Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas, 2004, Harper Collins Publishers (Avon), 391 pages
Lady Aline Marsden was brought up for one reason: to make an advantageous marriage to a member of her own class. Instead, she willingly gave her innocence to John McKenna, a servant on her father's estate. Their passionate transgression was unforgivable--John was sent away, and Aline was left to live in the countryside...an exile from London society.
Now McKenna has made his fortune, and he has returned--more boldly handsome and more mesmerizing than before. His ruthless plan is to take revenge on the woman who shattered his dreams of love. But the magic between them burns as bright as ever. And now he must decide whether to let vengeance take its toll...or risk everything for his first, and only, love.
First and foremost, this is one of the very first books I read by Lisa Kleypas. An interesting, true romance writer, Ms. Kleypas keeps a reader on their toes, weaving exceptional plot devices with multi-dimensional characters. Again the Magic is no exception to the rule.
Well-bred, aristocratic heroine Aline Marsden is sister to the Earl of Westbrook, and they live on a HUGE country estate, which Kleypas describes to perfection. Rolling hills, lakes, hunting grounds, lush gardens. And the house itself is out of this world amazing with its rich furnishings and neighboring hunter's cottage. Right off the bat, one can easily picture oneself sitting on the back lawn, sipping lemonade or tea with the Marsden family, wind tousling your hair, the scent of fresh lawn sifting through a Spring breeze...
As for the characters, Aline is genuinely likable. Though beautiful, she's not perfect; even harbors a dark secret which the hero later discovers. Speaking of which, former servant turned American businessman McKenna (everyone calls him by his last name, a commonplace practice during that time period) is a strong, good looking, typically piratical dark-type. Typical, I say, because that seems to be an ongoing trend with romance novels. Not that I disagree, precisely, but sometimes I'd rather read about an average Joe, ya know? All right. Back to the subject at hand: He's changed a lot, our hero, from the boy Aline once knew. He's extremely ambitious, smart, and has a new American accent to boot.
But he wants revenge on Aline for breaking his heart. And that, gentle readers, is the core plot of the book. He feels rejected, even after all these years, but he's not a boy anymore. He's a man with a man's needs, and he's not afraid to own up to 'em. When he returns to the estate (he, his American sidekick Gideon, and Earl Westbrook are working on a business deal), he seeks out Aline. Then, proceeds to boldly inform her that unless she tells him to leave (again), he plans to bed her before his visit's up. Yes, that makes for some saucy sexual tension.
And while we're on that subject...the love scenes (yes, scenes, plural!) are very tasteful and well-written. Because the past between these two runs so far deep and wide, when they finally...ya know...it's heart pounding, face-fanning, somebody-hand-me-a-glass-of-water delicious. Exceptional to the wam-bam-thank-you-ma'am, though by the second lovemaking scene, I kind of felt irritated toward McKenna for his lack of kind. By then, his revenge ordeal was really getting on my nerves.
Naturally, however, when deep feelings are involved, it's hard to hurt someone. Even when they've hurt you. Kind of the way love works, right? So, in true romance novel fashion, everything works out in the end, fences are mended, they kiss and make up, la, la, la... happily ever after...
All in all, I'd give this one a 4 out of 5, enough to earn its slot on my keeper shelf.
Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,