Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (March 25, 2008)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (March 25, 2008)
MEET THE BLUE-EYED DEVIL
His name is Hardy Cates. He’s a self-made millionaire who comes from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s made enemies in the rough-and-tumble ride to the top of Houston’s oil industry. He’s got hot blood in his veins. And vengeance on his mind.
MEET THE HEIRESS
She’s Haven Travis. Despite her family’s money, she refuses to set out on the path they’ve chosen for her. But when Haven marries a man her family disapproves of, her life is set on a new and dangerous course. Two years later, Haven comes home, determined to guard her heart. And Hardy Cates, a family enemy, is the last person she needs darkening her door or setting her soul on fire.
WATCH THE SPARKS FLY. . . .
Lisa Kleypas is now the 2nd author whose books I will buy in hardcover (along with Suz Brockmann). And for anyone who's never read anything by Kleypas, let me tell ya, it's well worth it.
I was wonderfully surprised by Kleypas' debut contemporary novel, "Sugar Daddy", after having loved her historicals for so long. And having seen other authors falter when switching genres, I was seriously nervous. But I actually think Kleypas' contemporary writing is stronger, her stories more vivid and emotionally satisfying than any of her historicals, and so easily devoured. I finished this one in about 6 hours, and though I wish I could have taken my time and savored it, Haven and Hardy wouldn't let me. One thing I have to say, is that the book description, including the inside jacket, doesn't do the book justice. This story is much more emotional, more meaty, and grips you from page 1.
Haven Travis and Hardy Cates are two strangers drawn to each other from the moment their eyes lock at her brother Gage's wedding, but while Hardy would love to get to know the lovely young woman better (especially if it's going to rile those Travises), Haven feels guilty as she is there with her boyfriend, Nick, the man she plans to marry, and has no business ogling another man, no matter how compelling.
Later she find out that the man is none other than Hardy Cates, the person who ruined a business deal for her brother and who was her sister-in-law Liberty's first love. The absolute last man in the great state of Texas she should be attracted to. Instead she turns back to Nick, who intends to ask her father for her hand in marriage. Her father doesn't really approve of Nick, and tells Haven right out that he'll disinherit her if she marries him, and being as stubborn as her father, Haven doesn't let that stop her.
Nick and Haven do get married, without her family's presence, and move away to a different part of Texas, near Dallas. At first, everything is wonderful; they are both working, enjoying getting to know each other, building their life together. But then Nick starts changing, becoming impatient with her, and is not pleased with anything she does. Gradually, his behavior becomes more erratic, more unpredictable, and soon Haven is questioning her sanity, and her worth. She begins blaming herself for his anger and frustation, and despite her protests, ends up doing whatever he wants, including quitting her job and changing her name. The violence continues to escalate, resulting in a brutal act that leaves Haven shaken. Still, she stays with him, questioning herself and convinced she's at fault. It isn't until he almost beats her to death that Haven realizes she has to get away from him, or she will end up dead.
With no purse, car, or even shoes, Haven walks to the nearest grocery store and calls the one person she knows she can trust: her brother Gage. With his money and resources, Gage finds a way to get to Haven and take her away from the monster she married. He brings her to the home he shares with his new wife Liberty, who welcomes her without judgment, only love and affection. Together Gage and Liberty stand by her, and help her get back on her feet. This is hard for Gage, who wants only to rip apart the man who has hurt his sister, but with the softer influence of his wife, he realizes the last thing Haven needs is to worry about her brother ending up in jail when she needs him as she tries to re-build her life.
Haven decides to keep the brutal details of her marriage away from the rest of her family, and ends up taking a job with her brother Jack's company. He tries to get her to take a higher position, but being as stubborn as ever, Haven is not one to fall back on nepotism, and agrees to a lesser position, which puts her in the path of yet another controlling person in charge. But Haven doesn't let her family know about the troubles on the job either; she just wants to move on with her life and not depend on her family to save her.
She slowly lets herself start living a life again, even letting her brother convince her to go out with him and his current girlfriend and socialize when she'd rather just stay home. As she's just about to leave the bar Jack takes her to, she runs into Hardy, and that feeling from their first encounter is still as alive as ever, and he makes it known that he would love for her to give in to their blazing attraction and let him rock her world. But Hardy is too much: too male, too potent, too sexy, and she doesn't know if she can ever feel comfortable around a man again, especially one as powerful as Hardy. Still, Hardy is a hard man to resist, and as much as Haven tries to keep her relationship with him cool and professional, he keeps pushing past her boundaries. This scares her as much as it excites her.
Hardy can't seem to keep away from the Texas heiress who blows hot and cold with him. He's not sure why he's so fascinated with her, but she soothes something inside him, all the while making him crazy with desire...and frustration. As Haven and Hardy get to know each other, and she begins to trust him, he learns the private and painful details of her marriage, his soul hurts for her as much as his pride yearns to vindicate this proud, brave, beautiful woman. But what really scares him is the feelings he has for her, when deep down, he knows he's really not good enough for her, in more ways than she can imagine.
Wow. Seriously. Kleypas has excelled yet again with her way of weaving a story and totally captivating her audience. I would say I loved this one as much as "Sugar Daddy", though understandably my heart broke more during this one. Haven may have had "spoiled brat" stamped all over her at the beginning, but she showed herself to be a woman of substance, of strength, endurance, and courage. Watching her become an abused wife and how her husband Nick gradually broke down her self-confidence, her self-worth, was so painful to watch, and being stripped so slowly and so thoroughly makes it that much harder to climb out of that dark place. Kleypas doesn't sugarcoat the abuse, doesn't make excuses, doesn't justify it by setting up Nick as having been any kind of a victim himself. Sometimes people are the way they are, good or bad, with no real reason behind it. That's what makes it harder to understand, and endure.
Hardy was not the same man he was at the end of "Sugar Daddy". Though I wanted to hate him because of how callously he used Liberty's trust in him against her, he just wouldn't let me, not even in the beginning. In fact, the more I got to know him, the more I felt he was the right man to love Haven, to cherish her and to let her be her own woman. His earthy sexuality was just what she needed to feel feminine again, to feel sexual herself, and to take control of her own needs. He was there for Haven all the times she needed him most, whether to help her during a dangerous situation or to let her work through her demons. It might have killed him to see her in pain, and despite wanting to vanquish all her fears, he understood that listening and understanding could be just as important.
Buy. This. Book. That's all I have to say. It's amazing; emotional, sexy, heart-breaking, wonderful. With the rich flavor of Texas and the trademark sensuality of a Kleypas novel, "Blue-Eyed Devil" will not let you put the book down until it's over. It grabs you and carries you along for a wonderfully, satisfying journey. Definitely one for the keeper shelf.
Rating: ***** out of *****