Not amazing, but a good and enjoyable start to the series
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on 11 July 2011
The first time I looked at this book, I read the preview chapter and wasn't really drawn in, so I passed on it. I ended up reading volume 5 of the Hathaway series, Love in the Afternoon, and absolutely loved it. I was so charmed by the warm family atmosphere that pervaded Love in the Afternoon, that I decided to start the series from the beginning to read more about this family, and I'm glad I did. This particular volume wasn't as fresh or emotionally-engaging as Love in the Afternoon, dealing with the old "level-headed strong-willed miss meets dark mysterious passionate man with will of iron" device, and I would say it doesn't really have much to offer as a romance story, apart from Ms. Kleypas' polished writing; but it does provide a very organic introduction to the Hathaway family that will help lend further emotional depth to the stories that follow. The most enjoyable part of this novel is by far the family interactions, and getting to know the Hathaways. We do not get to know all of them to the same depth, but you will find yourself wanting to read more about this family, and to spend more time with them.
Each novel is standalone, so if you decided to skip this first, somewhat underwhelming volume, you do not lose any information, but I feel that this volume (which is definitely well-written, even if it does feel like a retreading of the same old memes) is worth reading because you get to spend more time with the enjoyable Hathaway family, and I really liked seeing the evolution of these characters from the beginning. Amelia, Cam, and Leo are also the most prominent supporting characters in the rest of the series, so I think getting to know them well from this volume is definitely worth it.
As far as the technical aspects of story-telling, Ms. Kleypas is rightly known for her smooth, elegant prose, and charming characterization. She is perhaps the only author that has yet to turn out a clunky phrase, that I've read, and she has a gift for crafting delicate similes and metaphors that makes her writing always feel simultaneously witty and poignant, and never a jumble of stock phrases or cliches. The only criticism that I feel inclined to make is that the dramatic arcs of the narratives are sometimes poorly paced, sometimes early arcs peter out and end with no impact, and sometimes a short arc is crammed in at the end of the story, perhaps in an effort to punch up the excitement for the end of the novel. But her characters always feel sympathetic and genuine -- even if their actions aren't always strictly logical, I always find myself understanding why they did it, and hoping everything works out in the end.
In short, if you are considering reading any volume in the Hathaway series, I would recommend you buy the whole series and start with this volume, to get the best possible experience. If you are a fan of Ms. Kleypas from past works, or you enjoy warm, engaging families like Julia Quinn's Bridgertons, you will love this whole series. I'm giving this volume 4 stars because it is well worth reading, but its lack of originality as a romance makes it not quite perfect.
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