Then Came You (Lisa Kleypas, Gamblers #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The characters are vivid, intense, and flawed – sometimes they’re almost annoyingly temperamental and illogical.  Lily, our main protagonist, despite the fact that she’s had a broken engagement, an unsuccessful one night stand, and a young daughter of her own, has moments where she acts more like a petulant teenager than a grown woman.  Our hero at least becomes more even-keeled as the novel progresses, though sometimes Alex feels more like a foil to Lily’s wildness than a sane man (just because he’s almost unbearably tolerant and patient with Lily at times). Despite this, the story is engaging and involving, the characters are strong yet vulnerable; their deepening love for one another is ultimately very believable. There are some pacing issues that you don’t see in Kleypas’s later works, but despite its flaws Then Came You is a worthwhile read.
Greater Detail:
Both of our main protagonists are people who have loved and lost.  Alex Raiford was engaged to a headstrong American woman who was killed in a hunting accident, while Lily (called Lawless Lily) has been engaged and infatuated, and has a daughter who’s held captive by her ex-lover for most of the novel.  They’re both distrusting, headstrong, independent people who are used to managing their own lives, and unwilling to love again.

For Alex, this means that he’s arranged an engagement to Penelope, Lily’s docile younger sister, someone he hopes will be meek and mild and quietly produce heirs to the earldom in the background.  Penelope’s pretty, but Alex knows that he won’t ever really care for her;  she’s attractive because she’s safe.  Lily has put similar guards and masks up.  She acts outrageously, recklessly, gambling to pay off her daughter’s kidnapper and hiding everything about her past to hold everyone distant from herself.

They’re thrown together because Lily decides to interfere on behalf of Penelope; she wants her younger sister to marry a man she loves, not a man she’s been coerced into being with.  They’re immediately drawn to one another, and though their prideful nature means both deny their mutual attraction, their physical connection, and their growing understanding of one another, eventually draws them together.

There are a lot of interesting asides in this novel, and a cast of entertaining side characters, though they’re not all completely believable – some feel a little too wishy-washy and unformed, their actions driven more by the necessity of plot than any logical development.  Still, Kleypas is good at her craft: the story draws you in and leaves you satisfied with its conclusion.

Other Things to Know:
Derek Craven is a club owner who shows up as a friend and almost-love interest for Lily – he’s a cockney who’s pulled himself up from nothing, and he gets his own love story (one of my least favorite amongst Kleypas’s works) in Dreaming of You.

Comparisons to Other Authors:
Lisa Kleypas is a best-selling author and though she has focused more recently on modern romance, she is one of the queens of the historical romance genre.  Compared to Stephanie Laurens, Kleypas tends to have more individualized characters, a better supporting cast, but less sensual/erotic love scenes.  She’s less funny and her characters and scenarios are less light-hearted than Julia Quinn, but her characters tend to have a greater degree of physical attraction/sensuality compared to Quinn’s.

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