After nearly being strangled and drowned in the icy water of the Thames, a beautiful woman awakens in the bed of the stranger who rescued her with no memory of who she is. Told that she is Vivien Rose Duvall, one of the most notorious and sought-after courtesans in London, she feels scandalized at the mere prospect that this is the woman she once was. In her heart, it doesn't ring true, but her savior, a Bow Street Runner, presents her with evidence to the contrary. Uncertain what to believe, she struggles to find her footing in a now unfamiliar world, while finding herself falling for the handsome Runner who claims to have been her lover and helping him to investigate who had motive to want her dead. But what is she to do when she discovers that he's been lying about the nature of their past relationship?
Grant Morgan is fabled for his investigative skills. He worked hard to rise up through the ranks of the Bow Street Runners quickly, and is now sought out by the most wealthy clients to take their private cases. As a result, he's earned a fortune to rival any aristocrat and is invited to many of their parties as something of a novelty guest. When he is called to the Thames to investigate a body that's been found, he's surprised that the woman is still alive. He's equally shocked to discover that he knows her. Grant takes Vivien to his home to nurse her back to health, but as soon as she is recovered, he can't help wanting to exact a little revenge on the woman who spread vicious lies about him. However, as he gets to know her on a deeper level, he finds she's nothing like the vain creature he previously met at a party. In fact, she appears almost innocent, even though that seems impossible, and he can't help falling for this different Vivien, who is actually the woman of his dreams. As Grant investigates her case, attempting to figure out who tried to murder her, he discovers some shocking information, and he also finds himself in a race against time to stop the killer from striking again.
I first read Lisa Kleypas' Bow Street Runners series about ten years ago when I'd just been coming off a book drought that had lasted at least that long. I still marvel at how I, a self-confessed bookaholic, could have gone so long without reading much at all, but I guess becoming a mom can completely rearrange your life and priorities that way. In 2007, I promised myself that I would get back to reading regularly and I haven't looked back in the decade since. If memory serves, Someone to Watch Over Me was the very first book I randomly chose from my overstuffed bookshelves and it was also the first one I ever read by Lisa Kleypas. I didn't even realize it was part of a series at the time, but lucky for me, it was the first in the series. I remember that it made me fall in love with the author's work and immediately run out to the library to get the others in the series that I didn't yet own. When I joined GoodReads in early 2008, I added all the books I read in 2007, rating them as best I could with my faulty memory. I recalled really enjoying Someone to Watch Over Me and the entire series, but I wasn't sure if I had loved it (and them) enough to warrant 5 stars, so I gave all of them 4 stars (thinking they were really more like 4.5's). Now that I've re-read this book, I can unequivocally say that it is indeed a 5-star read for me. Even though I remembered the big plot twist, I still loved reading it again for all the romance, sweetness, and all the little details that had since been purged from my memory. And since I read it before I started writing reviews in mid-2007, I never wrote one for it, so now I get the pleasure of doing that with double the impressions of the story.:-)
One of the things I got to rediscover is all the reasons why I loved Grant so much. First his backstory is very sympathetic, and while it doesn't play a huge part in the story, he has experienced a lot of loss in his life. Lisa Kleypas is known for her self-made men and for her everyday historical heroes who aren't part of the aristocracy. Grant is both. As a teen, he met a Bow Street Runner and idolized the work he did, vowing to become one some day. And that's exactly what he's done. He worked his way up through the ranks quickly to become the top Runner at Bow Street. His fame precedes him, and after having many ha'penny novels written about him, he's become a sought-after guest at many aristocratic functions. It also brings him some of the most lucrative private cases, which has helped him to amass a fortune larger than some aristocrats. But he still moves quite easily in the streets of London where he grew up. He first met Vivian at a society party and was thinking about making an offer to become her protector, but he immediately changed his mind after figuring out how shallow and manipulative she was. This is one of the things I loved about him, because it showed that he's a man of depth and character who wants more than someone with a pretty face to warm his bed. His spurning of Vivien led to her spreading untrue rumors about him. However, in spite of wanting revenge on her for that slight, he can't seem to stop himself from feeling a sense of protectiveness toward her and caring for her tenderly when he finds her near-dead, the victim of an attempted murder. He also senses an innocence about her all along, even though he believes that's impossible given her position as a famous courtesan. While he does have a few moments of hardness when he's determined to make Vivien pay and does lie about their prior relationship, those lies do come back to bite him. He also can't seem to help but soften when he's with her. And his library? I'd marry him for that alone.;-) For a giant of a man, Grant is an incredibly gentle lover, and I loved him to pieces for declaring his love for Vivien before bedding her the first time.
The reader knows nothing about Vivien prior to her being dragged out of the Thames, half-dead and with no memory of who she is. I like how the author keeps the reader just a little off-balance with regards to what's going on with her. I seem to recall when reading it the first time that much like Grant, I was never quite sure whether she is the infamous courtesan Grant believes her to be or not. He knows that she looks exactly like the Vivien he knew, and his eyes can't lie. But she acts so differently, it's almost like she's another person. Could the blow to the head have somehow altered her personality as well as caused the memory loss? Half the fun of the story is in finding out the answer to that question. Having previously read it and already knowing the answer, I could look at it from a different perspective, and I think that it was a very well-written and well-plotted story. The Vivien we see recovering at Grant's house has an air of sweetness and innocence about her. She's absolutely mortified to learn that she was a courtesan. Somehow deep inside, she doesn't feel like that's her at all, but Grant says it's true and she trusts him. I love the way she melts when Grant is around and how she sees the man within and seems to truly understand and appreciate him in a way other women perhaps haven't. Vivien may be sweet but she certainly has a back bone, too. She bravely puts herself at risk to help Grant find her would-be murderer, and when she discovers Grant's lies, she doesn't let him off easily. I also found her to be very calm and collected, never a woman given to histrionics like many women in her situation might be. When shocking revelations occur, she generally takes them in stride, so I admired her for that. Overall, Vivien (or is she?:-)) was a very well-rounded heroine who I related to quite well.
Someone to Watch Over Me also had a couple of very notable secondary characters who go on to become amazing heroes in their own stories, and I got to start falling for them all over again by re-reading this book. Sir Ross Cannon is the head magistrate and leader of the Bow Street Runners. I love how protective he is toward women and children and how seriously he takes his job. He even has a cat that doesn't seem to like anyone else but him, which is cute. Ross is definitely an honorable man and it shows even in his supporting scenes. I remember loving him just as much as I loved Grant, maybe even a little more, so I can't wait to re-read his book, Lady Sophia's Lover, which is the next in the series. Then there's Dr. Jacob Linley, who's also a total dreamboat. I seem to recall him playing a supporting role in all the Bow Street Runners books. He's a young doctor, who is more progressive-thinking than some of his older colleagues. He's also absolutely wonderful with his female patients, which means that women often seek him out for treatment. Jacob becomes the hero of the novella Against the Odds, which is considered the final story in the Gambler's of Cravens series. I was so sad when I realized that I hadn't read his story yet, which is probably the result of it being connected to another series that I also haven't read, but I'm definitely going to have to rectify that soon.
Overall, Someone to Watch Over Me was a thoroughly enjoyable re-read. It's a deeply emotional and romantic story. I love how Grant and Vivien bond over a shared love of books, something that surprises Grant, as he didn't think Vivien cared one whit about reading, much less had an intelligent and philosophical mind. The sexual tension between them is exquisite as our hero and heroine navigate the treacherous mystery of who tried to kill Vivien and why, while falling in love. The love scenes are beautiful, tender, and steamy, too, exactly what I expect from Lisa Kleypas. The mystery was well-done, keeping me guessing (the first time I read it :-)) as to whether Vivien is really Vivien and who had it in for her (something I didn't recall until the story began to progress). It was just an all-around great read that I'd be happy to revisit in about another decade, once I've forgotten much of the story again.:-)
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