Genre: contemporary romance
Sex scenes: steamy
Friday Harbour: (1) Christmas Eve at Friday Harbour
Lucy Marinn knows first-hand what’s worse than getting dumped by your boyfriend of two years: getting dumped by your boyfriend of two years for your sister. Kevin Pearson is the lowest of lowlifes. As for Alice Marinn, she is used to getting what she wants. She nearly died after contracting meningitis as a child and as a result, she was spoiled and indulged afterwards; unfortunately, this is still the case even though she is an adult. Alice has had excuses made for her all her life and Lucy herself has forgiven Alice for a lot of things over the years, but this may be just the one thing that she can’t forgive and forget.
Lucy has loved glass since she was a child. She takes her work seriously and it is one of the reasons that Kevin argues that Lucy cannot commit. Her talent with glass goes deeper than she’s ever let anyone else know: when she’s feeling intense emotion, she has the ability to change glass into small creatures. It’s never been something that she can control and definitely not something to advertise as a party trick.
As Lucy is forced out of the home that she shared with Kevin so that her sister can take her place, she finds unexpected support from her parents and unwavering solidarity from her friends. This betrayal from the one person that she thought she could rely on most hurts deep down and Lucy doesn’t think that she can trust another man again for a long time, especially not Sam Nolan.
As the middle son of the town drunks, Sam Nolan wasn’t much admired or respected as a kid. Things have changed now that his parents are dead and Sam has mostly gotten over his rough childhood, especially now that he shares custody of his young orphaned niece, Holly. As the owner of an expanding vineyard, there’s still a lot of work to be done before the land is able to prosper. Together with the work that needs to be done on restoring the house on his lands, Sam doesn’t have much time for women besides having a good time. When he is asked by old schoolmate Kevin to romance Lucy to help her get over their breakup, Sam agrees – on his terms.
In full knowledge of Kevin’s proposition, Lucy begins a casual relationship with Sam. Both are determined that there will be no strings attached and no broken hearts by the end, but as they get to know each other better, neither will be able to stop what their hearts desire …
I read the novella and first book in this series, Christmas Eve at Friday Harbour eighteen months ago and it didn’t do anything to change my general dislike of novellas. I don’t remember much of it except that it was rather weak for a Kleypas novel and that I sincerely hoped that the rest of the books in the series would be better. Rainshadow Road is by no means my favourite Kleypas novel (and I’ve read a lot of them) but it was a great improvement from the way it began. It definitely sucked me in: I sat down this afternoon and couldn’t stop.
Lucy is a sweet heroine. All her life, her needs have been secondary to Alice’s until she met Kevin. When that turned out to work in Alice’s favour too, Lucy loses all confidence in men and her own ability to form lasting relationships. Sam treats her how she deserves to be treated and I love that of Kleypas heroes. Lucy’s initial distrust is understandable and realistic, making her eventual love for Sam that bit sweeter.
Alice is made out to be the bad guy from page one and while all I want to do is slap Alice around the face and hope fervently that she gets what she deserves, I do feel a little guilty about it afterwards. Her illness has meant that she hasn’t had the chance to live her life and make her own decisions without everyone else intervening like she’s not capable. I would have liked to see more grovelling, but that might have been too much to ask. I’m hoping that this is the last we see of Alice; that’s one book that I don’t harbour a particular desire to read.
I love that Lucy is a glass artist. Maggie Concannon in NR’s Born in Fire blows her own glass which was cool to learn about, so I’m glad that Ms Kleypas focused a slightly different speciality for Lucy, rather than echo the same discipline as one of NR’s most fiery (ha!) heroines. Lucy’s forte is stained glass windows and I thrived on all the geek talk (both from her and Sam) that ran through the novel. I bought several pieces of Murano glass when I visited Venice and I would love to go again to see and appreciate better everything that the city had to offer. I’ve long thought that Maggie Concannon had the most interesting career of all of NR’s heroines and Lucy has become my favourite career-wise of Ms Kleypas’. I would have liked to learn more about glass and the techniques that Lucy uses in her work, but that’s just me being greedy and it did work well with the amount that there was.
Sam was awesome and another great Kleypas hero. His love for Holly adds another point to his greatness scale and when his inner geek lets loose, I can’t help but laugh. The fact that he is honest with Lucy and tells her of Kevin’s plan makes him the better guy. I like his down-to-earthness and his rejection of Kevin as a member of his own sex was funny:
“You’re not going to defend him?” Lucy asked cynically.
“Why would I defend a guy like that?”
“Because he’s a man, and apparently men can’t help cheating. It’s the way you’re built. A biological imperative.”
“Like hell it is. A man doesn’t cheat. If you want to go after someone else, you break up first. No exceptions.”
I’m slightly iffy with the magic element; it’s just not something I expected from Kleypas novel. I get that there’s a romantic aspect to glass and Friday Harbour is the perfect setting for magic to take place, but I just find it hard to properly accept that Lucy can change pieces of glass into living creatures; it’s a little too out-there to be believable. And not only Lucy, but Sam too. Probably my only quip with the book.
I could have done with more of Renshaw, the family bulldog. He’s old, ugly and has more things wrong with him than Lucy’s relationship with Kevin, but everyone loves him anyway. I don’t like dogs (or any kind of animals, really) myself, but I can’t help but love animals when they’re portrayed as well as they’re done here. More Renshaw please!
Zoe and Justine are great friends; it’s awesome to see that the next two books feature these two as their heroines. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the troubled Zoe tame the even more troubled Alex Nolan as both hold secrets of their own. Justine should be interesting too, but it is Zoe and Alex that I’m most excited about.
I’m sorely disappointed by the blurb. One of my friends never reads the blurbs of books because she claims that they’re always wrong; I’ve never found this to be the case and usually make a point of reading the blurb before starting the book (and often re-reading it while I’m getting through the novel). I had the general gist of the book from summaries that I’ve read on various sites and I’d read a teaser chapter on Ms Kleypas’ website a few months ago. With this information on hand, I was a little surprised to learn what I did on the blurb, only to later find out that most of what had been written on the blurb was WRONG. Well, heavily embellished and slightly twisted, but it still gave the wrong impression to the reader and genuinely messed with my enjoyment of the novel. I might just write to the publisher to take this issue up with them. I’m all for a slight exaggeration of the story to make it sound appealing to the reader, but when it’s clearly overstepped into the blatantly wrong category, it’s just much too much.
I know that I said that it was a disappointment, but I do recommend Christmas Eve at Friday Harbour first. Holly is a sweet child and the book portrays the initial shaky relationship she had with her three uncles very well. I’m a little more hazy on Mark and Maggie’s romance, but I do remember the bits with Holly better. Not the most inspiring start, but it lays the groundwork for some complicated characters and the series only gets better with Rainshadow Road.
Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction