You know the scenario: you meet another romance fan and discuss your favorite sub-genres and tropes. And then comes the million dollar question: “Which one is your favorite?”
My immediate response, 98% of the time, is “Lisa Kleypas,” followed by, “Have you read any of her earlier romances, before the Wallflowers or Hathaways?”
These early Lisa Kleypas romances—she's written 29 of them!—are excellent recommendations for first-time historical romance readers as they are filled with:
1 – Sexy parts. What I like to call “Goldilocks” sex scenes: Not too hot, not too cold. Just right!
2 – Alpha heroes. Strong, passionate, handsome, and protective.
3 – Great heroines. She looks out for herself and loved ones, and she likes to make her own choices. Definitely not a push-over.
4 – Quintessential HEAs that we see in the majority of romances. (Spoiler: Conflict is resolved and there is a wedding. And possibly a visit from the stork…)
Lisa Kleypas's books also make perfect historical training wheels that keep you safely balanced while giving you a rush of excitement. Here is a brief look at some of her earlier works:
Where Dreams Begin
This romance has the “widowed-heroine” trope: We watch Holly overcome the loss of her husband as she falls in love with Zach, a prize fighter with a heart of gold. The hero and heroine deserve each other so perfectly in this one because they’re both lonely and sitting on the “outer-edges” of the ton. This one is heartwarming and sweet—keep the tissues within reach.
Then he raised her enough to whisper in her ear, and while his voice was tender, his words were savage. “You're my woman, and no man or God or ghost will ever take you from me.” – Zach Bronson, Where Dreams Begin
She’s an aspiring writer (and almost thirty—which is rare for historical heroines) who orders a male prostitute for her birthday. Or so she THINKS! They fall in love. She finds out he’s WAY younger than her. Conflict occurs. Conflict is resolved. The hero becomes the “husband who encouraged her to do exactly as she pleased.”
No one had ever said such things to her before. People were intimidated by her self-possession and no-nonsense demeanor. No man would ever dream of calling her adorable, sweet, darling... and certainly no one had ever made her feel that way. – Suddenly You
Bow Street Runner Series (Someone To Watch Over Me, Lady Sophia’s Lover, Worth Any Price)
This series is our first glimpse that proves Kleypas does the “group of characters” development extremely well. There’s a bit of historical intrigue, and the heroines—in danger for mysterious reasons—need the help of the Bow Street Runners. (Think super-sexy historical detectives with a small dose of historical action and a lot of steamy romance.) Worth Any Price also won the 2004 RITA for Best Short Historical Romance.
Because You’re Mine
The young heroine doesn’t want to marry the crusty old miser, so she tosses her reputation out the window and throws herself at the studly infamous womanizer. It’s a bit fun watching her plans backfire as she realizes he’s actually a sensitive tortured-soul. She thought it was just a scheme, but it blossoms into a desperate need for love.
“You deserve someone better than me. Someone young and idealistic…someone who can experience things for the first time along with you. I'm not always kind, and I have more faults than I'd care to name. All I can promise is that I'll want you until my last breath.” – Logan Scott, Because You’re Mine
Then Came You
No wussies here—this one has a uniquely strong heroine. She doesn't want marriage and he does. She’s overly dramatic and stubborn, while he is reserved and stoic. It's another one of Kleypas's Old Skool classics. I usually give a warning: this one has a few intense argument scenes, but the character development (including the drama that goes back and forth) is golden.
“I want to give you whatever elusive, impossible, goddamned mysterious thing it is you need in order to be happy. Does that frighten you? Well, it frightens the hell out of me. Don't you think I'd stop feeling this way if I could? It's not as if you're the easiest woman in the world to–” He checked himself suddenly. – Lord Alex Raiford, checking himself in Then Came You
Stranger in My Arms
Another dark, angsty mystery. Her jerk husband dies at sea (or does he?) and the loving man who returns claims to be her husband. The hero knows secret things that only she and her husband know…is this awesome husband-hero a changed man or a pervy imposter? (This one is also similar to the movie Sommersby with Richard Gere and Jodie Foster.)
How long would it take for her to accept him? What the devil would she require? If only she would assign him some herculean task for him to accomplish and prove himself. Tell me what to do, he thought, emitting a slight groan, and by God, I'll do it ten times over. – Stranger in My Arms
Dreaming of You (of Derek Craven fame) is always an outstanding recommendation. It is arguably one of the most-treasured Kleypas historicals in all of Romancelandia. We could make a drinking game for every time we see him (or one of the Wallflower/Hathaway heroes) on a reader’s “My Top Romance Boyfriends” List. And while you can always run back to Derek, Cam, or St. Vincent, try picking one of the above mentioned books for a new adventure.
Which Kleypas novel is your favorite? Or do you have a Kleypas historical that never lets you down? Have you read an earlier Kleypas?
Jena Briars is a California girl living in D.C., feeding her brain one romance novel at a time...When she's not busy at work, or being distracted (sometimes ambushed) by her cat, she reviews romances on her website Throughout the Pages.