After the discovery of Sabrina Jeffries back in my infant stage of reading romances, it was Lisa Kleypas that cropped up next. Specifically, her Wallflower series. Still, after all the numerous historicals I've read afterwards, the Wallflowers are at the top of my list. There's something so inherently charming and smack in the middle of what's considered to be romance reading about the women who are overlooked but whom somehow end up with the handsome and wealthy man.
The series is quite closely knit together and while it is possible, as I did, reading out of order, it flows much smoother if done in order. The general story is that four wallflowers band together and become friends. They each have their own reasons to get married and while they don't all attract the same kind of man, they do however, end up happily married.
Secrets of a Summer Night: Annabelle must marry. Her family has no money and she has her younger brother to think of as well as her mother. Debts are piling and Annabelle is forced to see her mother go to extremes to keep their family afloat. Simon has money. But he has no title. Instead, he has risen from the son of a butcher to be a wealthy and successful business man. The men around Annabelle know of her situation, and though she is beautiful, they rather wait for her to be desperate enough to become a mistress instead of the bothersome notion of making her a wife. Simon has asked repeatedly for Annabelle to dance at gatherings but has been turned down. So, when Simon realizes the seriousness of Annabelle's financial situation, why not offer her a place in his bed? At first the offer is that of a mistress, but as the story goes on, and attachments begin to form, it becomes marriage.
This was a good start to the series. The foundation is laid for all the rest of the wallflowers and we see how the characters will be. Simon is a wonderful read. He's handsome, wealthy, and extremely charming in the humorous sense. He has a devilish sense of humor and isn't thwarted by Annabelle's refusal. However, it was also great to see Simon's softer side even when the feelings they shared weren't exactly love yet. When Annabelle is injured, Simon is frantically worried and the scene with him buying her custom made boots just makes the reader want to melt. Annabelle is a strong female character. She has a lot on her shoulders and knowing that she needs to attract a husband with no money is a constant weight pressing on her. But she pushes forward, not knowing that she's also slowly but surely falling in love with Simon along the way.
Personally, I think that readers might feel more sympathetic towards Simon's character. Simon straddles the social ladder. He has no title, but he has money. And he knows that people look down on him. Annabelle as well. When that really becomes a problem between them, it hurts to see Simon rejected like that. Simon definitely knows what he wants, gets it no matter the consequences, and he doesn't let go. Annabelle on the other hand, is less sympathetic in some ways. Her constant need to searching for the wealthy and titled husband can get in the way of really liking her character a hundred percent all the way through. While in the end, when she does redeem herself by showing what she truly is willing to sacrifice for Simon, it comes perhaps too late. Readers see Simon's love for Annabelle so soon in the story that I think Simon's a natural choice between whom to like better.
The plot itself is not that intricate. It's very simple. Annabelle needs a husband. Simon wants Annabelle. And it goes from there. Nothing too fancy. The majority of the books is really Simon winning Annabelle and the sweet moments in between. After their marriage there's an adjustment period for the both of them and the problems with her family. Additionally, the scene at the very end where Annabelle really does prove her love for Simon was unexpected but needed to really wrap up the plot. Overall, it was a good beginning and it does it job of setting up the rest of the characters and how their lives intertwine.
4 out of 5: Good job in showing the slow evolution of Simon and Annabelle's relationship. Heavy on characters, thiner on plot. However, does set up the rest of the series and the little moments and conversations between the characters make up for any lack of plot. Conversation is witty and very Kleypas. Definite keeper and reread.