Feb 20 2012 3:00pm

Fresh Meat: Lisa Kleypas’s Rainshadow Road (Feb. 28, 2012)

Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

Rainshadow Road
Lisa Kleypas
St. Martin’s Griffin, February 28, 2012, $10.19

Lucy Marinn is a glass artist living in mystical, beautiful, Friday Harbor, Washington. She is stunned and blindsided by the most bitter kind of betrayal: her fiancé Kevin has left her. His new lover is Lucy’s own sister. Lucy’s bitterness over being dumped is multiplied by the fact that she has constantly made the wrong choices in her romantic life. Facing the severe disapproval of Lucy’s parents, Kevin asks his friend Sam Nolan, a local vineyard owner on San Juan Island, to “romance” Lucy and hopefully loosen her up and get her over her anger. Complications ensue when Sam and Lucy begin to fall in love, Kevin has second thoughts, and Lucy discovers that the new relationship in her life began under false pretenses. Questions about love, loyalty, old patterns, mistakes, and new beginnings are explored as Lucy learns that some things in life—even after being broken—can be made into something new and beautiful.

Lisa Kleypas’s Rainshadow Road is the second of her Friday Harbor books, following the delightful Christmas at Friday Harbor. This is Sam’s book. The younger brother of Mark Nolan, the hero of Christmas at Friday Harbor, Sam owns a vineyard and shares a house with his brother and their orphaned niece.

Sam’s heroine is Lucy Marinn, a glass artist who has been dumped by her long-time boyfriend in favor of her younger sister. It is, as you can tell from the blurb above, a long and winding road to love.

For me, this book shone with the extraordinary way in which Lisa Kleypas writes about emotion. From the moment we meet Lucy and her faithless boyfriend and learn about his betrayal, we are given a way to experience what Lucy feels. When Kevin tells her that he has fallen in love with her sister,

All her skin tightened, the way it did when you had just saved yourself from a fall but still felt the sting of adrenaline.

The visceral description resonates with the reader, allowing her to fully understand what Lucy feels at that moment in a way that mere description usually does not.

Later, Lucy tries to explain her experience to her friends Zoe and Justine.

It seemed as if a sheet of ice had instantly formed beneath her feet. Any direction she tried to go in, she was guaranteed to slip and fall.

Later she tells another friend,

“My heart feels like something that should be scooped up with a folded newspaper and dropped in the trash can.”

This is more than just, “I’m miserable. I can’t believe they’d do that to me.” This evokes a feeling we can all relate to. When we read these passages, we don’t just understand how Lucy feels, we feel it.

As Lucy and Sam’s relationship develops, Kleypas explores the shared emotion in an equally vivid way.

“It is trouble,” Lucy said gently. “Isn’t it?” Sam looked up at her then, his lashes half lowered over unearthly blue, his features taut. He didn’t answer. He didn’t have to. The truth was suspended in their shared gaze, between them, filling their lungs with every breath. Definitely trouble.

Here, emotion becomes almost tangible: light, air, an element that Lucy and Sam share.

And then they move past that moment to a kiss where the experience is more than a shared breath, it is a shared future drawn from the elements of their experience.

He had kissed her before, but this was something different. This was a waking dream of kissing, a feeling of tumbling with nothing to catch her.

Lucy pulled his head down for another kiss. It was a kiss about trust and surrender… a kiss about wine and stars and magic… a kiss about waking up safe in a lover’s arms as the morning climbed past the flight of eagles and the sun unraveled silver ribbons across False Bay.

And at the end, at the happily ever after:

As she rested against Sam, his heartbeat strong and steady beneath her hand, she felt as if they were a pair of far-flung stars, caught in each other’s orbit by a force stronger than luck or fate or even love. There was no word for it, this feeling… but there should have been.

If there were a word for it, Lisa Kleypas would have it. She makes magic by taking daily events, ordinary parts of life, and, by using them to illuminate the emotional life of her characters, makes them extraordinary.

At one point in the book, Lucy, talking about her glass work, her art, describes for us Lisa Kleypas’s art as well.

“And although I did some glassblowing in the past, it’s not my forte. I like working on windows more than anything.” “Why?” “It’s creating art with light. A way of sharing how you look at the world. Emotion made visible.”

Lisa Kleypas has done this magical thing in many of her other books, but I found it particularly vivid in Rainshadow Road. She has taken her characters’ emotions and shed light on them in ways that cannot be explained, but only experienced. She has made emotion visible. Thanks, Lisa.


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.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Carmen Pinzon
1. bungluna
I love Ms. Kleypas' contemporaries and am looking forward to this one, even though its premise is one I dislike. Thanks for the review.
2. Janga
I love this book! Your take on it reminded me of one of the reasons, Myretta. I also think RR is the Kleypas book that has most impressed me with the power of her prose.
Myretta Robens
3. Myretta
@bungluna The premise of the errant boyfriend and the sister is not the main focus of the book. You're quickly engaged in Lucy and Sam's relationship.
Myretta Robens
4. Myretta
@Janga. I agree (no surprise there). The use of language is beautiful. She's always been good, but I think she's reached a new level with this book.
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