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Secrets of a Summer Night (#84 on AAR's Top 100 Romances)

Lisa Kleypas

An AAR Top 100 Romance

originally published on October 3, 2004

Though I only recently discovered her books, Lisa Kleypas has quickly become one of my favorite authors. After enjoying her superb storytelling and meeting great heroes like Derek Craven and Sir Ross Cannon (my personal favorite), I thought I knew what to expect when I picked up one of her books. Sadly, her latest just does not live up to the greatness of her earlier books.

Impoverished aristocrat Annabelle Peyton is determined to marry a wealthy peer in order to secure her family’s future. Though any peer will do as long as he is wealthy and willing to marry Annabelle, her dowdy clothing and lack of dowry have failed to endear her to the Season’s bachelors. At the conclusion of another unsuccessful Season, Annabelle takes stock and decides to make the acquaintance of the other wallflowers who have been sitting out dance after dance beside her.

Annabelle and her three sidekicks – Evie, a shy heiress whose roots are deemed rather common, and the Bowman sisters, two title-hunting American heiresses whose manners are too brash for delicate English society – come up with a plan. They dub their little group the Wallflowers and decide they will take turns helping each other find husbands. Since Annabelle is oldest and in the most dire straits, she gets dibs on the first peer. Unfortunately for Annabelle, however, Simon Hunt seems bent on thwarting her pursuit of a peer. Though Annabelle finds him attractive, Simon is a commoner – and a butcher’s son at that.

The Wallflowers (and you will hear this name used by its four members ad nauseum) take action at a house party in Hampshire where they size up their quarry and start stalking. However, Simon Hunt is a guest at the same party and, as one might imagine, this causes the best laid plans of mice and Wallflowers to quickly go awry.

While this novel does have a few truly humorous moments, most of it is just ordinary as dirt. From an author of Kleypas’ caliber, I found this sad. As I endured the husband-hunting escapades, I kept hoping that things would spark to life, but they just did not. Annabelle and her sidekicks come off as vapid, shallow little twits. While Kleypas develops a tale of poverty and desperation to humanize Annabelle somewhat, she never became entirely likable nor did she seem to have much depth. She and each of the Wallflowers seemed more to exemplify stereotypes of character traits rather than existing as well-developed characters in a story. The result is not a horrible book, but simply an ordinary “wallpaper” historical with not much unique to recommend it.

In addition, the novel did not have much of a sense of place and time. While this improved somewhat in the second half of the book, I still felt as though the characters in the book were simply a gaggle of modern-day teenagers acting out their tale against a Victorian backdrop. Were it not for the opening line stating that the story took place in 1843, I would have been at a loss to even determine the time period.

Simon Hunt is perhaps the brightest spot in the novel. Though not my favorite Kleypas hero, he is well-drawn and easily the most complex character in the piece, though I was mystified by his attraction to Annabelle. I enjoyed his sense of humor and decisiveness and scenes with Simon made for much better reading than scenes without him. As with several other Kleypas heroes, Simon Hunt is almost entirely a self-made man and he exudes a strength that seemed to be lacking from most of the aristocrats pursued by the Wallflowers. This contrast between Simon and the aristocrats was striking.

Though it has a sound hero and some good humor, Secrets of a Summer Night lacks the lyrical storytelling quality of Lisa Kleypas’ best work. It saddens me to say that this book is merely average, but that is just what it is. I wish I could recommend it, but, instead, I would rather point readers to the author’s backlist. There are really too many treasures there to mention, but Where Dreams Begin, Dreaming of You, and Lady Sophia’s Lover would all be good places to start.

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Book Details

Reviewer :      Lynn Spencer


Grade :     C+


Sensuality :      Warm


Book Type :     


Review Tags :      |


Recent Comments

15 Comments

  1. Dabney Grinnan
    Dabney Grinnan August 31, 2017 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Wow, Lynn really didn’t like this book. It’s not my favorite in this series–that would be It Happened One Autumn–I don’t think it’s that bad.

  2. Kristen Donnelly
    Kristen Donnelly August 31, 2017 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    This is my least favorite of the series, but I’m not sure I’d grade it as low as Lynn did. Devil in Winter is my far and away favorite, for the record. There’s something about Evie and St. James that just gets me.

    • Kristen Donnelly
      Kristen Donnelly August 31, 2017 at 4:01 pm - Reply

      Well, I tried to edit that after my typo – but it won’t let me. ST. VINCENT is the hero in that book and I’m an idiot.

    • Dabney Grinnan
      Dabney Grinnan August 31, 2017 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      I am in the “St. Vincent is meh” group which, I know, is a miniscule bunch.

      • Kristen Donnelly
        Kristen Donnelly September 1, 2017 at 2:05 pm - Reply

        There’s something in him that reminds me specifically of someone I love a great deal, and their redemption arcs are similar, so I have some personal bias. 🙂

    • Keira Soleore
      Keira Soleore September 1, 2017 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      I like all the Wallflower books but Devil in Winter is my favorite because of St. Vincent. Evie is OK but Kleypas’s heroes are usually the ones who’re more memorable than her heroines.

      • Blackjack
        Blackjack September 1, 2017 at 6:03 pm - Reply

        I agree, Keira that Kleypas’s heroes are more developed characters. I’m more of a heroine-centric reader, which is one of the reasons Kleypas does not really work well for me anymore. Far too many of her heroines are virgins needing to be educated in sex by the heroes. Even the ones who aren’t virgins are in need of sexual education because they were doing it wrong or with men who didn’t know what they were doing (these men are often feminized and mocked by Kleypas). The language used to describe heroines often includes numerous words like “dainty,” “fragile,” “small” — and in some books it really feels overwhelming how much the women are there just waiting for their alpha hero to show up and save them. I’ve mostly moved on from her books.

  3. Blackjack
    Blackjack August 31, 2017 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Secrets of a Summer Night was my favorite of the series and one of my favorites of Kleypas’s books. I thought it was brave for Kleypas to create a heroine who verged on being unlikable for her social climbing and blatant desire for financial security. Annabelle’s motives to marry struck me as quite realistic and I liked too that the hero is sympathetic with her financial dilemmas, and the fact that he’s a member of the working classes who had struggled to succeed made his compassion for Annabelle admirable. I enjoyed too the cat and mouse chess scenes and that the novel is devoted to both characters’ growth in their marriage.

    • Dabney Grinnan
      Dabney Grinnan August 31, 2017 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      Agreed.

    • mel burns September 1, 2017 at 9:57 am - Reply

      Yes! I agree with you completely.

      • Kristen Donnelly
        Kristen Donnelly September 1, 2017 at 2:11 pm - Reply

        This is such an interesting perspective! It’s been eons since I read this one – perhaps it’s time for a re-read… I was in a super different place in life when I read the Wallflowers, I wonder if I would change my opinions

        • Dabney Grinnan
          Dabney Grinnan September 1, 2017 at 5:13 pm - Reply

          I’ve found Evie more annoying, Annabelle less, and have fallen even harder for Lillian. Daisy still bores me to tears.

  4. Em Wittmann
    Em Wittmann September 1, 2017 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    This one is my favorite of the series. I loved Simon.

  5. Lynn Spencer September 1, 2017 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    I actually really liked the rest of the series (The Devil in Winter is a big favorite of mine), but yeah, this book just didn’t work for me. My list of favorite Kleypas heroes has changed a bit since I read this, though. 🙂

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