|Lisa Kleypas is a pretty dependable author for me - I tend to enjoy her stories, and Tempt Me at Twilight is no exception. Most intriguing is the hero, Harry Rutledge, a wealthy businessman whose normal methods of acquisition blow up in his face when he employs them to win a wife.
The story opens with Poppy Hathaway chasing her sister's mischievous pet ferret through the halls of the Rutledge Hotel in London. Poppy's family has recently been elevated to the nobility, thanks to her brother inheriting a viscountcy, but the Hathaways aren't considered to be good ton by much of Society. This includes the family of Michael Bayning, a secret suitor to Poppy. The ferret has a love letter in its mouth from Michael to Poppy, and if it is discovered, it could mean disaster.
Poppy chases the ferret into a hidden passageway and runs smack into a man who hauls her off to a private study for questioning. Poppy admires the many curiosities in the room, while wondering who this man is. He has managed to retrieve the ferret, but her letter is missing. He gives her tea and has her escorted to her room, but not before stealing a kiss. Only was she is leaving does Poppy discover the man is none other than Harry Rutledge, the owner of the hotel.
Harry is a self-made businessman who gets what he wants by any means necessary, even if somewhat underhanded. He is immediately intrigued by Poppy, whose intelligent conversation and lively demeanor are a far cry from the debutantes he normally encounters. Harry also has Poppy's letter. He decides that Poppy would make him a perfect wife, so he visits Michael's father, letter in hand. This is all it takes for Michael to regretfully break off his courtship of Poppy, to her despair. Harry then engineers a compromising situation, thus ensuring that Poppy will have to marry him. He is sure he can make her happy, and he's not looking for love.
Since Poppy finds Harry to be quite attractive, and since Michael has unceremoniously dumped her rather than disobey his father, it doesn't take much for her to agree to marry Harry. When Harry's duplicity is revealed shortly before the wedding, Poppy has a difficult choice. Retreat to her family home? Or take a chance and marry Harry, hoping they can build a future together?
Kleypas does a masterful job of showing how Poppy and Harry grow and change from cordial spouses to lovers who cherish each other deeply. Harry has the most to learn. He enters marriage as he would an attractive business arrangement, only to find he desperately wants the approval and affection of his wife. And his normal methods won't work. In fact, those selfsame methods have created the mess he's in, much to the satisfaction of readers who may think he's a bit of a skunk, at least initially. Poppy has vowed to be a pleasant wife, but refuses to love Harry. Now Harry, who never wanted to be loved before, is stymied. How can he win her, when Poppy is the one person in his life he can't control?
Poppy is more open to loving Harry, once she gets over her initial hurt at Michael's defection. Harry points out, rather reasonably it seems, that if Michael truly loved her he'd have moved heaven and earth to have her, and his father's opinion be damned. When Michael pops up later in the story, Poppy is forced to re-evaluate her feelings for him. But how can she get Harry to admit he loves her, when he has declared he wants no such thing?
The plot of a hero in control of his life who is undone by an unconventional woman isn't new, by any means, but Kleypas does it so well that it seems fresh here. This storyline was easy to enjoy. Interestingly, Harry never really feels sorry about the letter - he's convinced that Michael would have been all wrong for Poppy, and readers will agree he has a point. Nevertheless, it was a caddish thing to do, and if ever a hero should have to work for his happy ending, it's Harry.
Poppy holds her own here, though her anger at Harry's actions lingers on a bit longer than necessary, perhaps. Still, once she gets past it, the development of the romance is delightful. And Poppy doesn't wait around for Harry to come to his senses. This sets up the final third of the book in very nice fashion. When they end up consummating their relationship, it's hot. Kleypas can write romantic sex with the best of them.
Several side plots hint at books to come, and it appears that Miss Marks, Poppy's companion (who has an unexpected connection to Harry) may be due for a story of her own, as will Poppy's sister Beatrix, no doubt. If the author can structure stories for them that are as interesting as Tempt Me At Twilight, they'll be well worth a reader's time and money.
Tempt Me At Twilight is a delectable story with a hero and heroine to savor. It's a fine addition to the Hathaway family series.