Lisa Kleypas has created two of the most arresting self-made men in Romance today. Interestingly, she has created them about 200 years apart.
In Dreaming of You, Derek Craven was born to a prostitute in a sewer pipe in Georgian London and raised in a house of ill-repute. He clawed his way out of the gutter and into society by a variety of questionable means, including work as a resurrection man, gigolo and gambler. Now, he is the owner of the exclusive Craven’s gambling house and one of the wealthiest men in London. In the process of becoming a wealthy man, he has struggled to learn to read and to lose his cockney accent. When we meet him, he is still striving to shake his feelings of being apart, of not fitting in anywhere. No amount of wealth can satisfy him.
Derek Craven is a cockney upstart trying to fit into the silk-clad, fox-hunting, brandy-drinking, inter-marrying privileged society of the ton. He mixes freely with high society because he provides them with something they desire, but he is never really accepted and he never really feels a part of the environment in which he moves.
Hardy Cates was born in a trailer park in nowhere Texas to a weak mother and an abusive father. He left as soon as he could, taking a job as a roughneck on an oil rig. He parlayed the money and knowledge acquired working in the oil business into a successful oil recovery business. We first meet him as a boy in the small town of Welcome, Texas in Sugar Daddy, but when we meet him again in Blue-Eyed Devil, he is doing very well for himself, moving into a luxury apartment in a sought-after building, wearing Armani tuxedos and continuing to make even more lucrative deals.
Unlike Derek Craven, Hardy Cates has made himself at home in his new milieu. He is perfectly comfortable in his luxury high rise, mingles easily with the wealthy and near-wealthy in Houston, freely admits to his interior designer that his taste is terrible. In fact, he seems a lot more at ease with himself than does poor Derek.
But neither of these heroes feels entirely contented with his life until he meets his heroine.
For Derek Craven, the realization comes slowly as he accustoms himself to the role of husband.
In his private moments Derek acknowledged to himself that all Lily Raiford had ever claimed about marriage was true. The sheer convenience of it was stunning. His wife was always close at hand, her small presence gracing his home, her hand on his arm when they appeared in public, the lingering scent of her perfume haunting him sweetly when they were apart. He knew it would be impossible ever to tire of her, for she was as vital to him as the very air he breathed. And yet he felt himself to be an imposter with every husbandly kiss he placed on her forehead. It was as if he had been given a handsome suit of clothes that didn’t quite fit.
It isn’t until after Derek loses and regains Sara and begets a daughter, that he starts feeling at home in his skin and content with his life.
Hardy Cates falls in love fast and completely with Haven Travis, the daughter of an extremely wealthy oilman. And, after struggling with his demons and his fear that he is not worthy of her, they finally become a couple. Once this happens, he is quicker to accept the role than Derek was.
“Ever since I can remember, I wanted to get somewhere, be someone. I’d see other sons of bitches who had it all – an expensive car, a big house, a beautiful woman. And I told myself, ’Fuck ’em. Someday I’ll have it all too, and I’ll be happy.’” His mouth twisted. “But the past couple of years, I finally got the things I wanted, and it wasn’t enough. I was still a miserable bastard. When I’m with you though… When I’m with you, I feel like I finally have what I need. I can relax and be happy.” He traced an idle pattern on my chest. “You slow me down.”
Lisa Kleypas has created two complex, covetable self-made men. They are as different from one another as they are from the society into which they have made their way. But they share one shining trait characteristic of the best Romance heroes. They are not complete without their heroines.
Myretta is the co-founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta.