This is not an ordinary well-written historic romance novel: this is one of the most poignant, emotional, heart-wrenching love stories I have ever read. The two protagonists (the tough business man Zachary Bronson and the aristocratic and devoted widow Holly Taylor) are among the most unforgettable and three-dimensional characters Ms. Kleypas has ever created.
Incredibly wealthy and ruthless Zachary Bronson is in need of a highborn bride in order to be well accepted by the aristocratic society he longs to belong to. A street fighter in his younger days, he has accumulated wealth and power beyond belief as a speculator, landowner and entrepreneur in the flourishing business of the locomotive railroads.
He turns everything he touches into gold, but he lacks breeding, education, and refinement. Despised by the aristocracy for being as wealthy as vulgar, he tries to buy his place in society hiring the aristocratic and beautiful widow Holly Taylor as a social guide for himself and his family. His need of an etiquette tutor is just an excuse : in reality he had already fallen in love with the widow during a ball and believing himself to be too unpolished and undeserving of her affection, he finds the way to hire her to keep her close as long as possible. For those who are familiar with Dreaming of You, another unforgettable LK historical gem, Zachary is a milder and more romantic version of another vividly portrayed self-made man, Derek Craven.
The thing that never fails to amaze me about Ms. Kleypas is her wonderful descriptive style: every room of every palace, every character of every novel, either protagonist or secondary, their physical appearance, the way they dress, the way they talk, the way they look at each other, the historical background is so accurately described and three-dimensional. The dialogues are always great, the interactions between the protagonists, the family dynamics are always mesmerizing: in LK novels there is no room for those unnerving silly banters so typical of many other historical romances. This is a pure love story, perfect and captivating in its simplicity. The love scenes are scarce in the first part of the novel, but the romantic and sexual tension pervades the entire book from page one and builds up throughout the chapters. Steaming passion imbues the second half of the novel, featuring some extremely tasteful and emotionally charged love scenes. You can really tell that LK poured a lot of heart and soul in them. They are simply magnificent.
Unlike many other readers complaining about the last couple of chapters as being superfluous and draggy, I particularly enjoyed the final pages because they help portray our hero Zachary as a real gentleman and they are quite gratifying: despite his reputation as a vulgar and ruthless social climber, Zachary proves to be honest, charitable , generous and compassionate. His interactions with Holly’s daughter and all the other scenes of family bliss are rather heartwarming. Search the DCLS catalog