I found Lisa Kleypas' SUDDENLY YOU completely unreadable; this qualifies as yet another iteration of the perfect-notorious-rake-initiating-the-imperfect-virgin-to-passion storyline (the words "notorious rake" are used to describe Jack later in the novel). This book revels in the handsome, muscular frame of an experienced rake igniting the virgin passions of a plump, ordinary-of-appearance spinster under slightly different circumstances. Is it me, or are all romance rakes' names Jack? Written mostly from the heroine Amanda's perspective, SUDDENLY YOU is interested in one thing and one thing alone: celebrating notorious rake Jack's chiseled perfection and opulent riches (I counted so many descriptions of the hero's handsome, muscular bearing, I lost count) while he initiates a plump spinster virgin to passion and pleasure. We have the forward, scoundrel comments which Amanda scorns outwardly yet secretly relishes. We have the tender, scientific ministrations of a libertine igniting tingles and ripples through Amanda's core. SUDDENLY YOU never misses a chance to remind us the hero is, in fact, muscular and handsome. We have yet another romance novel's artifice to contrive the attraction of a perfect hero for a mediocre-looking virgin. We have the virgin heroine's insecurities over her plump, ordinary appearance (insecurities which last to the end). We have the hero regaling her with praise about her appearance and tender words of affection. We have the hero encouraging her in business and profession and treating her an equal. In the early love making, we have Amanda wanting more though she knows not what -- yet the hero knows (you know you've read this in some form thousands of times). We have the experienced hero easily aroused and honorably putting a stop to the escalating sensuality ("Amanda I don't trust myself with you any longer. I have to leave while I'm still able"). We even have the virgin heroine yearning to discover the mysterious hero's tortured past and truly know him like no other woman before. The hero Jack is infatuated with her (there's no other word for it) while the heroine Amanda tries to cut things off, predictably prompting Jack to come to a decision about the married life he never wanted. You've read all of this before, the characters are the exact same and the juvenile plotting is the same.
Jack is just like every other handsome cartoon pimp from any romance novel lauding Amanda's brains while Amanda is like every other "witty," ordinary-looking virgin fawning over Jack's muscles. An adolescently insipid storyline characterizes the plotting and pacing, and the servicing from the hero is evident. Essentially, a tall, dark, rich, handsome and muscular hero (Jack Devlin) thrives as a publisher, and meets a successful author who is also a 30 year-old, plump, ordinary-looking virgin (Amanda Briars). Eventually, Amanda agrees to write a series for Jack's publishing conglomerate. This context serves as background noise to our pimp Jack servicing and initiating Amanda to passion and pleasure. There's even a break-up, Amanda finding "comfort" in another gentleman, a pregnancy, etc., etc. What a horribly forgettable 375 pages.
I think romance novelists assume if you give perfectly handsome heroes enough of a lascivious past with a myriad of nameless, faceless and meaningless pretty women, he'll grow tired of beauty. That a plump, ordinary-looking heroine will instantly inflame his attraction based on her "boldness, imagination and wit." Jack notes from his perspective, "her features were pleasant, if not...beautiful." So you gravitate to "pleasant features" when you're obviously a perfect Adonis? Is there no such thing as a beautiful, smart, quick-witted virgin in these superficial historical romances anymore? It annoys and aggravates me to no end how romance novelists will describe their heroines as average looking, plump and "pleasant" from the perspective of a hero who's instantly attracted. The guy admires wit, cunning, eyes, hair and soft skin -- very deep guy here. If a guy finds a girl attractive, no guy will hesitate thinking of her as beautiful except in romance novels. In romance novels, she's "not precisely beautiful." Then again, I'll never understand the perfect-guy-instantly-attracted-to-the-average-looking-heroine ruse anyway when I know ladies' men prefer women who they find beautiful no matter how many women they've had. Our hero Jack pines for her from the get-go: "he wanted to kiss her... he wanted to charm her..." Best of all from the girl's point-of-view, he wanted to know her. At another point in the novel, Jack appreciates how much Amanda eats in public. Apparently, this makes her more "real" and "authentic," and all the pretty ladies he's known are summarily condemned as shallow.
The heroine of course fosters no such deep motives for her attraction. Tall, handsome, muscular, thick black hair, blue eyes... in a word, perfectly attractive to anyone with eyes. On the other hand, you need to look long and hard to notice our plump spinster Amanda's attractive features, something only apparently possible by mature, experienced heroes. I had to laugh when Jack thinks to himself at one point, "He liked being able to fluster her, something he guessed that few men were able to do." Uhm no, one muscular cartoon pimp is as good as any other judging by the origins of Amanda's attraction! We again have a case of the pot calling the kettle black. A fat, rich man (Kerwin Stephenson) disgusts our plump Amanda after Amanda and Jack break up. Portliness is viewed as attractive in the women of romance novels yet abhorrent in men. If this is sounding like the worst case of a tritely hokey potboiler, well, then it is. When Amanda draws an average-looking widower's attentions who loves children, she accustoms herself -- or settles -- for a "pleasant and ordinary life." She muses, "Hartley would never sweep her off her feet, but help her to keep them planted firmly on the ground." So let me get this straight. Average, modest men who love children are too dull while fat men too repulsive. Talk about a nauseating indulgence on female-biased appearances. Chick-lit? You bet, 10/10 on the chick-lit meter, and that's not a good thing. This book is completely devoid of any inkling of substance or fresh appeal.