"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

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Summary: Following her divorce, Haven moves back to her hometown and starts a fling with a handsome hunk.

From the title, and the genre (modern romance) I did not expect such a deep, intense book.

Haven Travis is a spoiled little rich girl. She’s used to getting everything she wants. So when she sets her heart on Nick, nothing, not even the disapproval of her family, will change her mind.

On the day of her brother’s wedding, Haven sees Nick slip into the wine cellar. She follows him into the darkened room and silently seduces him. It’s only when she feels the smooth hairless chest of the hunk she’s been mauling does Haven realize she has the WRONG man! It makes me blush just to think about it, but Hardy Cates is discreet and nobody knows anything ever happened.

Haven and Nick elope and set up house in Dallas. Haven’s father disowned her, since he warned her against marrying Nick, but Haven has Nick’s love and doesn’t need anything else. Haven thinks they’re fine without the Travis money, but Nick keeps insisting that they have a baby, because that will make her father bend and help them out financially.

Haven is fairly na├»ve about married life, and thinks that she just needs to try harder to be a better wife to Nick. Nick insists that his shirts be starched perfectly and Haven is too busy creating a home for them to spend hours at the ironing board. She uses some of “her” money to send the shirts out. When Nick finds out, he gently forgives Haven, saying that she’s been rich her whole life and never had to please anyone but herself. Haven is wracked with guilt, and vows to be an even better wife.

And then Haven cuts her hair short and Nick wonders why she would want to look like a boy. He married a woman.

Nick insists on calling Haven by her middle name, Marie, and introduces her to people as Marie.

Haven’s aunt dies, but the funeral conflicts with a big corporate picnic that Nick expects to attend with her. Haven doesn’t go and never hears from her family again.

Nick also thinks that Haven doesn’t really need to work, that she should quit her job and stay home and be a proper wife to him. She does.

Can you see here this is going?

And then Nick finds her birth control pills one day. He beats Haven, violently rapes her and kicks her out of the house. Barefoot and bruised, with no purse, ID or money, she hobbles into town to call her brother Gage collect to come and rescue her. Gage is in Houston and Haven is in Dallas. Gage can’t get there soon enough so he makes some calls. One of Gage’s many friends gently approaches her. Haven herself didn’t realize how bad the damage was until she sees the look on this man’s face. He takes off his shoes and gives her his socks, so she can walk to the car. Haven is terrified of this stranger, but this moment in the book was so tender and traumatic that I am now a Lisa Kleypas fan. Wow!

Haven is trying to rebuild her life in Houston and is trying to become independent. Haven sees a therapist who helps her see that she worked so hard for Nick’s approval because she never had her father’s approval. And when he washed his hands of their marriage, it only made Haven more determined to make her marriage with Nick work. We also learn that Nick was a narcissist, and that Haven always had trouble setting boundaries. Reading about Nick's narcissism also helped me recognize a narcissist I know.

This was quite an introspective novel, especially as it is narrated in the first person by Haven. When Haven starts up a friendship with Hardy Cates, her family is naturally wary. Haven did such a terrible job at picking a man previously, that nobody will let Haven trust her own judgment.
“Hardy had charmed me more than anyone I’d ever met. He was engaging, playful… but always and foremost a man. He opened doors, carried the packages, paid for dinner and would have been mortally offended by the suggestion that a woman do any of those things. Having lived with a husband who had spent most of his time inflating his own fragile ego, I appreciated Hardy’s self-assurance. He had no problem admitting that he’d make a mistake or that he didn’t understand something, only turned it into an opportunity to ask questions.”
But Haven gets to control the pace of the relationship, and Hardy remains a fixture in her life, even though Haven freaked out at a little bit of intimacy with Hardy. This book reminded me a little of Never Less Than a Lady, although Julia’s scars seemed deeper yet she healed much sooner.

When Nick stalks Haven and attacks her, Hardy is there to rescue her, and saves her from being raped again. Haven and Hardy, together, are free of Nick’s influence and you know the Travis heiress and the Blue-Eyed Devil she loves will live happily ever after.

I am not blind to Haven’s faults. She still thinks and acts like a poor little rich girl throughout the book, but I raced through this compelling novel.

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