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REVIEW: Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

Dear Ms. Kleypas:

It’s no secret that I am a fan of your writing so perhaps its impractical for the Dear Author readership that I am the one writing this review but when I received the ARC, I admit to hoarding it. Sorry other DA reviewers, but the good news is that I am willing to let it out of my hands as my ebook copy is preordered and will be downloading sometime tonight.

Rainshadow Road	Lisa KleypasRainshadow Road is written in the same spirit of a Sarah Addison Allen book, a contemporary world with a touch of mysticism or what some term magical realism. The mysticism aspect of the story was the weakest part. Why magic in a mundane world?  Is it that true love can only be obtained through magical intervention?  Or is it meant to highlight the beauty of love, that there is something magical in the concept. Or was it just something to test writerly boundaries? I’m not sure if the message of “Rainshadow Road” is that every gifted artist has magic or whether every person has a gift of magic.  The inclusion of magical realism is also soft. The story would have remained the same if you removed the mysticism. The characterizations, the plot, the conflict all exist without those elements. The good thing is if readers don’t like the magical realism element, it doesn’t interfere a great deal and will be only a minor irritant.

Lucy Marinn is a gifted stained glass artist who is reeling from her fiancé running off with her sister, Alice. When Alice was five she contracted meningitis and after Alice’s recovery, the family response was to coddle her well into adulthood. Alice grew up taking what she wanted and she wanted Lucy’s fiancé. The truth is that Alice has always wanted things that Lucy enjoyed and Lucy’s fiancé is just the last in a long line of things Lucy has had sacrificed on the Altar of Pleasing Alice. Kevin, the weak willed fiancé carries out the role of infidelitous bastard almost cartoonishly by telling Lucy that not only is he going to “take a break” and that he’s fallen in love with her sister and that he’s been sleeping her sister, but “But the thing is, Luce…Alice’s going to be moving in pretty soon. So you’ll need to find a place.” (Pg. 21)

Kevin, however, is the only character drawn with this heavy hand. Even Alice is more nuanced and her parents give her some tough love. The majority of the story centers around Lucy and the owner of a vineyard on False Bay at the end of Rainshadow Road. Sam Nolan is a good time guy. He treats women with respect and enjoys their company, but he doesn’t do relationships. The two meet on the shoreline of False Bay and Lucy runs away from Sam, thinking that she’s a single woman alone and he is a big strapping man. There is nothing to fear from Sam Nolan except for a broken heart. When Sam invites her out after some banter, Lucy turns him down.

The guy who just broke up with me…he was exactly like you, in the beginning. Charming, and nice. They’re all like you in the beginning. But I always end up like this. And I can’t do it anymore.

(Pg. 32) I particularly liked this line because it explains why she ended up with #RatBastard and how #RatBastard probably seduced the willing Alice. #RatBastards hurt people because they are so charming. If they weren’t charming no one would give them a chance to be a #RatBastard. I digress.

Lucy and Sam are forced together for two reasons. First, #RatBastard approaches Sam, an old classmate, to take Lucy out on a date because Alice and Lucy’s parents are being difficult about #RatBastard and Alice’s marriage. (I should probably give Alice a nickname so we’ll call her #NarcissisticBitch which is actually a term used by Sam in describing Alice at one point). #RatBastard had done Sam a real favor when Sam had been starting out in the winery business.  Sam is  pretty appalled by #RatBastard’s request but feels compelled to go through with one date.

Sam stared at his disbelief. “So you want me to track down your bitter, man-hating ex-girlfriend, and talk her into going out with me?”

(Pg. 109) When #RatBastard texts him a picture, it is accompanied by a boast that #RatBastard has the “younger and hotter” sister. “As if to reassure himself that he, Kevin, had still gotten the best of the bargain.” (Pg. 111) Sam does not hide this from Lucy (thank god) which leads to an exchange which exemplifies the gentle humor and good dialogue:

“Apparently Kevin and Alice think the solution is to set you up with someone. They want some guy to romance you until you’re so full of endorphins, you won’t have a problem with them getting married anymore.”

“And you’re supposed to be that guy?” she asked incredulously. “Mr. Endorphins?”

“Speaking.”

(Pg. 119) Second, Lucy gets injured and is unable to care for herself. Alone on the island, knowing only Sam (albeit briefly) she finds herself hauled off to the vineyard at Rainshadow Road. This leads to an incredible hot shower scene full of sexual tension that is unconsummated showing how the build up to the act can be as powerful (maybe even more so) than the culmination.

Lucy and Sam’s emotional conflict stems primarily from Lucy’s belief she is bad at relationships and isn’t ready to get burned so soon after the last disastrous breakup with #RatBastard and Sam’s belief he is a bad bet. He’s only seen the bad side of loving as Lucy points out. Sam’s entire experience with other people works best, in his opinion, at the most shallow level. He’s not capable of anything else or so he believes. But Sam’s entire life is changing with renewed relationships with his estranged brothers, caring for his deceased sister’s young daughter, and his deepening friendship and attraction to Lucy. At the end of the story there is no doubt that Lucy and Sam belong together and the way in which their love evolved and cemented into one beautiful image leaves the reader feeling confident this is a secure happy ever after. This is not a cheap book. It’s a trade paperback which likely means the digital price for the book will be $9.99. But it’s a book with passages I’ll want to revisit and for that reason it was worth the buy price for me. B

Best regards

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

46 Comments

  1. Claire C
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 14:17:15

    I’ve never read any of her comtemporarys but think i’ll try this one. Strangely its only £3.99 on amazon.co.uk for the kindle (around $6). I don’t think i’ll ever understand how the pricing around ebooks is worked out.

  2. Jane
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 14:29:55

    @Claire C Wow, I need to create an Amazon UK account, clearly!

  3. Marg
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 14:32:08

    It is interesting to see this small change of direction and the comparison to Sarah Addison Allen. Maybe it will bring new readers – as long as it doesn’t lose old ones!

  4. Kati
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 14:46:22

    I’m on the fence about this one. I enjoyed it. But it’s VERY women’s fiction-ish, IMHO. Also the mysticism angle kind of came out of nowhere, when you consider it with Christmas Eve in Friday Harbor, which is the book (novella?) before it. Kleypas has a wonderful hand, and I enjoyed reading it. But I wish that it had been more romance novel and less women’s fiction. I need to do a re-read before I review it, so maybe the second read-through will change my opinion.

  5. joanne
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 14:54:24

    I’m so glad this is a contemporary by Ms Kleypas that isn’t written in the first person.

    Blah on the price but if it’s re-readable I’ll bite, and I see that the character
    Sam has a brother, Alex, who has a book up next.

  6. Brian
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 15:07:49

    Not too bad price wise considering the first book in the series was really a novella and had the same eBook price of $9.99 when it came out. This book and the next one (coming in August) are a little over 100 pages longer in print than “Christmas Eve” was for the same price.

  7. joanne
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 15:16:32

    @Brian: Ugh, I have Monday-Brain. I didn’t realize this was a continuation of the brothers from the Christmas Eve book. I’ll do a quick re-read of that before starting this one. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Ducky
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 15:25:57

    Wow, I haven’t even read this book yet and reading your review gives me the urge to cut RatBastard’s winkie off with a butter knife. And the sister sounds like something else too…

    I am getting a print copy of this tomorrow as I have liked or loved every single Kleypas I have ever read. And that’s both her historicals and contemporaries.

  9. Brian
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 15:29:01

    @Ducky: I’ve liked everything I’ve read by her too (haven’t read some of her early historicals yet).

  10. Ducky
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 16:07:51

    @Brian – I too haven’t read her real early historicals. I heard they don’t have what I call that particular Kleypas feel to them. The earliest Kleypas historical I have read is the one that introduces Derek Craven, the one that has Lily as the heroine.

  11. Hannah
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 16:13:13

    I enjoyed reading Rainshadow Road, though not as much as the series about the Travis brothers. Sam Nolan just didn’t seem as strong as other Kleypas heroes to me.

  12. Angela
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 16:16:19

    Everyone I know loves Lisa Kleypas. She’s one of those authors that I feel like I *should* enjoy, but I just don’t ever feel like her books rise above average for me. I’ve read her Wallflowers series, and Sugar Daddy (I think).

    This review sounds great though and tempted me to give her another chance. I’ve mostly talked myself out of that though ;)

  13. Lynn S.
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 16:17:38

    Lisa Kleypas and magical realism doesn’t sound like a good match. With the trade-sizing of the book, the cover art, and the inclusion of the magical realism, it appears that Kleypas and her publisher are morphing her into a general/women’s fiction writer.

    I’ve always liked Kleypas, somewhat in spite of myself. She is imminently readable, sure-handed in creating tension between her hero and heroine, and wonderful with romantic details, but I’m often frustrated by the way she skirts around or takes the easy out with regard to the hard stuff. I’ll probably bite eventually, because I can’t seem to resist her, but I’ll definitely be giving it some thought first.

    Can you tell me, is Lucy’s career given anything more than lip service?

  14. Jennifer Estep
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 17:22:48

    I really like the Travis series, and I wish Kleypas would go back and write about the last brother. I didn’t like Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor quite as much as the Travis series, but I still enjoyed it. I’m not sure about the magical realism element in this one, though. I usually like my books to be one or the other — fantasy/magic or no fantasy/magic. Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading this one.

  15. Courtney
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 17:56:11

    Interesting review. I admit to adoring Kleypas’ historicals, but her first three contemporaries left me luke warm (maybe because they were written in the first person?). I’m excited to try this one out.

  16. Jane
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 17:57:33

    @Lynn S.: No, I felt like she was a real artist in the book. She was very talented and she was working on a big commission.

  17. Diane
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 19:01:17

    I haven’t read this one.

  18. maria
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 19:01:46

    Lol, ratbastard is exactly how I referred to the first boy to break my heart in the days when even thinking his name was likely to elicit annoyingly strong emotional responses.

  19. The Romantic Scientist
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 19:30:59

    @Kati:

    I agree–I was a bit flabbergasted by the magical element in this story. I also felt like her writing style had evolved more towards a Nora Roberts-esque style, for better or for worse.

  20. Joanna K.
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 02:17:04

    I love Ms. Kleypas’s books, from her contemporaries to her historicals.

    Thank you for the review, Jane. I’m sold and will be heading over to Amazon to download the kindle ebook version. :)

  21. Tatty
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 04:05:47

    I so wanted to love this book, but I knew in my heart of hearts that I probably wouldn’t, and so it proved. I kept comparing it to Kristan Higgins’ ‘Too Good To Be True’ and feeling that Ms. Higgins had done the better job with a similar storyline.

    Still, it didn’t cost me a bundle from amazon.co.uk and we’ve stil got Alex’s story to come, perhaps that’s the one that’ll do it.

  22. praxidike
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 08:01:21

    Without sounding like a randy teen, how are the love scenes?

  23. Jane
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 08:10:45

    @praxidike There are three or four love scenes that I can recall. One was unconsummated and the others full consummation scenes and they are explicit. No closed bedroom door for Kleypas but the consummation scenes are late in the book.

  24. Rita Oberlies
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 10:05:37

    I’m a Kleypas fan but leaned away from buying this book based on the mystical aspect. After reading your review I think I’m going to bite the bullet and purchase it anyway. Thanks.

  25. MrsJoseph
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 12:12:57

    This sounds rather interesting (without the magic). Without spoiling, is it possible to say if #NarcissisticBitch and #Ratbastard get their just deserts? If no, I think I’ll pass.

  26. Jane
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 12:19:00

    @MrsJoseph: I believe so although #NarcissisticBitch and Lucy make up. Family and all. Plus, the best revenge is living and loving well, right?

  27. Kim
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 12:22:55

    @Jane: I know giving grades is difficult, but I was wondering about your B. It sounds like you enjoyed the book, so what prevented you from giving it a B+ or an A? Was it the magical realism or something else? I hope to read the book soon.

  28. Jane
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 12:25:51

    @Kim: Yes, it was the magical realism and the heavy handedness with Kevin although mostly the MR. I felt like either the MR should have been more heavily integrated into the story or removed altogether.

  29. Shay
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 16:57:53

    Lisa Kleypas is talented writer, and has always been an auto-buy for me, but after reading “Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor” and “Rainshadow Road”, I’m re-thinking the auto-buy status.

    “Christmas Eve” started off with an engaging premise (happy go lucky bachelor ends up with unexpected guardianship of traumatized niece, meets one widowed toy shop owner) but the characters really never had the chance to become fully developed, and to me, were strangely flat. I chalked it up to the short length of the novel, and waited for the next installment of the Friday Harbor Series.

    I finished “Rainshadow Road” last night and was left once again with a solid “meh”. I can’t quite put my finger on it, either. It wasn’t the quality of the writing, Lisa Kleypas was up front and center with her wonderful passages and her wit: “The problem with chasing after happiness was that it wasn’t a destination you could reach. It was something that happened along the way.”

    It wasn’t the mysticism either, although at times it came off as almost forced, not a natural element to the story.

    I guess if I had to point out the weakest part of the story it would have to be the hero, Sam. Sam came off as being weak, and unavailable, and…flat. Scrap the hero’s periodic table of element t-shirt, and pull out the MEH shirt.

    Maybe this is why I never felt the magic in the relationship, or even really cared when the story was over.

    “Rainbow Road” was a “C” read for me. In the future, I’ll probably still buy her novels as my keeper shelf is full of her terrific stories… I’ll just wait until the price drops a bit.

  30. Alicia
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 17:22:26

    I really want to read this book. I liked Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor a lot. I’m just gun shy on the sister-stealing-the-fiance plot. After reading Julie Garwood’s The Ideal Man I was pretty much stuck in rage mode for days. I read your review of Garwood’s book, Jane, and you mentioned Ellie’s ridiculous treatment but it doesn’t look like it angered you as much as it did me. But as you have read both, is the treatment of Lucy and Lucy’s response to the betrayal throughout the book anything like Ellie in TIM? If so, I know I need to stay away from this one. (I just saw in the comments you say she and #NarcissisticBitch reconcile, so it’s already not looking good.)

  31. Jane
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 17:51:10

    @Alicia so, spoiler?

    1
    2
    3
    4
    5
    6
    7
    Kevin has buyer’s remorse. Comes back to Lucy and tells her he loves her. Alice was momentary aberration. yadda yadda yadda. Kevin runs out on the wedding leaving Alice alone at the altar. Lucy finds Alice, gives her a hug, tells her she needs to start making decisions on her own and taking care of her life.

    Edited to add, I thought that Lucy’s parents were fairly disgusted with Alice and supportive of Lucy so different than Ellie.
    8
    9
    8
    7
    6
    5
    4
    3
    2

  32. Lynn S.
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 18:09:29

    @Jane: Thanks. It’s not helping with my resistance, but it is good to know.

  33. cecilia
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 18:12:22

    @Alicia: I’ve read both, and I didn’t think Lucy was as much of a martyr/doormat as Ellie. She keeps her cool for the most part, and doesn’t really rip her sister a new one, but she does have anger and hurt. She just doesn’t choose to wallow in them, or be reduced to bad behaviour. Also, not only are reasons for Alice’s selfishness more explained/developed, but she does seem to grow up a bit by the end.

  34. Alicia
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 19:13:30

    @Jane: Hmm, that sounds much less rage inducing. I mean, I question Lucy attending the wedding and I’d prefer she snort at Alice and walk away (at least until a good amount of time passes) but I’m apparently way more mean that most people. I see I’m going to have to be in a particular mood for this one. Thank you so much! I have been wanting information like this, but couldn’t find it in any of the other reviews I’ve read.

  35. Jane
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 19:27:52

    @Alicia: Lucy doesn’t attend the wedding. She gets a call from her parents about what happened and then her sister calls her too.

  36. Alicia
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 19:51:22

    @cecilia: That’s another good point. In TIM Ava never changed. She was just horrible for no reason, other than an over-inflated sense of entitlement it seems (I’ll have to stop there because I really could rage all day about that book and that character). So it’s good to hear that in this book a) there’s at least some sort of reason Alice behaves this way, and b) she does change. Thank you!

  37. Alicia
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 19:53:43

    @Jane: Oh, wow, that actually makes me feel much, much better. It’s not that I can’t allow for forgiveness, it’s just that it always seems to be so immediate and that never rings true for me.

  38. Praxidike
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 20:58:44

    I worked from home today, and read this book. For me, it is a C and Kleypas is now off my auto-buy list. The MR was incredibly heavy-handed and just not believable to me because of its poor integration into the story.

    I did like Sam. However I found the parts where the heroine asks about the chemical composition of glass totally incredible. She is a successful glass artist who is accepted to a prestigous fellowship. The concept that she doesn’t know that glass is made of silicone dioxide is not remotely believable. She actually says, “what is the chemical symbol for glass?”

  39. BlueRose
    Feb 28, 2012 @ 23:34:28

    Thanks for this, I have reserved at the library (its on order ) and also go the Christmas Eve one as well as that is there now. I have never read Kleypas AFAIK so I look forward to investigating a new author.

  40. Katie
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 06:56:52

    @Praxidike: I thought the same thing. Lucy should have known more about chemistry. She even asked what the periodic table was. It felt heavy handed. It was a C- read for me. If it was any other author, I would not buy the next book in the series.

  41. Arethusa
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 13:35:06

    I usually love Kleypas whether its her historicals or contemporary novels but this one was a flat C. The weird pointless magic, some trite “woman’s fiction” writing style just…eh. I’m so worried for Alex’s story (and possibly Justine’s?) if such great potential romance protagonists are going to get buried under a hackneyed ghost plot and a dysfunctional family retreat. (I’d recently reread “Smooth Talking Stranger” so the messed-up sister line was fresh in my mind. However the family members in that were far more compelling.)

    I agree with the writer who said it seemed more similar to Nora Roberts older works (but nearly as good). At least when Roberts includes magical elements she goes at it full throttle, like with her Three Sisters trilogy.

    I’ll buy the next one and if that’s a flop, I’ll wait for her historicals or another Travis contemp.

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  43. Kaetrin
    Mar 14, 2012 @ 18:54:37

    I finished this one (on audio) a few days ago. The narration by Tanya Eby was excellent but I did have a few problems with the story. Like Jane, I felt the magical realism could have been left out without any loss from a story point of view so it made me wonder why it was there – it didn’t appear to be significant enough in the story to actually do anything except provide some window dressing. Then again, I haven’t read any other MR books so maybe the concept is lost on me.

    The main issue for me was that by 3/4 of the way into the book Lucy and Sam were only just beginning their relationship. The next chapter fast forwards 2 months and I was told as a reader that their relationship had developed in that time but I did not see it. I had been enjoying the story and set up so much but those missing 2 months made a huge difference for me. The end of the story rushed upon me and I didn’t have enough time with the couple actually together to get that sighworthy moment when they get their HEA – in Smooth Talking Stranger and Blue Eyed Devil for example, that was not the case. I didn’t see fall in love with Lucy so it was harder for me to accept his aboutface from Never to Let’s Get Married.

    I did like that Lucy’s career plan wasn’t ditched at the end – I think that would have made me scream.

    Also, Kevin was such an asshole I just couldn’t see what Lucy had ever seen in him. The reader was told that he had been charming and sweet at least at first, but the only parts of him shown to me were him being a complete whining jackass. He was good looking but he had no redeeming characteristics at all that I could see.

    The other thing I questioned is that Lucy and Sam started their sexual relationship only a few days after she had BEEN HIT BY A CAR. She was bruised, sore, and her leg was significantly damaged and she couldn’t walk. As a person who recently had fairly minor foot surgery (on purpose even) I just couldn’t accept that, so soon after a major physical trauma, Lucy would be ready for sex.

    I didn’t actually think about the chemical elements/”what’s the symbol for glass?” thing until I read the other comments here but they are spot on – Lucy was smarter than that and even I know that glass is not an element.

    I’d rate the story around a B- because as much as the things which bothered me did bother me, the rest of the story was just so good. I’m looking forward to Alex’s book (I gather that his heroine will be Zoe? – I was a little uncomfortable with the gay stereotyping regarding her ex husband but that’s another issue…) and I’m hoping with fingers frantically crossed that in that book there will be more focus on the relationship once it starts rather than skipping over it.

    Just finally, I’d like to say that I enjoyed Justine as a character and I’d love to read more about her and see her get a HEA as well.

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