There they are, gamely attending the balls and parties, their dance cards empty, their hearts heavy. Either penniless and untitled, nouveau riche and uncultured, or socially inhibited, they are The Wallflowers. After months of sharing the same set of seats, four young ladies take a look around, and make a pact to help each other find husbands. This is the premise for Lisa Kleypas’ next series.
Of the four, Annabelle Peyton’s situation is deemed most dire. Her impoverished family is depending on her marriage for survival. Unfortunately, society’s rules are unkind to the lovely young woman. Rather than an object of sympathy, Annabelle is instead ignored by eligible bachelors - until her situation becomes so desperate that she will agree to become a mistress, but not a wife. Only one man is uncivilized enough to mention this aloud - Simon Hunt. A butcher’s son with a knack for making money. He is barely tolerated in society himself, yet he does not care about the ton’s opinion. He has his own reasons for appearing where he is not wanted. His investments and shrewd business sense draw society’s men into his circle, while the women are divided. The married ones want to seduce him, and ingenues like Annabelle want to flee.
When Annabelle spies a likely candidate for matrimony, the three co-conspirators arrange for invitations to a house party. There Annabelle can meet and hopefully, impress Lord Kendall enough that he will propose. If that doesn’t work, then perhaps they can be caught in a compromising situation that will demand matrimony. Annabelle is not happy with this possibility, but she can no longer wait. The unsavory characters are beginning to make their illicit advances and she is starting to feel a bit hunted. To add to her distress, Simon Hunt has also been invited to the party, and tries to intercept her interest.
Secrets of a Summer Night shows the reader the “who” of the story right up front. There will be no surprises in this regard. It is the “how” and “why” that make this book so entertaining. Annabelle is too poor to quibble about ethics at this stage and her dogged pursuit of a husband is almost painful. Thank goodness the other three women add some levity to her day. Simon is all power, ruthless, uncultured and brash. He wants what he wants and he wants Annabelle. He thinks it is just a case of opposites attracting coupled with his disdain for society’s rules. He does not have much regard for Annabelle’s character or strength. He will be surprised. Much more than a novel of manners, Ms. Kleypas gives us a well-matched couple, great secondary characters, and the promise of three more stories in the coming months.