Tempt Me At Twilight by Lisa Kleypas
Tempt Me At Twilight is the third book in the Hathaway series and features Poppy Hathaway, the third Hathaway daughter who wants a quiet, respectable man to love and live with in the country. She believes she has found the love of her life in Michael Bayning, son of the Earl of Andover, but his father is set against the match and although Michael believes he can change his father's mind the rest of the Hathaway clan is not so sure. While trying to get a love letter back from a rogue ferret Poppy runs into Harry Rutledge, the reclusive, wealthy, and very intriguing owner of the hotel the Hathaways are staying at. Harry is immediately taken with this obviously intelligent, outspoken, and beautiful young lady and wastes no time putting a stop to young Bayning's sorry attempts at courting Poppy and sets out to win her for himself. After Michael is forced to break Poppy's heart her family escorts her to a ball to prove to the ton that all is right in the world. Poppy is still sad and seeks comfort from Harry who takes her out to the balcony and wastes no time in promptly ruining her in front of the hosts and Michael Bayning.
Although her family makes it clear she does not have to marry Harry, Poppy sees little alternative and agrees to a match. Right before the marriage Michael confronts Harry with what he had done and Poppy is very hurt and promises that she won't allow Harry to win her love from her. It is not her love that Harry wants, it is her attention, her smiles, her laughter, the sense of peace and happiness he knows she can bring. The marriage gets off to quite the rocky start as Harry tries to control Poppy's interaction with the staff, buy her off with expensive diamonds and carriages, but he wants Poppy to want him as much as he wants her before they make love. The staff at the hotel is the first to notice the change that Poppy has fostered in their employer as Harry begins to care more for others around him and his general demeanor is happier. But Harry is still worried that Poppy will always harbor feelings for Michael and this makes him wary of trusting her with his own heart and he closes himself off from thoughts that he wants her. It is up to Poppy to show him that he is the one she wants- him that she loves.
Poppy really is that genuine free spirit that captures the closed off heart of the man who went unloved as a child and believes he is incapable of feeling or being loved. And it actually was believable here and Harry articulates his feelings about Poppy bringing light and happiness into his life so well (or at least Kleypas does) including one terribly romantic scene where he compares her to the balance wheel of a watch because she is the part that keeps him ticking. It was beautiful. There was some slight and very well written angst on both their part as Harry worried about Michael and Poppy worried about Harry being incapable of love and trying to control her life. As with the rest it was perfectly paced and timed and not at all overwhelming. There was a significant amount of steam, perhaps not quite as much as other Kleypas novels and it did tend to be relegated to the end of the book but it ended up being for the best as they were able to develop a romantic relationship first. There is also a very brief side plot that ends up in a kidnap and rescue- but it's done a little differently than usual and it makes for a very fun and interesting read.
Kleypas does three things in her novel that normally annoy me beyond reason, but she manages to do it in such a genuine way that I actually end up enjoying the way these elements really contribute to the story. First Kleypas brings in lots of characters from previous novels in this series (and mentions another series' characters as well) such as Amelia and Cam Rohan and Merripen and Win. But Poppy's family is such an important part of the book, and really such an important part of her life and development that it makes sense, and blends in so well the rest of hte novel to have them make several apperances. While we are more than informed that everyone has lived happily ever after she does it with a deft hand so I do not feel like I'm being slapped over the head with it. In addition Kleypas makes the entire Hathaway clan "odd balls" or "outsiders" to the rest of the ton. Many authors try to illustrate how their characters are different and unique by painting them in this light and it just comes across as false, but with the Hathaways it really works because they are really different and unique from the rest of the ton. And lastly Kleypas very intriguingly sets up the next novel/s in the series in a way that I don't feel like I need to buy them to find out more, but like I really WANT to read them.
Rating: Absolutely adored this book! Wonderfully written, totally believable and lovable characters, great plot, and just overall very skillfully done all around.