Jan 19 2012 9:30am

Lisa Kleypas’s Self-Made Men: Derek Craven and Hardy Cates

Lisa Kleypas has created two of the most arresting self-made men in Romance today. Interestingly, she has created them about 200 years apart.

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

Georgian London

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.

Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

Modern-day Houston

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, and on Twitter @Myretta.

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1. Lafka
I have a real, real fondness for Derek Craven. He's quite a fascinating character, perhaps the one that marked me the most in Lisa Kleypas' books (her historical ones that is, I'm not that much into contemporary romance).
He combines on the one hand an unquenchable thirst of becoming wealthy and influent, being ready to push any boundary in terms of morality to achieve his goal, taking some perverse satisfaction in knowing that he could obtain whatever he wants from anyone by the knowledge he has gained of everyone's flaws in good society _ and yet on the other hand a real inability to really enjoy his new position into society given that he doesn't trust anyone, he doesn't enjoy high society's company and he's deeply ashamed (though not really repentant) of what he's done in the past.
I liked all these paradoxes in him _ he really is smitten with Sarah, but doesn't want to be with her because he thinks she deserves better than a man like him, he is generally feared but is respected by his employees and by his friend Lily the Anarchist... All these elements just made him somehow... real.
Does achieving all your goals bring you real happiness? Can you even stop when you've apparently reached everything you've ever wanted? Isn't there a price to pay when you've put everything you have in an infinite quest? Don't you somehow lose yourself in the process?
I haven't read Blue-eyed Devil, but I'm not sure, if I did, that I'd be hooked by Hardy Cates as much as I've been by Derek Craven. Historical aspect of the story put aside, I've been quite moved by the fact that, despite all his efforts to gain a high status in society, Derek never feels like he "fits" in his new milieu _ not that he feels inferior to the members of aristocracy or whatever, he just doesn't feel part of it, and doesn't even want to. That's an aspect that apparently lacks in Hardy Cates' character.

Now that I think of it, this feeling of not "fitting in" reminds me also of the reasons why I liked Merripen's character in the LK's Hathaway series books. Pretty much like Craven, he doesn't take a particular pleasure in frequenting the aristocracy and feels often misplaced. Unlike Craven though, Merripen has never seeked wealth or high social position, which makes him less complex than Derek _ though quite damaged himself, to say the least.
Victoria Janssen
2. VictoriaJanssen
I think it says something about my taste that those are two of my favorite Kleypas novels!
3. BeretBrenckman
Wow Lafka...beautiful. Derek and Hardy are my two favories. I return to those two LK books again and again. Excellent post. Thank you.
Myretta Robens
4. Myretta
@Lafka, I agree that Derek's ambivalence is a compelling trait. He's a complex character and one who's paradoxes touch the readers heart. I think you'd like Hardy. He may share Derek's problems with fitting into his society, but he has his own devils to wrestle with.
Myretta Robens
5. Myretta
@VictoriaJanssen I think your appreciation of these books says that you have excellent taste in heroes.
Punya H. Rashid
6. punya
love, Love, LOVE Derek to bits! He's the all time favorite hero of mine. Can't get enough of him and for that, I've read "Dreaming of You" many times. Then again, there' s not a one single LK book I've read so far that I 'disliked' and I've read all her HRs including the novellas. Thanks for the lovely post Myretta.

@Lafka, great thoughts. I agree.
7. Cecib
aww! I'm in love with these two characters! specially with Craven! I think one of the reasons that makes me being so hooked with him, is that, he's so independent from the society rules, that his feelings comes out in everything he does! what he speaks, what he does, what he thinks! it's always him, and not what the society wants him to be! Also, his dark background and story, makes me want to know him more and more while I'm reading every page of the book! in addition, I think it's important to mention that this two characters are more powerful also for the two female characters that are with them! Sara as well as Heaven were perfectly made for them! and they help them to grow as characters and people! they're simply amazing!!! they're wonderful examples of the amazing complex of Lisa's characters! even though I read the books in a different language (I speak spanish), however, the magic and the feelings still remain and make me consider Lisa as one of the best romantic novels writer nowadays!
8. kapil
its intersting , it is the first time i am reading, but i dont have sentence...
9. Rae Lynn
I love Derek Craven ( my son is named Derek) I have re read Dreaming Of You many many times and was thrilled when Lisa did his eldest daughters story in a novella. I had the chance to meet Lisa a couple of years ago at a book signing and I asked her if she plans to do stories of his other childeren he and Sara had four total. She said with a smile I am really not sure on that Dereks presence seems to kinda overtake on the story. So I think even she knew the powerful character that she developed. Hmmm so in love with him!!
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