Lily Lawson is a wild, headstrong beauty who lives on the periphery of the ton and has turned a great many male heads, but so far, not one has been able to win her heart. After being let down by nearly every man in her life, she's determined to live independently on her own terms. Thanks to an inheritance from an elderly aunt, she's been able to do just that and is viewed by most as a scandalous but charming young woman. In reality, she lives only to find her missing daughter and get the child back from the man who's been blackmailing her for years. When the young man who loves her sister, Penny, comes calling, asking for Lily's help getting Penny out of an arranged marriage, Lily doesn't need the distraction but neither can she say no, especially when she discovers that Penny's betrothed is a man she believes would not be right for her timid, retiring sister. Lily vows to do whatever is necessary to break off their engagement, even if she must break her own rules to get the job accomplished.
Alex, Lord Raiford lost a spirited fiancée he loved dearly in a tragic riding accident. He has no intention of ever loving a woman again, but needing to marry to sire an heir, he chooses a young lady who is agreeable but with whom he feels there's no risk of losing his heart again. When his fiancée's sister comes to "rescue" her, Alex is deeply perturbed, not only because she's wrecking his plans for the future but because he finds himself hopelessly attracted to her. He fights her allure for all he's worth, but after being tricked by Lily and spending a night platonically tied to her bed while Penny escapes their betrothal, Alex has time to come to terms with his feelings. He decides to attempt to win over the feisty beauty with kindness and gentleness while teaching her how to keep her spiritedness in check. But even as he makes headway in winning Lily's heart, he knows that she's still hiding something from him. When he discovers the truth of her bastard child will he still love her the same way?
Then Came You is one of Lisa Kleypas's earlier works. If my calculations are correct, she only wrote a half-dozen books before this one. Perhaps this is why I rarely hear anything about it from readers, and it's also why I went into reading it not certain if I would like it or not. As you can see from my rating, I ended up loving it. I wasn't too sure at first, though, because the hero and heroine both have very intense personalities that tend to clash a lot during the first half of the book. Granted she's trying to break up his engagement to her sister by fair means or foul, while he's trying to hang onto the memory of his dead fiancée, which is a recipe for a strained relationship at best. They have a lot of arguments, which isn't normally my cup of tea. However, for the first hundred pages or so, I actually found a lot of their interactions to be rather humorous and amusing, because they're both so stubborn. Eventually, though, I was starting to feel like it was going a tad too far with the hero saying a few things that I felt were needlessly cruel. But after she ties him to her bed to stop the wedding, giving him an entire night to think on what he's doing, he comes right around. During the second half, although their romance is still fairly intense, it was much more tender and emotional, and I loved where things went as the story progressed. So despite a tiny bit of skepticism early on, Then Came You ended up being a really great read for me and a definite Kleypas favorite.
Lily is a head-strong, independent woman who has always been something of a trial to her parents. She tried to be someone she wasn't to snare the type of husband they wanted for her, but when he found out who she really was and left her at the altar, she simply couldn't pretend anymore. Instead, she decided to live life to the fullest and not worry about what other people thought of her. She became a companion to an elderly aunt who was equally as eccentric as Lily, so the two got on famously and traveled together. In Italy, Lily met a man who charmed her into bed, but it was anything but the romantic experience she had hoped it would be. Her lover left her pregnant and alone, but her aunt stood by her until she died, leaving Lily her fortune. Then when her little girl was only two years old, she was cruelly kidnapped by her birth father who has been blackmailing Lily into giving him money for the two years since. Lily is ostentatious, garnering male attention wherever she goes, and one of her favorite places to go is Craven's gambling hell. She has an odd friendship with the proprietor who has used his connections to help search for her daughter, but to no avail. So after exhausting her inheritance, she's had to spend her nights at Craven's trying to win the money to keep her former lover happy in hopes of also keeping her daughter alive and well until she can find a way to get her back. Then the young man who's in love with Lily's sister, Penny, comes to her, asking for help in getting Penny out of her engagement to Lord Raiford. Not having a great relationship with her family, at first, Lily is reluctant to get involved, but she loves Penny and after hearing a few troubling things about Raiford, she decides to check the man out for herself, showing up on his doorstep uninvited. From there she wreaks havoc on his life and his household until he yields. But even after they fall in love, Lily feels she may not be good enough for him and that he'll leave her if he ever finds out the truth about her bastard child.
Despite her being impetuous and stubborn, I found Lily to be likable, much in the same way all the men who seem to admire her for her audaciousness do. She certainly doesn't give up on anything or anyone whom she cares about, whether it's finding her lost child or freeing her sister from the clutches of a man she knows isn't right for her. And yet underneath all that bluster, beats a vulnerable heart. She doesn't trust anyone easily, most especially men. Sadly all the men in her life have let her down in one way or another if not outright abused her trust, so it's completely understandable. Her one experience with love-making was so horrible, she thinks it's not worth her time even though everyone around her thinks she's a loose woman. Until she makes a bold, fateful bet with Alex in an attempt to win the money she needs to keep her daughter, Nicole, safe a little longer, she had scruples, always stopping short of selling her body for money even for her child. She was also a great mother to Nicole. Any woman who would fight tooth and nail like she did, spending her last dime on paying blackmail money and hiring investigators, never giving up on getting her back even after two years is an awesome parent in my book. Although I maybe would have liked to see Lily trust Alex with her darkest secret a little sooner, the story played out very well anyway. So although Lily was perhaps a little more brash then I tend to like my heroines to be, she was still a good one who I admired.
Alex lost his first love, Caroline. in a tragic riding accident. She was a spirited, independent lady whom he greatly admired. Unable to let go of her memory, but needing to marry, he chooses a woman who is her complete opposite, thinking that he'll have a comfortable marriage with no chance of falling in love with his wife-to-be. Then his fiancée's sister unexpectedly comes to call. With her impetuous ways, Lily represents everything Alex has been trying to avoid in a woman for years. But at the same time, she raises his ire and his passions in a way that no one has since Caroline died. Frightened of the feelings she stirs within him, he stubbornly insists upon marrying Penny, even though Lily has vowed to do whatever it takes to stop him. When she keeps that promise by tying him to her bed overnight to prevent the wedding from happening, he has a great deal of time to think about his life and realizes that he's been a fool. Marrying Penny would have been a grave mistake, when it's really Lily he desires and has fallen in love with. So once free, he sets his sights on her, vowing to do whatever it takes to get her to trust him with her secrets and to be his bride.
IMHO, Alex begins the story as one of Lisa Kleypas's more intense alpha heroes. He's very gruff and humorless, stubbornly clinging to Caroline's memory even after Lily begins to get under his skin. He does show glimmers of a softer side, though, in his rescue of his younger brother from an abusive schoolmaster. Even still, first-half Alex can be rather harsh with Lily. Although I'll admit that she was trying his patience and a lot of his intensity was probably anger at himself for allowing Caroline to slip from his memories, I thought there were a couple of places he was bordering on being too cruel and forceful. Once he figures out that he can allow himself to be happy with another woman, he lightens up considerably and I really loved second-half Alex. He's gentle and kind, coaxing Lily into a relationship with him while allowing her the space to come to trust him on her own. He's a tender lover, giving her all the pleasure she'd previously been denied, and he's very understanding when Lily's secrets finally come out. While he may have gotten a tad out of hand in the beginning, he came around very nicely and became the perfect foil for Lily, offering the firm but loving hand she needed to feel safe and in control. Once he eased up, Alex became a near-perfect hero for me.
The supporting characters perhaps weren't quite as prominent as most, but they did add to the story. Lily's sister, Penny, is a meek, submissive girl who wouldn't dream of going against her parent's wishes even though she's in love with someone else and finds Alex to be frightening. Her beau, Zachary, is a beta who's hopelessly in love with her but doesn't quite have the courage to do what needs to be done. They're two very sweet people who were obviously made for each other, but without Lily's prodding and interference, they might never have ended up together, so I was very glad she did. Lily's parents appear just enough to help the reader understand why she has a difficult relationship with them, but at the same time, there's still love between them. Alex's brother, Henry, is a good-hearted boy who makes a bit of mischief but is still a great kid. The most prominent supporting character, though, is Derek Craven who owns the gambling hell Lily frequents. They share a friendship and she's entrusted him with her secrets while he allows her free-reign in his establishment. Derek cares for Lily but doesn't think he's good enough for her, which is why he never pursued her and ends up pushing her into Alex's arms. He becomes the hero of Dreaming of You, the next book in the Gamblers of Craven's series. Overall, I liked what we see of him in this book. I know that he's a favorite among Lisa Kleypas fans, so I'm really looking forward to reading his book.
Then Came You isn't at the very top of my favorite books by Lisa Kleypas but it does rank very highly. Despite their intense personalities which usually isn't my thing, I greatly liked both Lily and Alex. They challenge each other in ways that others don't, which made them a perfect match. Once they get past their initial arguing and rubbing each other the wrong way, they settle into a romance that's sweet and heartfelt while still being emotional and passionate. I liked the reference to how Raiford men are fiercely loyal once they fall in love and how after Alex got over his initial protestations, he wore his heart on his sleeve. He treats Lily like a precious jewel while keeping her from being self-destructive and he knows how to reign her in without trying to change her. It all made for a great story that's definitely going on my keeper shelf. Now I can't wait to give Derek's book a try and see if I agree with everyone else.
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