From the BLURB:
"We're strangers in the darkness," he whispered. "We'll never be together like this again."
Zachary Bronson has built an empire of wealth and power, but all London knows is not a gentleman. He needs a wife to secure his position in society—and warm his bed in private. But one alluring, unexpected kiss from Lady Holly Taylor awakens a powerful need within him beyond respectability.
An exceptional beauty whose fierce passions match Zachary's own, Holly always intended to play by society's rules, even when they clashed with her bolder instincts. But now a dashing stranger has made her a scandalous offer that does not include matrimony. Should she ignore the sensuous promise of a forbidden kiss...or risk everything to follow her heart to a place where dreams begin?
Lady Holly Taylor is in her third year of mourning. Her husband, George, suddenly died of typhoid three years ago, leaving Holly with little money and their daughter, Rose, to raise by herself. Luckily for Holly and Rose, George’s family have been more than accommodating, and insist that they will look after them for all time.
But Lady Holly is struggling in her widowhood. After three years she is now allowed to wear more modest colours, not just black shrouds. She is also expected to step back into society in her new role of widow … except Holly has no interest in the ton. If it were up to her, she’d happily go about the rest of her life missing George and raising Rose. So when Holly finds herself suffocating at a society ball, she ducks away for a bit of peace and quiet… only to find herself in the arms of a kissable stranger.
Zachary Bronson finds himself in a most difficult situation – kissing the wrong lady at a ball, in the dark. Even more damnably annoying is how lovely this mysterious woman is – how responsive and addictive. Though she flees from him, Zachary finds out his kiss in the dark was with Lady Holly Taylor – a most respectable, blue-blooded widow, not meant for the likes of him.
Zachary clawed and fought his way into ton society – investing the money he made as a successful fighter to save himself, his mother and little sister from a life of poverty. But if there’s one thing London society despises, it’s a made man. No matter what he does; how many society clubs he joins or willing ton ladies he beds, the upper crusts want nothing to do with him. Unless, of course, Zachary finds himself a biddable ton wife to fast-track him to the top. Lady Holly Taylor may be the most coveted, blue-blooded widow in London, but Zachary finds himself wanting her for far more than her status…
‘Where Dreams Begin’ was a 2000 historical romance stand-alone from Lisa Kleypas.
I unabashedly love dipping into a Lisa Kleypas romance. They are my guilty pleasure, my guaranteed-good-read. When I’m in the mood for something light, I know I can get happily wrapped up in one of her deliciously sensuous ‘golden oldies’. And I am especially glad that I still have Kleypas’s backlist to chew through, after ‘Wallflowers’, ‘Hathaways’ and the ‘Travis Trilogy’ – I have barely scratched the surface of Kleypas’s previous work.
‘Where Dreams Begin’ is an interesting book, dealing with two fairly large romantic storylines. On the one hand there’s Lady Holly Taylor – after three years she is still recovering from her husband’s death by typhoid. Theirs was an unusual union – a true love match, that was also well suited for being an advantageous ton coupling. Lady Holly doesn’t just miss George, she’s still very much in love with him…
Then there is Zachary Bronson – once a gutter rat who became a formidable boxer, now with enough money to buy his way into high society … but even with his ostentatious wealth, Zachary is finding it near impossible to break into the ton’s impervious upper crust. Zachary reminded me, ever so faintly, of Cam Rohan from Kleypas’s ‘Hathaways’ series. Both are men from disreputable backgrounds – Cam a gambling gypsy, Zachary an ex-fighter –who have risen in the social ranks, thanks to their wealth. But where Cam was content to keep his gypsy ways, and didn’t care much for the stupidity of high society, Zachary is desperate to be accepted… less for himself, more for his mother and younger sister’s sake (especially since Elizabeth will have her debut soon, and be on the marriage-mart).
Enter Lady Holly – in a chance meeting that’s only ever believable in a Kleypas romance, Holly and Zachary share an accidental kiss in the dark, which leads to Zachary hunting down the biddable mystery woman and deciding to pursue her for marriage (luckily she happened to be a respectable widow, from good ton stock). Zachary entices Holly into his household under the pretence of lessons in ladylike behaviour for his sister (with a few classes to curb Zachary’s un-gentlemanly ways too). Holly cannot resist Zachary’s monetary temptation for herself and Rose – when she feels like such a burden on George’s family. She accepts, and what follows is a long, drawn out coupling that swings between Zachary’s guilt at using Holly to rise in the ranks, and Holly’s mixed feelings for Zachary, versus her still love for dearly departed George.
It is a tangled web, indeed. Between Zachary constantly flip-flopping between wanting Holly, and feeling inferior to her, and Holly clinging to her loyalty to a dead husband…. Not to mention the collective societal *gasp!* when Holly moves into Zachary’s town-house – there’s a lot of delicious drama packed into one Lisa Kleypas novel. The thing is, Kleypas writes it so darn well – yes, it’s over-the-top and fancifully sensuous. But it’s also fun to read. Zachary Bronson is a teddy-bear in brute’s clothing, and Holly is a delightfully fiery even-match for him. Holly’s daughter, Rose, offers up some ‘kids say the darndest things!’ funnies (like questioning why Zachary once had two ladies in his bed).
Holly and Zachary are delightful – their banter before the bedroom gets top-marks, while their eventual succumbing to desire is (as always in a Kleypas book) fiery-fantastic:
“I'll follow you to the next life if I have to," he whispered harshly in her ear. "You'll never be free of me. I'll chase you through heaven and hell and beyond." He continued to whisper without stopping while his hands gripped her body close to his. "You stay with me, Holly," he muttered savagely. "Don't do this to me. You stay, damn you.”
My one complaint comes towards the end, when Kleypas feels the need to put a definitive answer to the question of Holly’s love for two men – Zachary and her dearly-deceased, George. There’s a scene I saw coming a mile away, that’s so fantastically cheesy it almost ruins the momentum of the finale.
All in all, ‘Where Dream Begin’ hit the spot for me – I was in the mood for a carefree, feel-good read and Lisa Kleypas reliably delivered.