Thursday, 13 February 2014

Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

Blue-Eyed Devil (2008) (Piatkus)
Lisa Kleypas
Grade: A+
Genre: contemporary romance
Sex scenes: hot
Source: own 
Travis family: (1) Sugar Daddy, (2) Blue-Eyed Devil

As the youngest and only daughter of the “market wizard” Churchill Travis and society beauty Ava, Haven has always been a bit of a rebel. Churchill has no qualms about setting one standard for his three sons and another for his only daughter, never scared about giving any of his children a big dose of reality. As a result, Haven has always rebelled against what her parents want and expect of her. Haven meets Nick Tanner while studying at her liberal arts college and when she marries Nick without Churchill’s blessing, she’s quickly disinherited.

It isn’t long before Haven discovers that Nick isn’t the man she thought she was in love with. Following a quick but painful divorce, she’s back in Houston and working for her brother Jack. After leaving Nick with her heart and body battered, Haven has vowed to stay away from men – until she bumps into Hardy Cates. Hardy had crashed her eldest brother’s wedding just before she eloped with Nick and in a genuine mistake on her part, they’d shared a heated and passionate encounter on the tasting table in her father’s wine cellar. Neither have forgotten Hardy’s whispered enticements for Haven to steal away with him and the seductive promise of what could have been. Haven is informed eloquently that she needs a rebound guy to be her “welcome wagon when [she] start[s] having sex again.” Will Hardy be able to help her get over Nick and restore her trust in men – but more importantly, her trust in herself?

Blue-Eyed Devil was my third Lisa Kleypas book in January 2009. Five years later, it still makes it into my Top 50 books ever, if not the elite Top 30 itself. IMO, BED showcases some of Ms Kleypas’ best writing and tops the list of her contemporary books. I haven’t been a fan of her Friday Harbour series, mostly because I’ve seen what she’s done in Sugar Daddy and BED and know how good it has been and how good it could be.

I’m proud to admit that I’m a feminist and I support campaigns and programmes that tackle issues like violence against women, rape and domestic abuse. In a recent essay for my course, I examined whether gender motivated violence could be classified as hate crime, with the option to express my argument either through the example of rape or domestic violence. I chose rape, but an examination of domestic violence would have led to an equally engaging and worthwhile debate. I’ve recently stumbled on a number of TED talks that deal with domestic violence, violence against women and societal treatment of women in general, all of which have been incredibly moving. But it’s one thing to deal out stark facts and figures, and another to write it. Ms Kleypas (and other writers) should be commended for addressing an issue that is so often hidden by society, and BED is an example that balances the right amount of sympathy for Haven, yet allows the reader to connect with her plight. As a result, BED is gritty and painfully real and the use of the first person narrative allows us to experience Haven’s pain, heartbreak and conflicted emotions just as she does.

Haven is sweet. I find it difficult to relate to her on a personal level (being the rich, rebellious yet guilt-conscience heroine that she is) but I couldn’t help but empathise with her. You’d have to have a heart of stone to not. Her subsequent determination to rebuild her life and use her experiences to make herself a stronger person is inspirational and although fictional, should be heralded as an example for all women. After her life with Nick, Haven understandably has a difficult time being around other men, but not so with Hardy. She’s shocked when she discovers that she’s not repulsed by his touch and even more so when she realises that she wants more. The pair’s journey as Haven relearns the power and intimacy in touch and a healthy sexual relationship with the help of Hardy’s patient guidance is nothing short of beautiful.

Hardy is one of my favourite heroes ever – an impressive feat considering how many romance novels I’ve read. He’s a rival love interest in Sugar Daddy, the first book in this series and his character development has been monumental. We first met him in his late-teens and while he’s still every bit the gentleman, he’s been able to mature and grow both in his character and his physique. He started out as a welder on an oil rig which, to paraphrase Haven, explains the things it’s done for his arms and shoulders. He’s Texan and so his alpha-ness is magnified a hundred times and it just sparks serious thrills in the base-female that I am. It’s clear that much of the romance community feel as I do about BED. In the AAR Annual Reader Poll for 2008 releases, Blue-Eyed Devil was voted the Best Comptemporary Romance and Biggest Tearjerker while Hardy took the prize for Best Romance Hero. BED continues to have a continuing resonance with readers. It holds spots #25 and #31 in AAR’s Top 100 Romance polls of 2010 and 2013 respectively. Hardy Cates came 10th in AAR’s 2009 poll on romance’s Favourite Heroes. I’d be interested to see whether readers still favour Hardy in an updated poll.

In my opinion, you can do no better than Blue-Eyed Devil if you're looking for a poignant, well-written and sexy contemporary. BED might address painful and sensitive issues but for me, that's part of its beauty and timelessness. In terms of the quality of storytelling, BED is my favourite Lisa Kleypas novel and a book (now that I own a physical copy) that I will never get bored of re-reading for the rest of my life.

Image courtesy of Wordery.

Some of the aforementioned TED talks:

Esta Soler 'How we turned the tide on domestic violence'

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 'We should all be feminists'

Jackson Katz 'Violence against women - it's a men's issue'

I hope you find inspiration, courage, laughter and take away something new from these talks, too.

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