Dear Ms. Kleypas:
Some have told me that Seduce Me at Sunrise was as good as Kleypas’ penultimate book, Dreaming of You, featuring Derek Craven and Sara Fielding. The book had some similar underpinnings with the hero being of the lower class with a grotesque background who feels completely unworthy to be loved by the heroine, a gently bred young woman. What I thought was similar was the strong emotional connection between Merripen and Win, the leads in Seduce Me at Sunrise.
There’s a papable physical attraction, but even more than that is the fierce emotional ties that bind them.
Win says to Merripen:
I am running after you, and life, in desperate pursuit. My dream is that someday you will both turn and let me catch you. That dream carries me through every night I long to tell you so many things, but I am not free yet I hope to be well enough someday to shock you again, with far more pleasing results.
Merripen thinks of Win:
Because it wasn’t hers to give.
Your heart is mine, he thought savagely. It belongs to me.
Winnifred was struck by scarlet fever and while she survived, her physical state was greatly weakened. She was pretty much an invalid. When her sister marries a wealthy man, the family now has the means to get Win medical care. Win chooses a risky and experimental clinic in France. It may kill her but it also may make her well. She feels that if she wasn’t so frail and delicate, if she wasn’t an invalid, then Merripen and she can be together.
Merripen would rather Winnifred stays an invalid for the rest of her life because at least she would be alive and with him. Merripen is a gypsy who was taken in by the Hathaway family when he was left for dead by his tribe. He’s fiercely protective of the family and loves Win desperately. He believes can’t ever hold her or really have her because he isn’t good enough for her given his background. His existence on this world, though, continues only because she is here. Win goes off, gets better, and returns but after two years and one letter from Merripen Win wonders if she shouldn’t just move on. So when she returns, she brings back her doctor, Julian Harrow. Julian and she have grown close and Win brings him home with her so that he can have the chance to woo her.
If romance readers read primarily for a visceral reaction, this book will be hugely successful because Merripen and Win’s strength of feeling for each other is remarkable. The problem, for me, however, was that the details, character motivations, and plot were kind of a puzzle to me. Merripen mistrusts Harrow from the beginning. There is something off about Harrow yet Merripen does nothing to protect Win from Harrow even when she wants him to, even when he has the perfect opportunity to do so. This reaction was so curious given that Merripen loved Win more than the breath in his own body.
There were long stretches of story given over to revisiting Amelia and Cam which I thought were pleasant but unnecessary, particularly when I really didn’t understand Merripen’s motivations or Win’s motivations. The villian’s motivations were as murky as anyone else’s and given that villianry plays an important part in Win and Merripen’s emotional breakthrough, it was important for me to have some kind of understanding as to the why the villian acted in a certain manner.
As brave as Win was, she certainly played a secondary role to Merripen, Cam, Leo (her brother) and sometimes even Amelia. Indeed, I found that Leo had the best lines and seemed to steal whatever scene he was in:
“Most women have a tragic attraction to rakes,” he said regretfully. “I really shouldn’t use it against them.”
“Now you’ll weep for a different cause,” he told Amelia. “Because as you see, I’ve come back as well.”
She flew to him, and was swallowed in a strong embrace. “The French wouldn’t have you?” she asked, her voice muffled against his chest.
“On the contrary, they adored me. But there’s no entertainment in staying where one is wanted.”
The comment seemed to incense her beyond all expectation. “I am aware of your reputation as a skirt chaser, my lord. I find no cause for humor in it.”
Leo didn’t think she found cause for humor in much of anything. “My reputation has lasted in spite of a nearly three-year absence?” he asked, affecting a tone of pleased surprise.
“You’re proud of it?”
“Well, of course. It’s easy to have a good reputation-’ you merely have to do nothing. But earning a bad reputation- well, that takes some effort.”
It’s probably an understatement to say that I look forward to Leo’s book. His wry, sardonic way lent a good dose of humor to a book that could have been overwrought with angst. The emotional tone of the book was well balanced. It was just that the machinations of the characters often seemed contrived as did events that furthered the plot. The ending, in particular, had an air of convenient romancelandia scriptedness to it. A reader is not likely to be disappointed in having read the book, but I did hope for something more. B-