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REVIEW: Crystal Cove by Lisa Kleypas

Lisa Kleypas crystal cove

Dear Ms. Kleypas:

The biggest thing missing in this book was why/how the two fell in love but it’s one of the most romantic stories I’ve read and the caretaker alpha character archetype is taken to a new level of sensuality.  Yes, this is the Kleypas’ bondage book, Japanese style.

Justine Hoffman is the daughter of a witch.  Her mother has never been able to completely settle down and the adult Justine has made a home for herself on the island of Friday Harbor.  There she owns a successful inn and a small cottage on the shore.  She has close friends, and, access to the coven that her mother belongs to.

Justine longs for one more thing and that is love.  She’s tried but has been left time and again.  Somehow Justine learns that a geas has been cast over her, never to know love.  Justine takes it upon herself to cast off that curse but exposes herself to possibly something worse: killing the person she loves the most.

Jason Black is exploring Friday Harbor with the idea of building a commune of his own, only this one is devoted to the elevation of science and technology.  Black is the owner of a multi billion dollar RPG game software company. One of his most successful programs reminded me a bit of BioShock were morally right decisions are rewarded.  Jason is searching for a soul.  A real, actual soul.  He knows he is soulless and believes, based on research of his assistant, that Justine’s spellbook might be the answer to his problems.  As a man without a soul, he is doomed to a shortened life.

“Allergic to curses, more like. Clive knew the risk, marrying Bean. Everyone knows about the Fiveash women. Black widows, all of ’em.  They can’t help it.  You mate one and then you die.”

“Why did Clive marry Bean, if he knew about it?”

“Bean was a looker in those days, and Clive went crazy over her. Said he had to have her, curse or no curse.  No one could take sense into him, not even Bean.  He was a goner the first time he laid eyes on her.”

Jason and Justine quickly, almost immediately fall in love.  Their conflict isn’t over Justine’s spellbook but the curse that all witches suffer.  Their true loves are doomed to early deaths.

This is an idealistic story with dueling beliefs and values.  Realism is shaped by mental will.  Marigold, Justine’s mother, believes that the geas protects Justine from the keenest injury.  Jason searches for long life but by falling for Justine and being loved in returned, dooms himself to an early death.  Justine searches for love and is willing to risk all for just a taste of it.

To heighten the sense of risk taking, Jason and Justine’s sexual relationship explores the control and trust through Japanese rope bondage or as Justine calls it “extreme macrame.”  While the couple doesn’t profess their feelings for each other, they are strong even from the outset and I ascribed those to some otherwordly force.  Realism is tossed out, remember. The prescribed time in which a couple can fall in love is a mental, and artificial, construct the text seems to say to me.

His past relationships had ended when they became inconvenient or stale.  And each time Jason had gone on his way with the arrogant conviction that love would never get the better of him.

What an idiot he’d been.

Now he knew that it was only love when you knew there could be no end to it.  When it was as inevitable as gravity.  Falling in love, a helpless descent in which the only way to avoid being hurt was to keep going. Keep falling.

The prose in the book was lovely.  There was gentle humor throughout, particularly one scene where Justine accidentally roofies Jason in an attempt to cast a deterrence spell.  While the falling in love part might be missing, everything else that a reader loves about Kleypas’ writing is present – the competent heroine, the tender caretaking alpha, good prose, great dialogue, and, as a bonus, it is very very sexy. B

Best regards,



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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. jmc
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 10:07:04

    Witches? Spellbooks? When did Kleypas start writing paranormalish stuff?

  2. leslie
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 10:28:18

    @jmc: Yeah, I was just thinking the same thing. Kleypas goes fifty shades, I can’t believe it!

  3. MarieC
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 10:49:39

    @jmc: It threw me off when I read the first book, but the writing and the ‘supernatural’ stuff is really very well done.

    Thanks for the great review, Jane! I got the book on Tuesday, but haven’t started it yet. I’m kind of sad the series is ending, though.

  4. Liz H.
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 12:02:32

    @Jane- Did you enjoy the previous books in the series? For those who didn’t particularly like them, would you recommend this one or are they quite similar?

  5. Jane
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 12:08:12

    @Liz H.: No I didn’t love the other ones. I felt that the magic was better incorporated but it was missing the “falling love” part.

  6. Kati
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 12:37:51

    I loved the first, disliked the second, skipped the third and am now reading this one.

    I’m actually quite enjoying it. As Jane says, it’s quite romantic, and I thought the bondage scene was really well done and very sensual and romantic. I’m not as sold on the PNR aspect.

    It strikes me somewhat as the sexy cousin of Nora Roberts’ Three Sisters Island series. So far I like it alot. I’m roughly 60% through it.

  7. Erin
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 13:23:55

    I wish Kleypas would return to straight contemporary. I love her Travis’ sibling books and I reread them often, but I don’t have any interest in PNR so I don’t plan to read Crystal Cove. Such a bummer.

  8. Courtney
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 13:29:19

    Kleypas is one of my favorite historical authors, but her contemps I find just ok, including this series and the three set in Texas (I can only remember one by title-“Sugar Daddy.”) I’ve requested this book from the library, but I’ve been disappointed that her Friday Harbor novels have tried to add paranormal elements. I would have quit reading “Dream Lake,” had I not been stuck on a five hour flight because I hated the frickin’ ghost so much and he took up so much page time, unnecessarily IMO. That said, I ignored the ghost and focused on Alex and Zoe in that book and found Alex one of my favorite Kleypas heroes. I’ll read this one from the library, but I really wish she’d return to historicals.

  9. Tina
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 13:31:20

    I’ve enjoyed LK’s foray into contemporary light paranormal. No werewolves or vampires in sight, but it does have stuff like ghosts and magic.

    The first was a sweet novella. I agree the magic in the second one didn’t feel seamlessly incorporated, but I liked the romance part of it. I really liked the third one, though, because I like how prickly the hero was and it had magic food porn — a sort of half nod to Like Water For Chocolate. I just picked this one up and am eager to read it. From this review it sounds like she’s experimenting a bit with the romance formula and for me that is always an interesting thing.

  10. Bronte
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 14:00:24

    Another Kleypas fan here but unfortunately I havent cared for this one. While the others in this series dabbled in paranormal this one just had too much about witches and spells for me. The bondage scenes were well done I thought and consistent with the characters. I dislike the notion that now every author that writes some bondage is seen to be going “fifty”. It existed well before that book and will for a long time after.

  11. Janine
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 14:03:52

    @jmc: About three books ago.

    @Erin: I’ve heard (perhaps in an interview with her) that she does plan to write a fourth book in the Travis series.

  12. Ani Gonzalez
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 16:00:19

    Wow. Lisa Kleypas and Shibari? Just wow.
    I must read this.

  13. EGS
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 16:50:04

    I want LK to write more historicals. Her contemporaries never interested me, but her historicals are some of my favorites.

  14. mbg1968
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 17:10:36

    I’ve not yet read Crystal Cove, but the 2 previous were sweet and forgettable for me. A week after reading both I couldn’t remember the plots. I don’t think her strength is in paranormals and they seem Nora Robertsesque to me as well.

    I don’t really care for bondage, so will be reading this book in spite of that element. (Drawback, not a plus).

    I too wish she write another Travis book. Each of those were intense, powerful and memorable for me. They have emotional impact. I have them as keepers and pull them out to re-read frequently. I think what she did with the Travis books showed her very strong authorial skills.

    Her historicals were always nice but not keepers for me. I’ve never bothered to re-read any.

  15. Krista
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 19:04:27

    I too didn’t really enjoy this book, and not just because of the instalove. Jason just felt like so many of her other heroes: an enigmatic genius/self-made man who is also a possessive natural caregiver. I even recognized some of the same language from previous books. Justine never felt fully developed to me either. The sex scenes at least felt more on par with the Travis series. I really hope she returns to straight contemporary (and the south) because that seems to fit her best. Still a big fan though.

  16. Laura
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 21:23:17

    The Shibari was a serious WTF? moment for me. I’m not sure if it’s editors pressuring authors, or the authors themselves, but dang I’m tired of a little bdsm lite being thrown into books by authors who just. shouldn’t. do. it. Reminds me of the beginning of the vampire/paranormal explosion; suddenly it’s everywhere. Within the last week, I’ve read this one, and the new Celeste Bradley, and they have both been painted with a little fifty brush. This is the book that may just make me take LK off my autobuy list.

  17. Ducky
    Feb 07, 2013 @ 23:09:41

    I didn’t like this one. The witchcraft and the BDSM and the insta-love/lust. Of this series I did like Dream Lake and the first one, Christmas at Friday Harbor, but I don’t have the same affection for them that I have for her Wallflowers and Travis series.

    If Kleypas is going to stick with women’s fiction or chicklit, or whatever you want to call what she is doing now I hope she stops adding the supernatural stuff.

    And I am so sick of sexy gazillionairs who show their caring by tying the heroine up.

  18. andy
    Feb 08, 2013 @ 03:12:32

    I am surprised why so many people did not like this book. It was great in my humble opinion. I am sure anyone having a peaceful mood will find much taste in it.

  19. Kate L
    Feb 08, 2013 @ 21:25:00

    LK is one of my all time favorite authors. I like that she doesn’t repeat herself, but this Friday Harbor series is a disappointment. The best that can be said is that the romances are sweet but forgettable. But kleypas and insta-love + pnr + rope bondage? No thank you.

  20. Ann
    Feb 09, 2013 @ 06:35:11

    @andy: I agree Andy, I thought it was great too!

  21. Lori
    Feb 10, 2013 @ 16:21:17

    I just finished this book and loved it. I didn’t consider the rope play to be so much about bondage as it was part of the theme for Justine to trust Jason, and especially with what Jason did directly after. It was beyond sex and I liked that a lot.

    I love almost everything Ms. Kleypas writes and her magic realism works brilliantly, in my opinion. Her descriptions sing, her dialogue is excellent and her sex scenes are just beautifully written.

    I’m such a happy fan girl.

  22. Addy
    Feb 12, 2013 @ 22:10:10

    @Courtney: I agree!! I have all of her books. I’ve had to re-read most of her other books because I’ve been disappointed in the Friday Harbor series. I’d say the best book from this series was Rainshadow Road. I just finished Crystal Cove and I was so disappointed because it reminded me too much of Fifty Shades. I also don’t care for the witchcraft and magic stuff. I love her books without all of the paranormal stuff!

  23. Daily Deals: Cozy mysteries, a modern witch, and a steampunk
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 14:39:12

    […] I’m not sure if this is a pricing mistake but the new release of Lisa Kleypas is $1.99. I reviewed it here. It’s a pretty romantic story that is missing the falling in love component. This is only available at B&N as far as I can tell. I enjoyed it and reviewed it here. […]

  24. Joan C
    Feb 22, 2013 @ 20:35:37

    I love Lisa Kleypas. It is because of her that I just HAD to go to Friday Harbor. It is lovely. I love her writing…ALWAYS authentic with her research. This time the gaming industry and the TRADITION. I also love her vocabulary. I check out new words like excoriating. But this is a real love story. If the metaphysical doesn’t do it for you, then try to get past that into the love that is built. For Justin and Jason it doesn’t happen automatically. Justin doesn’t get a first good impression of Jason, but as he becomes more personal with her, she gets him. He comes already knowing her history, but he finds her strong character, and the fact that she doesn’t fall all over him, attractive. Love grows. Jason isn’t even sure how the love started, but finds it powerful. This is a good read. I think the bondage section may have been editor’s pressure to keep up with the times, ala Fifty Shades, but it was sexy, even if unnecessary. I’ve read it three times right away, and each time, I get more out of it. Like all of Kleypas’ books, they demand more than one trip through the story. I, too, found the Travis series better, for her contemporary writing. I have most of her Historical romances in my library.

  25. Sue
    Mar 03, 2013 @ 13:18:06

    I read the original Christmas Lights in Friday Harbor, which I didn’t care for, but the three book following in the series have been very enjoyable, and I am not a paranormal reader. In Crystal Cove, both hero & heroine are very human and not always likable, whihc made the intensity of their passion very moving for me. The Japanese bondage I could take or leave, but it pulled some of the hero’s background into the story, and helped to flesh him out a little. There seems to be another related novel coming out, so I’m looking forward to that!

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