Rainshadow Road Paperback – Feb 28 2012
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“In the latest flawlessly written addition to her contemporary Friday Harbor books and the first in a new trilogy, Kleypas brings together richly nuanced characters, an emotionally riveting plot, and a subtle touch of the paranormal to create an unforgettable romance that is pure reading magic.” ―Booklist, Starred Review
From the Back Cover
Take a journey down Rainshadow Road and let the most romantic read of your life begin…
Lucy Marinn is a glass artist living in Friday Harbor, Washington, with a boyfriend, Kevin, who she believes is her soul mate. She has always had a magical side―a gift that finds its way into the glasswork she creates―and she struggles to keep it contained. But when Lucy is blindsided by the most bitter kind of betrayal, she questions many of her choices. Kevin leaves her and his new lover is none other than Lucy's own sister.
"A page-turner sure to thrill fans."―USA Today
Meanwhile, facing the severe disapproval of Lucy's family, Kevin asks his friend Sam Nolan, a local vineyard owner on San Juan Island, to "romance" Lucy so that she can more easily move on. But when Sam and Lucy begin to feel real sparks between them, Lucy must ask herself if she can easily risk her heart again. Questions about love, loyalty, old patterns, mistakes, and new beginnings are explored as Lucy learns that some things in life―even after being broken―can be re-made into something beautiful. And that it is only by discovering who you really are that you can find the one who truly deserves you.
DREAM LAKE CRYSTAL COVE
Coming in July 2013 Coming in August 2013
From St. Martin's Paperbacks--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition. See all Product Description
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Lucy Marinn is having a real bad day. She gets dumped by her long time boyfriend and has to move out of their home to make room for his new girlfriend, Lucy's own sister, Alice. Betrayed and completely befuddled, Lucy finds solace at a quiet beach, but her revery is disrupted when she bumps into and handsome stranger, winemaker, Sam Nolan. Sam takes an interest in the beautiful woman with green eyes, but she runs scared for the hills to get away from men in general. When Lucy gets into an accident and needs round the clock care, Lucy's friends are busy preparing for a wedding and ask their good friend Sam to look after her.
This is a slow paced, whimsical story, with a lot of historical reflection on the character's upbringing and the events that are shaping their lives. Lucy and Sam only have about 15 pages together in the first 100 or so, and months can pass between chapters, so if you're looking for instantaneous combustion when they meet, you're not going to get it here. Their chemistry builds at a realistic pace and is interweaved with friends, family and drama. There's also the addition of magic to the story that I'm not convinced is necessary to the storyline and makes it seem a little too Hallmark chanel. Compared to classic Kleypas, this reads more like three stars, but compared to other contemporary romances, it's easily a four. It's a refreshing, feel good story, without plot manipulations and dreaded misunderstandings, and makes for the perfect read for curling up with a cup of hot chocolate.
"Rainshadow Road" is the first of a trilogy which takes place on San Juan Island off the coast of Washington state. The heroine, Lucy Marinn, a talented glass artist, has just been dumped by her long-time live-in boyfriend. To make matters worse, she was dumped for her younger sister, Alice. Lucy immediately meets Sam Nolan, the owner of a local vineyard. Sam has difficulty with romantic commitment stemming from his troubled childhood with his alcoholic parents. He has vowed never to marry. The book revolves around the evolution of Sam and Lucy's relationship.
The book contains glimmers of the creativity and whimsicality which make Ms. Kleypas' previous novels such a treat. For instance, the "meet cute" between Sam and Lucy on the beach contains excellent dialogue. I especially like the exchange where each define their gender's reaction to being dumped. I also like the tense interaction between Lucy and and her sister, Alice, and the realistic set-up of Lucy's family dynamic where a child who has been ill is ultimately coddled and spoiled to the detriment of another child whose only fault is being healthy. All of this rings true. Ms. Kleypas also displays her understanding of human nature in several excellent passages of life philosophy. An example is the rumination on the nature of happiness which contains the reflection: "The problem with chasing after happiness was that it wasn't a destination you could reach. It was something that happened along the way."
But the seemingly effortless understanding of plot construction that makes Ms. Kleypas' novels so delightful is missing from "Rainshadow Road." As contrast, consider the dynamic in It Happened One Autumn (The Wallflowers, Book 2). In the context of that book, Ms. Kleypas makes the absurd plot point of a magical perfume which acts as an aphrodisiac only to one's true love work wonderfully. As a reader, I whole-heartedly buy into its existence because it does not overshadow the novel's reality, and it advances the plot. But in "Rainshadow Road," Lucy's ability to magically transform glass into living things and Sam's ability to unwither plants like some super-Farmville player do not seem to play any meaningful part in this plot. Neither of these skills adds to the advancement of the plot, nor do these skills add any insight into the character of either Lucy or Sam. The litmus test is that if the author took out these magical abilities, the book would not be materially affected. One cannot say the same thing about the perfume in "It Happened One Autumn."
More specifically, the huge weakness in the book is the character of the hero, Sam. Never before have I encountered a Kleypas hero who displays such an unsettling undercurrent of sexual uncertainty. Ms. Kleypas has dealt quite effectively with damaged heroes before, and even heroes who need to grow up before they are truly men. Sam's unavailability and damage are never shown to be fixable through the balm of love. He teeters constantly on the edge of being a selfish whiner throughout the entire book. Sam is a weak man who shows only occasional instances of true strength and the ability to handle adult love. He does not reveal any propensity to change his attitudes or grow as a person until the last chapter of the book. Even then, his motivation appears to be panic and insecurity rather than strength or love.
On the whole, the plot of "Rainshadow Road" is thin, the characters are flat and the situations contrived. In particular I was perplexed by the purpose of the magical abilities of the main characters and by the wishy-washy hero. I can only hope this is a temporary lapse for this usually excellent author.
I'd been keeping 'Rainshadow Road' as a litmus test. Having been progressively disappointed with her Hathaway series, I was somewhat relieved when the Travis brothers' series renewed some of her formidable writing skills, but the Friday Harbor series has been nothing short of deadly dull. I wasn't able to figure why it was so with the first book, but I thought, oh well, it may have been an off-book, like an off-moment, every writer is allowed to have some. But no, this entire series is actually an ode to San Juan Island and the beauty of the Washington state in northwestern US, with some minor interesting characters thrown in. There is none of Kleypas' previously marvelous grip over conflict, character and that wonderful compulsion with her lovers.
The summary itself is complicated - Lucy has always had issues with her sister Alice, but when Lucy's boyfriend Kevin breaks up with her, confessing he cheated on her with Alice, the sisters' relationship also fragments almost irreversibly. Lucy then meets Sam Nolan, San Juan vineyard owner and perennial bachelor who it seems is famous for his commitment issues. Sam and Lucy are attracted to each other, but before either of them gets anything more than a kiss, Sam is asked by Kevin to ask Lucy out, as a sort of 'loosen-her-up' deal as a favour to Kevin. For his own convenience, Sam agrees but also tells Lucy he was asked this. Lucy then has an accident that leaves her conveniently helpless and of course, Sam is the only person willing to take care of her and this also makes for a convenient live-in situation to allow them to hook up. You already get a flavor of how contrived the conflict is here.
The problem as I see it with both the Friday Harbor books are the protagonists. There is no spark, no sense of control over themselves or their lives. Lucy is slightly better than Maggie in this, but she's still for some reason strangely passive to what's unfolding in her life. The only passion we really see with Lucy is with her work - she is a glass artist, a talented and sought after one at that. But this is where Kleypas adds in too much spice to confound the plot - Lucy has a strange magical alchemy to creating her glasswork, a sort of mystical control making shards and fragments literally come alive. I mean, literally, as in one scene, black painted shards turn into bat-like creatures to attack Kevin. Not surprisingly, Sam also has some strange magical power of growing his vines. Of course, this should tell us they are perfect for each other, but it doesn't quite convince. And for some reason, Lucy remains passive all the way through to the climax not even making a final stand till Sam has his say.
Sam Nolan, like the other Nolan brothers, is convinced that because of his family background (they had alcoholic, abusive parents), Nolans are not meant to do relationships. Apparently, that's a family inheritance - all of them have been screwed up in exactly the same way by their parents and believe that they just do not have it to sustain a healthy relationship with women. This is already inexplicable to me, weirdly accepting and unresistant and very unappealing in romance heroes. Compare them with any of Kleypas' past heroes - Zachary Bronson or Marcus Westcliff or even Alex Raiford. They all came from disturbed families or bitter previous relationships, yet there is a determination when they meet their women, a compulsion, a craving if you will, to win them over. It doesn't matter how damaged he is, what matters is that Zachary knows he feels about Holly, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to make it work. Alex Raiford risks losing his reputation and his fortune for Lily. And Marcus, Earl of Westcliff, after some of the most vicious and indifferent parenting resolves to be as different from his father as possible. All these historical heroes have agency, a power over their decisions to be better than where they came from.
The Friday Harbor brothers - Mark, Sam and it seems Alex too - completely fail in this regard. I don't care how modern civilised men usually are in real life, in a romance novel, they are an ideal that we wish our men to be - and the Nolan brothers are not it. Not even after they fall in love.
And this brings me to the the crux, the love story. Since Lucy is nursing some very sore feelings, and Sam, for whatever inexplicable reason, is attracted to Lucy, they make a pact to have a no-strings-attached sex. And maybe I'm just being picky, but I used to love Kleypas' love scenes - that scene in 'Devil in Winter' when Sebastian puts the ring back on Evie's finger and every barrier they'd put up inside themselves simply cracks,, it all comes alive with the sex, and Kleypas had executed it magnificently. These scenes are just tepid in comparison. And as the relationship progresses, and clearly the feelings are getting more intense, neither Sam nor Lucy is willing to admit to the other that they're starting to change their mind, that this is different and it's like nothing they've shared with anyone before. Even in 'Smooth Talking Stranger' the first thing Jack tells Ella is, "I've never had better". And yet Lucy and Sam withhold, dance an elaborate way out of the intensity, and each successive scene just drags it out to the point you're just disgusted with both of them.
Apart from the characters, I also think Kleypas' intentions with this series are meddling with her writing. I get the feeling she's trying to veer off to a different readership, with more modern, relatable characters. That's all fine, but part of the charm of romance is the alpha male cloaked under the beta veneer. Good examples of these are the Travis brothers - both Gage and Jack are only superficially 'civilised', underneath they are still dominant and challenging of any threat to their authority, especially to their feelings. But with the Nolan brothers, it seems like Kleypas is trying to show the evolved damaged man - Sam Nolan is no Marcus Westcliff in the forcefulness of his personality. But there is also none of that self-knowledge that allows him to recognize that rare special someone who's walked into his life.
I also think part of my disappointment has to do with the wishy-washy prior relationships that both Sam and Lucy have had, and it's disappointing to think that Lucy who seems to be intelligent and self-aware would ever fall for someone like Kevin. Combine that with the fact that Lucy jumps into a loveless sexathon with Sam mere weeks after Kevin dumps her also makes me think less of her - not for having sex, hurray for good-looking guys and great orgasms - but for taking her world-weary cynicism about charming men but simply using Sam to blunt her emotional intensity regarding Kevin and Alice. Where is the rage? Where is the passion?
Also, Sam is not a good representation of a geek. I don't know of any geeky womanizers, and I hang around a lot of geeks. Most of the time they just don't know how to get women at all.
So yes, overall, I have decided I'm not going to bother with 'Dream Lake' - Alex Nolan's story that I KNOW is going to be a letdown, simply because he's the most damaged (and more significantly, very recently damaged) of the Nolans and has already headed towards the alcoholic way of dealing with things. But even more so, I'm convinced Lisa's characters are no longer the men and women I want to read about (there's a point where Alex asks Sam if he can stay at his place longer as his ex-wife is putting him through hell, and Sam GRUDGINGLY agrees - I'm sorry, but if my brother were in living hell, there is no room for grudging support and that made me detest Sam intensely, especially with his, "We're Nolans, this is what we do" crap). And these characters' happy endings leave me very un-hopeful about the state of modern romance, real or fictional.
Give me Derek Craven and Sara Fielding any day.