Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday Review: Rainshadow Road

Rainshadow Road
By Lisa Kleypas
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Five Stars

The pattern of Lucy Marinn’s life was altered permanently when she was seven years old. Her younger sister Alice had meningitis. Alice survived, but her brush with death left her parents so fearful for her well being that they indulged her every wish and insured that Lucy did as well. Lucy also began a life-long fascination with glass making, and she discovered a magical connection between her emotions, the glass she loved, and a magic all her own.

Lucy does indeed grow up to be a successful glass artist. She has a studio in Friday Harbor and a boyfriend with whom she’s been living for two years. Life seems good.  Everything changes when her boyfriend breaks up with her because he has fallen in love with her sister. In a matter of minutes, Lucy loses her lover, her home, and her sense of security, all of it to a sister who has been taking what belonged to Lucy for years.

Sam Nolan is a native of the island, the middle brother in a dysfunctional family of three sons and one daughter. Readers who have read the novella that introduced the series, Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, will recognize Sam as the vineyard owner who shares his home with brother Mark and their newly orphaned niece Holly. Giving up his privacy and the freedom of the single life is typical of Sam. He’s a good guy, terrified of commitment in a romantic relationship because of the horrendous example of his alcoholic parents, but essentially the best kind of hero—intelligent, kind, and charming with sea-colored eyes and a terrific sense of humor.

Lucy and Sam meet when she falls at his feet literally, and he administers first aid and listens to her. They meet again when he rescues her from a persistent drunk. When Lucy needs a place to stay after she’s injured when her bike is struck by a car, Sam offers house room and some nursing that leads to interesting contacts. But Sam thinks he’s incapable of a long-term relationship, and Lucy has lost faith in her own judgment.

I read romance fiction because I’m interested in relationships, but sometimes the relationships prove a disappointment. I like the heroine better than I like the hero or vice versa, or I like them both but have doubts about their HEA really lasting ever after. Lucy and Sam’s relationship was not a disappointment. I liked Sam in the first Friday Harbor book, and I quickly fell in love with him in this one. He’s not just another hot hero. He’s an interesting, complicated person. A former geek with a passion for his vineyards, an indulgent uncle who teaches his niece to tie her shoes and puts away bits of her past that will help her remember her mother, a tender lover who gives perfect, unexpected gifts—he is all of these things and more. Lucy longs to tell him, “You’re more than you think you are.” The reader shares her longing.

Lucy is just as likeable and interesting. An endearing combination of toughness and vulnerability, her passion for glass making matches Sam’s for his vines. She recognizes the flaws in her family, she allows herself to be angry or exasperated with them, but she loves them—even the sister who betrays her. The kinds of friends she has and their loyalty to her says a great deal about the kind of person she is.

Lucy and Sam deserve each other. Yes, they have great chemistry, and the novel contains some wonderful love scenes that are a mix of heat, heart, and humor. But they are more than sex partners. They talk to one another, revealing themselves through sharing their histories and their thoughts. They laugh together. They like each other. I don’t want to include spoilers, so I’ll just say there are two incidents in the novel where Kleypas had a choice about what her characters would do, one fairly early in the story and one near the end. In both cases, one choice would have destroyed the book for me. It would have become just another in a long list of books that leave me regretting the book that could have been if only . . . Both times, these characters make the choice that maintains the integrity of the people I have come to believe they are.

What else can I say? The setting is wonderful, detailed enough to give a sense of the island’s beauty and uniqueness. The secondary characters are great. Kleypas gives readers pieces of many stories so that even minor characters achieve multi-dimensions. I loved seeing Mark, Maggie, and Holly again, and I loved that their presence was natural and never threatened to distract from the central story. I find Alex, the youngest Nolan brother, fascinating. I hope the next book will be his. I loved the magic in the story. It seemed closer to magical realism to me.  As Lucy concludes, “[W]hether she called her gift a phenomenon of molecular physics, or magic, both definitions were true, and the words didn’t matter anyway.”

I give Rainshadow Road my highest recommendation and Lisa Kleypas my gratitude for writing a book that I will read again and again. And I'm counting the days until August and Crystal Cove.

What’s your favorite Lisa Kleypas book? 

Note: I am one of Lisa’s Divas, a group of “super fans” who share news of LK’s books and receive terrific stuff such as an Advance Readers’ Edition of Rainshadow Road.  I will point out that I’ve been a Lisa Kleypas fan for fifteen years, and no sway would have persuaded me to give a dishonest review.


irisheyes said...

I cannot wait for Rainshadow Road! I tried putting my name in at the library but they've started a new system and won't let you reserve it until it actually comes out. I used to be able to put my name on the list months before the release date and get the book within the first week. Unfortunately, not so any more! I'm sure it'll be worth the wait.

It is hard for me to pick a favorite Lisa Kleypas. There are so many that I love. I re-read the Wallflower series all the time and now have started to head right into the Hathaways afterwards. I still love to read Then Came You and Dreaming of You together. The Bow Street Runners series is always fun. Grant Morgan and Ross Cannon are favorites. Where Dreams Begin has also always held a special place in my heart. I love Lisa's self-made men! And now her contemporaries have added another batch of re-reads to my list.

I suppose it depends on what kind of mood I'm in as to what I turn to - if I want angst I head right to Derek Craven; if I'm looking for humor you just can't beat Leo Hathaway (the Wallflowers running a close second).

quantum said...

Wonderful review Janga.
Like Irish I can't wait for this one, in any format.

I checked my files and find that I have rated every book with 5 stars (haven't read them all yet!)

My favourite has to be the first one that I tried, because it was such a curtain raiser. Someone on the EJ board recommended it to me (might have been you!). That book was 'Worth Any Price' in the Bow Street Runners series.

Second favourite series is The Hathaways or it could be The Wallflowers.
They are all priceless!

Jane said...

I love the Bow Street series, too, but my favorite is Then Came You. Worthy Any Price is a close second.

Janga said...

Irish, I think you'll love Rainshadow Road. I know what you mean about picking a favorite Kleypas historical. Lady Sophia's Lover is my favorite (I love Ross Cannon!), but Dreaming of You and Love in the Afternoon are a very close second and third. As much as I loved Rainshadow Road and look forward to the next in the series, I still long for a new historical.

Janga said...

Q, I hope RR shows up in the right format for you to read it next month. It really is a terrific book.

Five stars for every book! That's a high compliment indeed. I've given a lot of five-star ratings to LK, but I don't think I've given all five-star ratings to anyone. But I agree with you and Irish, the Bow Street Runner books are all wonderful.

Janga said...

Jane, Then Came You is one of my favorites too. I like it even better when I read it with Dreaming of You. Have you read any of LK's contemporaries?