Four wallflowers who are tired of being passed over by potential suitors decide to band together to help each other find husbands.
First up is Annabelle Peyton who in spite of being well-born, is as penniless as a church mouse. With no dowry she has had no offers of marriage for four seasons and is rapidly approaching spinsterhood. If she doesn't find a husband by the end of the season, she may be forced to become some man's mistress in order to support her family, a prospect which she finds incredibly distasteful. There is only one man who seems interested in her, but although wealthy, he is low-born. Annabelle denies feeling any attraction for him, because her sights are set on marrying an aristocrat, no matter the consequences. There is only one man remaining who seems to fit the bill, but her dogged pursuit of him may end in disaster if she refuses to listen to her heart.
Simon Hunt is a self-made man who worked his way up from a mere butcher's son to being one of the wealthiest men in England. He has never forgotten his chance meeting with Annabelle and the stolen kiss they shared two years ago. He knows her ambition to marry socially higher than himself and has been patiently biding his time, asking for a dance at every opportunity but always being rebuffed. Now that her husband-hunting time is almost at an end, he begins to play an exhilarating game of cat and mouse with her, but will he be able to convince Annabelle that he is the one she truly wants before she makes a decision that could ruin her life?
After reading numerous rave reviews, I have been quite anxious to start Lisa Kleypas' Wallflowers series. However, when I first began Secrets of a Summer Night, I found myself wondering if I was going to like it as much as some of Ms. Kleypas' other works. Initially, the story had a much lighter feel than the author's other books I had read to date, with the relationship between the Wallflowers seeming a little like chick-lit (not exactly my favorite genre) in a historical setting. Also, the first third or so of the book is primarily devoted to introducing each of the Wallflowers and their individual situations that have caused them to be passed over by potential suitors, as well as detailing the pact between them to help find husbands for each other and building their collective friendship. During this time, there wasn't much interaction between Simon and Annabelle and in fact, Simon only had two short point-of-view scenes which made it difficult to get to know him or to believe that these two were going to fall madly in love. I shouldn't have worried though, because this is Lisa Kleypas we're talking about, an author who has rarely disappointed me. About 150 pages into the story, things really took off, and from there Simon and Annabelle's romance built slowly and believably into a beautiful tender relationship and a dramatic conclusion that really solidified their love for me.
During the early parts of the book, I found myself having mixed feelings about Annabelle. I was sympathetic to her plight of being penniless and desperately needing to marry a wealthy suitor to take care of her family, but her lack of a dowry preventing any nobleman from asking for her hand. Not only was she stuck in this endless loop, but she was also rapidly approaching spinsterhood and the prospect of having no other choice but to become the mistress of a peer in order to survive. My only problem with Annabelle was that she had Simon, a man who was wealthier than most aristocrats, doggedly pursuing her for two years after a brief stolen kiss, but she rejected his offers to dance and openly disdained him that whole time, mainly, it seemed, because she didn't view him as a worthy match due to his low birth. I thought this made her appear rather snobbish, a decidedly un-endearing quality. Annabelle also seemed to have the idea that Simon only wanted her as his mistress, but contrary to what the cover blurb stated, I never really got that feeling from him at all and felt that if she had taken the time to get to know him, he might have surprised her with what he had to offer. Annabelle also was prepared to do literally anything it took to win a marriage proposal from a titled gentleman even if he was a poor match for her. Due to these character flaws, I ended up staying on the fence about Anabelle for more than half the story until she finally came to her senses and realized that her actions would be hurting someone else. When she did the honorable thing, I developed a more definite liking for her which only grew as she herself grew and changed throughout the rest of the novel. I loved how she went though some soul-searching and struggled a bit with not quite fitting in her own privileged world anymore, but neither did she fit in Simon's more provincial one. In the end though, her act of heroism and the changes in her attitude convinced me that she would no longer be looking down her nose at anyone else merely because of the circumstances of their birth.
As I mentioned earlier, I didn't really feel like I even began to know Simon until over a third of the way into the book. At this point, Simon and Annabelle's first major interaction occurs when she is in the throes of a medical crisis, and his cool head saves the day. Also Annabelle (and the reader) begin to see his kindness and concern show through in his gentle ministrations. From there, the author does the very best thing she could have done for her hero by showing in every word and deed just what a great guy he actually is. Simon is another one of Lisa Kleypas' self-made heroes who had come into a fortune through ingenuity and hard work. He was born the son of a butcher, but is occasionally welcomed into the world of the upper-crust because of his wealth. Simon isn't really tortured like many of Ms. Kleypas' other heroes, but he was rather mysterious and a mischievous flirt. To say that he is quite self-assured just might be an understatement. There were a couple of times that his behavior bordered on being just a wee bit too cocky for my taste, but thankfully it only happened once or twice and the rest of the time his arrogance was rather endearing. Overall, Simon was another wonderful hero to come from Ms. Kleypas' fertile imagination. I just loved how protective he was of Annabelle and her family and how he just simply wanted to spoil her with all the nice things that she had been denied for so many years. It may have taken a little while to learn about Simon's character, but once I did, I totally fell for him just like nearly every other Lisa Kleypas hero I've read to date.
The four Wallflower girls, Annabelle, Lillian, Daisy and Evie have an interesting relationship dynamic and the latter three are all good secondary characters. Lillian and Daisy are sisters and wealthy American débutantes looking for titled husbands who would be worthy of their financial status, but are rather rough around the edges for English society. Lillian is very feisty and seemed to have a bit of a chip on her shoulder, particularly concerning Marcus, Lord Westcliff, her soon-to-be hero. I'm hoping that she will go through a similar transformation as Annabelle in her own story, the next in the series, because out of all the Wallflowers, she seemed to have the least scruples. Daisy seems to be a little bit of a tomboy, being the one most excited about their game of Rounders, an early form of baseball. I'll be interested to see how her character develops as the series goes on, as her book is the fourth one. My absolute favorite Wallflower so far is Evie. She is a shy girl with red hair, freckles and a stutter, who appears to be set upon by controlling relatives, but who also seems to notice and understand far more than most people give her credit for. I can't wait for her book, which is number three in the series.
The one other secondary character who plays a strong role in Secrets of a Summer Night is Marcus who is best friends with Simon. I had previously gotten a pretty good feel for his character in two other Lisa Kleypas books that are not a part of the Wallflower series, Again the Magic and Worth Any Price. In both of those books, as well as this one, he presents himself as rather uptight and arrogant, but he always makes some grand gesture that proves what a good heart he has underneath his blustery facade. I'm really looking forward to reading his and Lillian's book, It Happened One Autumn. It was also nice to get a glimpse of Gideon and Olivia who represented the secondary romance in Again the Magic. While there had been enough of a wrap-up to their story in that book to leave me with the feeling that they would have an HEA, I was pleased to see them quite happy and engaged in Secrets of a Summer Night. Although they didn't play a role in the story, there was brief mention of Lord St. Vincent, the hero of the third Wallflower book, The Devil in Winter, and Harry Rutledge, the hotel magnate who becomes the hero of Tempt Me at Twilight, part of the spin-off Hathaway series.
Secrets of a Summer Night may have gotten off to a somewhat slow start for me, but overall, it turned out to be another enjoyable read from Lisa Kleypas with a strong (if not perfect ;-)) hero and heroine. Hopefully, now that the groundwork for the Wallflowers has been laid, there will be earlier and more prominent focus on the romance in the remaining books of the series. For now, Secrets of a Summer Night has earned a spot on my keeper shelf, and I'm eagerly looking forward to reading the remaining books in the series, It Happened One Autumn, The Devil in Winter, Scandal in Spring, and A Wallflower Christmas very soon.
You May Also Enjoy
The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook