|Lisa Kleypas’s Wallflower series spread over four books, all featuring a season of the year in the title. A logical assumption would be that the author literally closed the book on the characters once she finished the fourth and final book ... logical but incorrect. In the sequel Mine Until Midnight, some of those characters are back, and dangling threads hint at least one more sequel to come, possibly more.
I’ve been a fan of Ms. Kleypas since her first book, and some of hers, such as Where Dreams Begin and Suddenly You, are among the multitude of keepers I’ve accumulated. Not all of her books are of the same caliber, and Mine Until Midnight is not one of her best efforts ... not her best but satisfactory. Everything – the characters, the plot, the romance – is satisfactory.
That’s the problem. There’s nothing really very remarkable about this book. It’s slow moving and never really catches fire. (Well, there’s a house fire, but that’s a different matter.) The story picks up somewhat towards the end, but by then it’s too little and too late. One of its problems is the sheer number of main characters and resulting subplots.
The Hathaway family is teetering on the brink of disaster. Amelia Hathaway is the eldest daughter. The responsibility for keeping their heads above water has fallen to her. In her mid-twenties, she has accepted she will never marry. She had hopes of marrying a promising young architect, but he ended the courtship and proposed to the boss’s daughter. Now she has accepted she will be a spinster for the rest of her life.
Winnifred (Win), Beatrix, and Poppy are the youngest siblings. Win’s health has been affected by an illness resulting in “a weakness in the lungs.” Beatrix has a problem; in later years it will be termed kleptomania. The outgoing Poppy is interested in nature and adopts wild creatures.
Merripen joined the family as a boy when his Gypsy (Rom) family abandoned him because he was near death, the victim of a “Gypsy hunt” where landowners tried to rid their property of Gypsies. He acts as both brother and general factotum to the Hathaways. He’s in love with Win.
The oldest and only brother, Leo Hathaway, has recently come into the title of Viscount Ramsay. The viscountcy came with a house in Hampshire but very little money. The love of Leo’s life died from scarlet fever, and he is now on a self-destructive path. He frequents gambling hells and brothels. As the story begins, he has disappeared from the Hathaway’s London residence, and Amelia fears this time he will go too far.
Amelia, being the manager she is, goes looking for him. At one gambling establishment, she meets the handsome Cam Rohan, half Rom, half Irish, who is the club’s manager. Amelia convinces him to help her locate Leo. Before parting, they share a passionate kiss; he steals a ribbon from her bonnet. Amelia believes she will never see him again.
Cam is a man caught between two cultures. A math genius, he is in large part responsible for the gambling club’s success. As a Roma, he cannot accept the idea of being tied to property and wealth, but he has a good luck curse – whatever he tries turns out a success along with lots and lots of money. He has decided he will quit his position at the gambling club and return to his Rom roots. He is surprised by his instant interest in Amelia Hathaway because she isn’t the kind of woman he usually meets or is attracted to.
Amelia decides the family should move to the Ramsay house in Hampshire. It will be good for the family – fresh air and fewer distractions for Leo. She is surprised to discover that Cam also has reasons to be in Hampshire at the estate of Lord Westcliff, right next door. Despite their reasons for believing they have no future, events are conspiring to bring them together.
The best aspect of Mine Until Midnight is the romance between Amelia and Cam. Both nice characters, they’re obviously destined for each other, but their different backgrounds seem incompatible. It takes them a lot longer – too long – before they can see what the reader knows.
The plot that supports the romance is less interesting. One lingering question is why Amelia is so determined to save Leo from himself. Of course, self-sacrificing heroines like Amelia never allow family members to kill themselves through bad behavior. Nevertheless, the manner in which Leo dumps all the work and worry of the Hathaway household on Amelia, his younger sister, makes him an aggravating character. Readers may want to give up on Leo long before Amelia does.
Mine Until Midnight is a definite three-heart book – not too good, not too bad. Because the author is so well-regarded, it’s likely to reach a large audience but unlikely to earn permanent status on many keeper shelves.