secondary character status, especially the women. In their own books they'd come across as feisty and independent but marriage to their one true love seems to have turned each and every one of them into doormats only there to serve their lord and master!
As you've probably guessed by now, I found this book very disappointing both in terms of the characters and the story and the only upside really is that I didn't pay to read this. Truth to tell I've found the entire series lacking in many of the elements which go towards making a memorable romance: there was no witty repartee, no particular chemistry between the hero and heroine, one of who comes across as rather immature and the other as simply wet. In fact, the best character in the entire book was probably the pet ferret, and as I don't find smelly, weasely, bitey things particularly attractive, that's really saying something!
This novel has made me question whether to continue reading books in this genre and if it wasn't for the fact that I know there are some excellent romances out there and also that Lisa Kleypas can do so much better, I'd probably give up on romantic fiction altogether. To my mind, the 3 star rating I've given is being very generous. In the past Lisa Kleypas has always been something of an auto-read for me because she generally produces stories with plenty of emotion, action and romance. With the Hathaway series, and this book in particular, it looks as though she's lost her way somewhat and from now on, I think she'll be taking her place on my B list.
There is a fifth book in the series 'Love in the Afternoon' which deals with the youngest of the Hathaways but I think I'll give it a miss and hope that Ms Kleypas can achieve some kind of redemption with her next series.
Originially posted on Ciao under the same user name.