Lillian Bowman is a feisty American heiress, who along with her sister, has been looking for a husband amongst the British peerage. Unfortunately, her search has gone on far too long, and if she doesn't find a suitable match soon, she will return to the States in disgrace. After purchasing a custom formulated perfume in London, Lillian sets out with her family for a month-long house party at the country estate of the Earl of Westcliff. Lillian and the Earl have been at odds over her uncouth behavior ever since he found her playing a game of rounders in her knickers at his last party. After a couple more arguments with Westcliff that end rather surprisingly, Lillian discovers that he isn't quite as unreasonable as she first thought, and after his unusually passionate reaction to being in close proximity to her, not once but twice, she can't help but soften toward him. But is he really attracted to her or is it just her "magical" perfume?
Marcus Marsden has a reputation for being very proper and uptight, which has led to some strong disagreements with his infuriating but beautiful houseguest. The more time he spends around Lillian the more he can't help but be drawn to her free-spirited personality, but the duties and responsibilities that come with his title and heritage weigh heavily on his mind. From a very young age, his ruthless father trained Marcus to be exactly like him, but somewhere deep within he has been able to hold onto a more gentle, caring part of himself. It is that part which wants Lillian with a passion he has never known, but Marcus's mother is no less callous than his father. In her mind, nothing matters more than Marcus marrying well, and in her opinion, Lillian is the furthest he can get from a proper mate. When Marcus finally realizes what is most important to him and asserts his right to marry a woman of his choosing, his mother may stop at nothing to get her own way.
It Happened One Autumn was another great book in the Wallflowers series. As with the first book of the series though, it got off to a somewhat slow start for me. The first half or so of the book is primarily character driven relying heavily on internal conflicts. I'm not really a big fan of love/hate relationships or of the hero and heroine holding each other at arms length for an extended period of time. It seemed like the early part of the book was pretty much a circular cycle of Marcus and Lillian having a passionate encounter, fighting their feelings because they think they're wholly unsuited for one another, and then arguing a bit, with a side dish of St. Vincent occasionally thrown in for good measure. I don't mean to make it sound boring, because it really wasn't. Overall, it was well-written, but I felt like there was a dash of something missing. Once Marcus and Lillian finally stopped fighting fate, things really got going and then with the exciting plot twist in the final chapters, I was thoroughly into the story.
Even though I wished there had been a little more action in the early parts of the book, there were still other things that kept the story fun and interesting. I really enjoyed the light banter between Marcus and his sister, Olivia, as well as the sisterly exploits of Lillian and Daisy. There were a couple of amusing side plots that had me grinning from ear-to-ear, one involving a supposedly aphrodisiac perfume and its effects on a couple of the ladies' love lives, and the other involving a conversation between the men about how often was often enough to have sex. The dynamic of the wallflowers was delightfully breezy, continuing the lighter tone of the series. I still adore Evie and if things work out for her the way I hope, I still think she will probably become my favorite wallflower. I also enjoyed Daisy with her love of books and a more cerebral curiosity. The sexual tension between Marcus and Lillian was very nicely done. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing Annabelle and Simon (Secrets of a Summer Night), and Gideon and Olivia (Again the Magic) still madly in love.
Marcus is definitely going to be awarded a spot near the top of my favorite romance heroes list. He was very protective of Lillian right from the start, and although he didn't always address his concerns for her safety in the most diplomatic way possible, he wasn't averse to apologizing and behaving in what I would characterize as a very magnanimous manner once his temper cooled. I was very impressed with how intuitive Marcus was in recognizing when Lillian was feeling ill, and the gentlemanly way that he helped her. In fact, there were a number of times that Marcus cared for Lillian in a tremendously sweet and tender way, and he was also a thoroughly attentive lover, all of which was quite swoon-worthy. Marcus was a man whose heritage and responsibilities as an earl weighed very heavily on his shoulders, but when he opened his heart, it was like opening a floodgate of passion that was buried beneath his reserved surface which was absolutely irresistible. The way he handled his horrible mother had me cheering him on every minute, and I loved the soft spot he had for both of his sisters and how he treated them with such kindness and respect. Overall, Marcus was a near-perfect romance hero, and in my opinion, one of the best Lisa Kleypas has ever penned which is saying a lot since all of her heroes have been pretty yummy so far.
As with Annabelle in the first book of the series, it took a little while for me to warm up to Lillian. Early on, she could be pretty stubborn and difficult, even resorting to doing something flat-out stupid merely to rebel against Marcus's perceived intrusion into her life, even though he was only looking out for her well-being. There were times when she still didn't seem to be above doing whatever it took to get what she wanted which seemed a little childish to me. I realize that she became frustrated by Marcus's seeming indecision and that she genuinely liked St. Vincent at the time, but to me, it felt like she was only seeing him to spite Marcus. Lillian also had the habit of vociferously confronting Marcus, sometimes about things he had actually done, but other times, based on nothing more than false assumptions. I could understand her wanting to be involved in any marriage plans and desiring for Marcus to say he truly loved her, but when she was still upset with him (at least momentarily) even after he had made the most beautiful marriage proposal ever, I thought she seemed a bit shrewish. Thankfully, most of her "episodes" were fairly short-lived, which allowed her to slowly grow on me as the story progressed. I came to admire her independent streak that made her stand up for herself against Marcus's mother. It also helped her to keep her head and take action when the unexpected happened. It's readily apparent that she cares deeply for her sister, Daisy, and the other wallflowers too. Not to mention, she had some moments that were more placid and humorous such as when she imbibed a bit too much brandy, which was another scene that had me laughing.
Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, was a secondary character in It Happened One Autumn, but a very important one. Before picking up this book, I had repeatedly heard from other readers that he was the villain of this story. For quite a while, I kept wondering why, because although he maybe seemed a bit too suave on occasion, for someone who was a self-proclaimed dissolute rake-hell, he was quite charming and behaved in a gentlemanly way toward Lillian. He even had good chemistry with her, but knowing that both of their romantic destinies lay elsewhere, I couldn't invest myself in anything that happened between them. I also couldn't help feeling that their scenes took away time that she could have been spending with Marcus. In any case, Sebastian got quite the introduction in this book, and I almost wondered a few times if he wasn't subtlety trying to push Marcus and Lillian together using reverse psychology. Perhaps I was reading too much into that though, because an unexpected plot twist, completely altered my opinion of him. By the end of the story, I wasn't liking him well at all anymore, and I have to say that Lisa Kleypas will have to pull off a small miracle to get me to forgive his duplicity. Of course, if anyone can do that it would probably be Ms. Kleypas, and I'm eager to find out exactly how she manages it, and if like so many other fans, I fall madly in love with him too.;-)
It Happened One Autumn is book #2 in the Wallflowers series. It is preceded by Secrets of a Summer Night, and followed by Devil in Winter, Scandal in Spring, and A Wallflower Christmas. I may have had a few minor issues, but the combination of a strong story, a thoroughly lovable and yummy hero, and an exciting conclusion, has earned it a spot on my keeper shelf next to the first book of the series. With a cliffhanger of an epilogue for Sebastian and Evie, I don't think I'll be able to wait long to get started on their book.
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