For two years, Catherine Marks has been a paid companion to the Hathaway sisters—a pleasant position, with one caveat. Her charges’ older brother, Leo Hathaway, is thoroughly exasperating. Cat can hardly believe that their constant arguing could mask a mutual attraction. But when one quarrel ends in a sudden kiss, Cat is shocked at her powerful response—and even more so when Leo proposes a dangerous liaison.
Leo must marry and produce an heir within a year to save his family home. Catherine’s respectable demeanor hides a secret that would utterly destroy her. But to Leo, Cat is intriguing and infernally tempting, even to a man resolved never to love again. The danger Cat tried to outrun is about to separate them forever—unless two wary lovers can find a way to banish the shadows and give in to their desires…
This is the fourth book in Lisa Kleypas’s ‘Hathaways’ series. The series follows a Hampshire family of siblings as they navigate their way around a recently acquired Ton title and all the societal nuisances that come with it.
This 4th instalment is the HEA of second eldest and only brother Hathaway, Lord Leo Ramsay. In the first book Leo was a shell of his formerly vivacious self. When we met him he had just lost his fiancée to scarlet fever and was walking a dangerous edge of depression, nearly slipping into suicide. It took three books for Leo to work through his grief – first by drinking and carousing, and eventually by accepting all that he had lost.
Miss Catherine Marks was introduced in the second book as governess to the two youngest Hathaway sisters, Beatrix and Poppy. Catherine ‘Marks’ was a stern woman with a love for teaching and gentle affection for her Hathaway charges. She was quickly and earnestly welcomed into the Hathaway family as one of their own – welcomed by everyone except Lord Leo Ramsay. Leo and Marks could not stand one another. In previous books their banter had a razor-edge and they were constantly at each other’s throats. Marks could not abide a member of the peerage acting in Leo’s depraved manner, and Leo could not stand such a spinster nit-picking his coping mechanisms. They were fabulously combustible!
For three books fans of the ‘Hathaway’ series have been *desperate* for Leo and Marks’s story to be told – because they were so deliciously opposite and had such a captivating tension between them. Well, fans can rest assured that Lisa Kleypas handles the Marks/Leo romance beautifully. They have heat, witty banter, sexual frustration and certainly live up to the promise of opposites attracting...
Leo and Marks are wonderful – individually and as a couple. It’s partly to do with their ‘opposites attract’ cache, and how enjoyable it is to read two characters who can’t seem to understand what is right in front of them. But it’s also the fact that, separately, Marks and Leo have two very interesting histories which lend depth to their characters.
In the third ‘Hathaways’ book there was a big reveal concerning Catherine Marks’s past and her affiliation to Poppy’s husband, Harry Rutledge. Marks and Harry are half-siblings. Same mother, different fathers. Harry discovered he had a sister when he was 20 years old, and he discovered her just in time to save Marks from awful circumstances. Not to give anything away, but Marks is quite scarred by her childhood before Harry’s rescue – and her past traumas are the basis for her sometimes severe character, and romantic hurdles Leo has to jump over in the latter half of the book.
Likewise, Leo is nursing deep emotional scars over the death of his fiancée, Laura, to scarlet fever. In previous books Leo has been an utterly tormented character – positive that Laura’s ghost was haunting him and driven to depravity to forget his heart’s loss. Leo was a very intense Heathcliff-type character, and I’m glad to say he hasn’t lost that dark and intense edge in this book... though it is cushioned by a more jovial manner and the fact that he has finally accepted Laura’s death.
Together Leo and Marks have a lot to overcome – but all of their issues raise the stakes in their relationship, and it’s wonderful to read how they heal each other. Likewise it’s wonderful to read how they try to deny their feelings – both because of their past dislike of one other, and because of individual war-wounds;
Leo’s hands went on either side of her shrinking body and gripped the edge of the dressing table behind her. He was too close, his masculine vitality surrounding her. He smelled like outside air, like dust and horses, like a healthy young male. As he leaned over her, one of his knees pressed gently into the mass of her skirts.
“Why did you come back?” she asked weakly.
He stared directly into her eyes. “You know why.”
Before Catherine could stop herself, her gaze dropped to the firm contours of his mouth.
“Cat... we have to talk about what happened.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
He inclined his head slightly. “Would you like me to remind you?”
Marks and Leo are H-O-T. It’s no secret that Kleypas knows her way around a sex scene – somehow walking the literary tightrope between smutty and tasteful. Kleypas is really writing at her best in ‘Married by Morning’ – pairing Leo’s passion with Marks’s timidity makes for some very endearing and beautiful scenes.
I am a Lisa Kleypas fan-girl, and proud of it! I haven’t read a book of hers that I haven’t loved. Even at her worst, Kleypas is superior to many other romance authors on their best day. It’s the fact that Kleypas is a literary mistress of smut; keeping things hot and passionate, but never overtly-lurid or at the expense of plot and characterisation.
But it’s also the fact that her writing is an absolute delight to read. Some people may think that ‘romance’ is synonymous with ‘trash’; but the quickest way to dispel that misconception is to read a Lisa Kleypas romance. Her writing is quick, sumptuous and down-right literary. Take this passage in which Leo describes his first impressions of Catherine Marks;
When Leo had first met her, she had been the perfect embodiment of a dried-up spinster, with her spectacles and forbidding scowl and her stern hyphen of a mouth. Her spine was as unbending as a fireplace poker, and her hair, the dull brown of apple moths, was always pinned back too tightly. The Grim Reaper, Leo had nicknamed her, despite the objections of the family.
I love that description; ‘hyphen of a mouth’, brilliant! And nothing ‘trashy’ about it.
Lisa Kleypas is the best of the romance best – and ‘Married by Morning’ is the icing on her very successful career cake. Fans had high expectations for Leo and Marks’s romance, and Kleypas delivers ten-fold.
The next, and final, ‘Hathaways’ book is youngest sister Beatrix’s story. ‘Love in the Afternoon’ comes out on the 29th of this month. I will be sad to read the end of the ‘Hathaways’ saga, but I am ecstatic over the release of Kleypas’s brand-new contemporary romance series; ‘Friday Harbor’. The first book is ‘Christmas Eve atFriday Harbor’ and is released on November 9th this year. I can't wait!