The other day, I got a text from a friend that read: “I need a good new romance author to read. Who do you recommend? They have to be Lisa Kleypas-like.” I wracked my brain for hours until I finally had to admit the truth: there is no one else quite like Lisa Kleypas.
With her perfect blend of humor, romance and heartfelt emotion, Kleypas is an entity in and of herself. If I could make a shrine to her writing without seeming like a total lunatic, I would. I first fell for her historical romances with the Wallflower series, and then I was swept away by her modern Travis family saga. Now I’m a true devotee, willing to shell out any amount of cash to get my hands on her latest book.
Because of her talent, and my own (borderline creepy??) devotion, Lisa Kleypas is my official Author Crush for November. If you are a romance reader, you’ve probably already read a Wallflower novel, or maybe a Hathaway one, or a Friday Harbor modern paranormal. Luckily for us, Kleypas has written over 40 novels, so there are plenty of romances to choose from. I personally have a long list of favorites, and I’m always adding to it. Her latest book, Devil in Spring, comes out in February, but I can already tell it will be an instant favorite – especially as it combines the world of the Wallflowers and her latest historical family, the Ravenels.
Kleypas is one of those rare authors who I love to reread over and over (and over). Here are my absolute favorite novels of hers, and why you’ll love them just as much as I do:
Out of all the Wallflower books (about a group of outcast young women who become friends in the Regency era), this one is definitely my favorite. Lillian Bowman is a unique heroine – she’s headstrong, smart, stubborn and refuses to yield to anyone. Which is why her push-pull with Marcus, Lord Westcliff, is so fun to watch. The Lord does everything he can to stay away from the American heiress, thinking that her wild attitude is too much for his rigid self-control. But their chemistry is undeniable, and whether they’re pressed against each other in hedges or canoodling on lounges during dinner parties, these two are hot hot hot. So many historical romances feel familiar or overdone, but Marcus and Lillian are one of those couples who always seem fresh. They’re perfectly suited, but they have to work through their differing personalities and ideals in order to make their relationship a success. Because of their realism and their over-the-top chemistry, these two will always be my favorite Kleypas couple.
On paper, Blue-Eyed Devil does not seem like a book I’d like. Though crazy hot, Texas oilman Hardy Cates spends most of his life pursuing or infatuated with Liberty Jones, the protagonist of Kleypas’ Sugar Daddy. But then Liberty and Gage Travis fall in love, and Hardy is left rejected. When I heard he’d be pursuing Gage’s little sister, Haven, in Blue-Eyed Devil, I was less than impressed; I want my heroes devoted to only one woman, thank you very much. But I read it anyway and OH MY GOD was I blown away. First of all, Haven’s story is inspiring, heartfelt and filled with the kind of emotional depth that you rarely see in romance novels. When her first marriage ends in physical and emotional abuse, Haven is left to pick up the pieces of her life. Kleypas never sugarcoats Haven’s experience, nor is Haven magically healed by the presence of a new man in her life. Instead she has to go through the paces toward recovery and trust. Hardy knows he wants Haven from the first moment he sees her, and his constant devotion is clear from the start. Even when Haven pushes him away, he never gives up and does everything he can to help her deal with her trauma. On the flip side, Haven heals Hardy too, proving that she’s the only woman he’s ever been willing to fight for. I love these two so much, and this continues to be one of my favorite Kleypas stories to this day.
I liked the first book in the Hathaway series, but was mostly drawn to the glimpses of the obviously-in-love Kev Merripen and Winnifred Hathaway. When we finally got their full story with Seduce Me at Sunrise, I was ready to be blown away. And wow, was I blown away. Despite being welcomed into the Hathaway family as a wounded and orphaned boy, Kev has always felt like an outsider. Which is why he stayed far away from Win, who he fell in love with at first sight. Win has never recovered from her bout of scarlet fever, though she longs to live a normal life. It doesn’t seem possible, until she decides to leave England to recover at a modern clinic. When she returns, she’s determined to fulfill her dreams, including finally being with Kev. But he stubbornly refuses to admit that he’s good enough for her, and the two are at constant odds despite being madly in love their whole lives. Once they finally make it happen, their love scenes are hot enough to burn up the pages of your paperback. I could read about these two and their long, tortured love forever.
When it came to Kleypas’ contemporary novels, I didn’t think any book could top Blue-Eyed Devil. But then I read Smooth Talking Stranger, and I fell just as hard for this Travis family novel. As the middle brother, Jack Travis is an easygoing outdoorsman who always has a new girl on his arm. But all that changes when he meets Ella Varner. Ella is like no romantic heroine I’ve read before: she’s an outspoken liberal who’s violently independent, insanely smart and intuitive, and constantly self-evaluating. She’s also nothing like the women Jack usually dates, which is probably why he falls for her immediately. But Ella is dealing with a lot: her lost and free-spirited sister has dumped her newborn son into Ella’s lap, and Jack just might be the father. Now armed with a baby she wasn’t expecting, stuck in a new city, and without the support of her hippie boyfriend back home, Ella is forced to reevaluate the independent life she’s carved out with herself, including how she feels about the hot rich guy who’s offering the kind of support and love that terrifies her. Read. This. Book.
When Kleypas returned to writing historical fiction last year, you could practically feel the excitement emanating from romance readers across the world. And while I love her Friday Harbor series and her Travis family, her historical romances will always have a soft spot in my heart. Thankfully, the Ravenel series, which started with Cold-Hearted Rake, is just as amazing as her older stuff. I personally love Marrying Winterborne, the second book in the series, which follows the cutthroat Rhys Winterborne and his innocent love, Helen Ravenel. No one writes a damaged hero quite like Kleypas, and Rhys is so gruff, intense and wounded that he almost self-sabotages his own love. But luckily, Helen is willing to give her all to him, proving over and over that their relationship is worth fighting for. This love is more complicated than some of Kleypas’ other stories, but it’s so worth it in the end.