Desert Isle Keeper
Then Came You (#65 on AAR's Top 100 Romances)
An AAR Top 100 Romance
originally published on November 6, 1996
I first read Then Came You in 1993, shortly after discovering romance, and it is one of the reasons I fell in love with the genre. Different than most of the romances I’d read, it featured a heroine more tortured than the hero, a so-called “fallen” woman with a wicked reputation. Perhaps I fell in love with it as well because I was a new mother, and the pathos of the story is, in great part, derived from mother love.
After meeting the author last year, I was even more impressed by the book because, when she wrote it, Lisa Kleypas was a fairly sheltered young woman who hadn’t experienced much of the passion so wonderfully expressed. And, how did someone who hadn’t yet become a mother know so well the fears, longing, and love we mothers have for our children?
Then Came You is the story of Lily Lawson, a seemingly decadent woman who is determined that her sister not be forced by their parents into a loveless marriage with Lord Alex Raiford. Both have reputations that preceed them – she is thought to be the mistress of the owner of a successful gaming hell and he is known to be rigid and cold, having lost his spark since his fiancé was killed two years earlier in a riding accident.
The shenanigans these two involve themselves in are inventive and exciting. The sexual tension is palpable immediately and the pay-off intense and often (there’s nothing worse than incredible tension and a stingy pay-off, is there?). By the time Alex realizes what Lily means to him, she has been thrown off his estate, he has been kidnapped, she has knocked him unconscious, she has clothed herself as the biblical Eve, and all other sorts of scandal Alex never believed he’d come to actually enjoy.
Remarkably, the author allows Alex to love Lily before she loves him, or admits that she does. With that out of the way, Alex becomes the sort of hero not often encountered in historical romance. While at the beginning of the book he is an all-too typical romance hero – arrogant, emotionally stoic, and tragic, he grows to become not only strong but supportive, tender, and giving – in short, truly an heroic figure.
It is Lily who has farther to go. You see, she is the mother of an illegitimate girl, the father of whom has kidnapped her. Lily has been led on a merry chase for two years in search of her daughter and is being bilked of her fortune by him. Not only that, but the girl’s fortune-hunting father, apparently known as a great lover, apparently was not. Since their unfortunate liaison, Lily is unable to trust in anyone, let alone a man, and unwilling to involve herself in an intimate relationship.
How can she believe Alex actually cares for her? Perhaps he is simply seeking revenge for her spoiling his plans to marry her sister. And, what would he do were he to discover she birthed a bastard? How could a man known to the haute ton as a stickler of propriety allow her to be herself? How can she trust anyone when no one has ever come through for her in her life?
These basic questions are wonderfully answered in the course of the book. As well, there is a strong crop of secondary characters, including the owner of that gambling hell, Alex’s brother, Lily’s sister, that nefarious ex-lover, and a host of other characters that add to the richness of the story. I particularly enjoyed Lily’s butler, Alex’s aunt, and Alex’s cousin, who can’t resist tormenting his cousin out of jealousy.
As for Lily’s fears, the author deals with them one by one, in some very clever ways. Time and time again, Lily is left to feel alone in the world, and, each time, she is rescued by Alex. These rescues are sometimes physical and sometimes emotional. This is not a man who decided to change his love to fit his ideal. This is a man who reached out and grabbed his love, held on for dear life, and went for a hell of a ride! And, oh yeah, there’s a delicious epilogue too.