Dear Ms. Kleypas:
Tempt Me at Twilight brings readers closer to the end of the Hathaway family romances. We have only Leo and Beatrix left. Poppy and her family are staying at the Rutledge Hotel for the London season. Poppy is convinced that she is in love with Lord Michael Bayning, the heir to a viscountancy. Despite the fact that she is the sister of a viscount, Poppy does not have the bloodlines to be considered a good match for Bayning. He promises her a letter to broach the subject of their romance with his father, but begs her to keep it private. Poppy agrees happily.
Problems arise when Beatrix’s ferret runs off with this scandalous letter and Poppy gives chase. She ends up in a secret tunnel where a mysterious man finds her, lifts the letter, and settles in for a nice chat with Poppy. The mystery man is Harry Rutledge, the powerful owner of the hotel. Poppy’s natural intelligence and her unconventional education pique Harry’s interest. A collector of fine and curious objects, Harry decides immediately that the beautiful Poppy is a must have acquisition for his collection. He sets about manipulating events that end in Poppy’s inevitable marriage to him.
The Hathaways are wholly opposed to this marriage and tell Poppy she can return home, although she will be ruined. What does it matter to them? They were poor as church mice and the whole society thing is fairly a novelty to them. But Poppy is convinced by Harry’s frank acknowledgment that he is scandalous, mercenary, and manipulative but will promise to treat her like a queen.
I enjoy the forced marriage theme and by the numerosity of the theme in the genre, so must other readers. While the prose is good, it wasn’t effortless. The story relied on quirkiness such as Beatrice offering sage advice about how people are like animals. Beatrix is often around like a Hathaway Yoda offering up cryptic statements at just the right moment such as you can trust anyone that a hedgehog trusts which, of course, means Poppy is to throw away her impressions that Harry is a scandalous and untrustworthy man.
I do appreciate that this story is all about what happens after the marriage. Poppy isn’t in love with Harry and Harry isn’t in love with Poppy but they both must navigate the marriage in different ways to find their way to the loving marriage. For both parties, it is learning to understand and accept people beyond the surface. Poppy only really wanted Bayning for the traditional English life she had always longed for. Harry wanted the unusual, unique because it lent stature to his position.
I felt like Harry was a bit inaccessible. He went from viewing Poppy as a curiosity (a valuable must-have curisioty) into a person he could not live without but I never fully understood why. I can guess that it was because Poppy offered him understanding and acceptance but why he held himself aloof from everyone else that understood and accepted him but not Poppy was never fully conveyed to me.
There was an action/suspense sequence in the latter part of the book that I found odd and out of place. I understand that it was a tweak on genre conventions but given that Poppy was so conventional and that she longed for a conventional life, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to take from this. In other words, I didn’t see how it advanced the idea the love relationship between Poppy and Harry or whether it was a device used to bring Poppy to the realization that she loved Harry (which I thought she had reached before this incident).
I did love the Hathaways thought their insertions were well done but all the other Hathaway appearances served to take time away from Poppy and Harry. For example, we see a lot of Leo as the romance between him and Ms. Marks is set up. I liked what I saw of Leo but I actually understood him better than I did Harry. I felt like Harry played the role of the romance hero but was notfully integral to the book. Another scoundrel could have stood in his shoes and Poppy would have been none the wiser, would she?
I thought there was a big BIG convenience that seemed a bit, well, convenient. I would have liked a bit more explanation as to the why/how. This is a cute read and a pleasurable way to pass the time but it isn’t my favorite Lisa Kleypas. C+