Worth Any Price, by Lisa Kleypas, is set in London, England in the late 1830's, centering on Miss Charlotte Howard, a young woman on the run from an undesirable marriage, and Nick Gentry, the Bow Street runner hired to retrieve her. Upon finding her whereabouts, Nick discovers Charlotte to be quite different than what he expected, so instead of returning her to her family and thereby sentencing her to a life of misery under the cruel hand of Lord Radnor, he asks her to marry him. Now discovered, Charlotte has little choice but to agree, and something about Mr. Gentry makes her eager to be his bride, even though she believes the marriage will be in name only.
Lisa Kleypas is a big name in romance, so I confess to expecting big things inside the cover of her novel, Worth Any Price. The first few chapters were, quite frankly, a disappointment. The circumstances in which Nick finds Charlotte are nicely contrived, but the fact that he seeks to seduce her from the moment he finds her didn't match the personality assigned him by the author. Furthermore, the first proposal offered by Lord Westcliff added nothing of interest to the story, but did give Charlotte the escape she desired from Radnor, and it seems ridiculous that she would have refused it, even if she did feel he was sacrificing too much for her. Even more awful was her offer to Mr. Gentry to become his mistress in exchange for his protection from Lord Radnor and financial support. That Nick counters with his own offer of marriage at least set things to rights, but the book's beginning did little to impress this Broad.
That being said, once Kleypas secures the marriage between Nick and Charlotte, the story becomes very good indeed! As a couple, Nick and Charlotte are well matched characters. Kleypas writes a wonderful male lead, adding an interesting background for him that she blended well within the romance itself. His occupation as a Bow Street runner was a refreshing treat, and his cases were another point of interest in the story, although even Kleypas couldn't escape the confines of 1800's England, and our poor Mr. Gentry must have a double identity - the long lost Lord Sydney. His rejection of the title and responsibility after being discovered by a fellow Bow Street runner can't last, as once he is revealed, Bow Street cannot keep him on any longer, but it was nice while it lasted. I particularly enjoyed the transformation the author had her male hero undergo in the novel. Nick goes from existing to living not in a moment, but little by little as his bride influences him and he awakens to the connection he feels to his wife. Certainly, he has a moment where it all becomes clear to him, but this is more a reckoning with his changed ideals than a catalyst for change.
Kleypas also gets an honourable mention, as she wrote some of the best love scenes I've read in the genre. That she ably prolonged the sexual tension between the characters until midway through the story before the aforementioned love scene without leaving the reader feeling like .....,"Ohhh get on with it already.".... gives testament to her romance writing ability. In addition, Kleypas maintains sensuality throughout the novel, which is something many authors fail to do once 'the deed' is done.
Despite a slow and awkward beginning, Worth Any Price earns author Lisa Kleypas a recommendation of "Read It!", to romance lovers.