I have essentially written two parts to this post; a book review and a personal discussion on the topic of abuse within Blue Eyed Devil. I apologize for the length of the post, but I wanted the discussion to be included with the review, namely because it might be informative to some readers who happen upon my blog in search of the review and may have otherwise missed it if it were posted separately. Anyway, please feel free to read and comment (or not) on whatever part or parts of this post you feel comfortable with.
Note: If you haven't yet read Sugar Daddy, the following review of Blue Eyed Devil does contain spoilers from Sugar Daddy. Read at your own risk.
Review of Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas.
When Lisa Kleypas revealed at the book signing in March of 2007 that she was writing Hardy Cates' story, my first thought was, "Excellent! I can't wait to read that!", and my very next thought was, "Really? Wow. How is she going to pull that off?!" By the end of Sugar Daddy, I was annoyed and disappointed with Hardy's behavior and couldn't imagine him as hero worthy material. I was curious to see how Ms. Kleypas would do it, and after reading the excerpt to Blue Eyed Devil on her website, I was beyond impatient to read this story. It turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Ms. Kleypas pulled it off with ease and truly revealed Hardy's worth as a hero.
Finally, March 2008 rolled around and I bought Blue Eyed Devil once it hit the bookshelves, willingly paying the hardcover price this time! I expected another beautifully written and touching story of self discovery and romance, but I did not expect how deeply this book would affect me on a personal level.
To be honest, I was barely halfway through reading Blue Eyed Devil when I had the revelation that this novel was going to be one of my favorite books of all time. I wanted to share my love of this novel by writing a book review, but in the end I realized that this novel's impact on mepersonally was preventing me from being objective, so I stopped trying to write one. Instead, I showed my love for Blue Eyed Devil by commenting almost everywhere I read a review on the internet, affirming all the many rave reviews.
This week, however, I was inspired by Ana and Thea's Lisa Kleypas Week at The Book Smugglers blog and decided to revisit my thoughts on Blue Eyed Devil and now here I am, writing a review for a book I read six months ago.
Like Sugar Daddy, Blue Eyed Devil is another story of a young woman's journey to find herself and the true love she deserves. Blue Eyed Devil is the story of Haven Travis, the youngest and only daughter of business tycoon Churchill Travis, who was Liberty Jones' 'sugar daddy' so to speak in Sugar Daddy. The story opens at the wedding of Liberty Jones and Gage Travis from Sugar Daddy. Haven Travis is engaged to Nick Tanner and accidentally shares an intimate kiss in a dark wine cellar with Hardy Cates--Liberty Jones' long ago, long time childhood crush--thinking he is Nick. After much embarrassment, Haven composes herself and they part ways.
Haven marries Nick and their relationship quickly proves to be an unhealthy one. Nick emotionally abuses Haven, beginning with subtle insults and degradations, and building slowly as he isolates her from her family and friends, controls how she spends her time and money, intimidates her, and purposely destroys personal items in the house. Ultimately he controls Haven in such a way that she loses sight of her individuality and her right to be free and happy. As the frequency and severity of Nick's emotional abuse of Haven increases, eventually the physical and sexual abuse begins. In final bout of rage, Nick severely injures Haven and locks her out of their home. Finally, Haven is able to walk away and save herself.
Haven's road to healing begins as she puts in a call to her brother Gage Travis--husband of Liberty Jones, both of whom give Haven shelter, loving support and personal space for healing. And let me just point out that I loved Gage in Sugar Daddy, but I love loved him in Blue Eyed Devil. He was perfect and very heroic. Haven then divorces Nick, seeks professional help for her abusive past, starts working for her brother, Jack Travis and begins to put her life back together and become whole again.
Blue Eyed Devil is the heart wrenching story of how Haven Travis lost herself in a damaging and unhealthy way as a result of her abusive marriage to Nick Tanner. It is also the heart warming story of how Haven Travis put herself on the path of healing and self empowerment and how she found the genuine, healthy, unrequited love she deserves. Haven Travis finds such a love with none other than Hardy Cates, the self made Texan business tycoon who has been on his own path to find himself for some time as well. Their story intense and beautiful, filled with heart aches and emotional healing and some very tender and very sexy love scenes. Together Haven and Hardy provide what the other one needs in order to heal. Blue Eyed Devil is a story of personal triumph with a romantic happily ever after that will stay in my heart forever.
You can read more about author Lisa Kelypas and her work on her website HERE.
Note: For those readers whose first reaction is to shy away from reading Blue Eyed Devil because of the nature of the abuse, I just want to let you know that although the impact of the abuse is a thread throughout the entire novel, the scenes of the actual abuse are very carefully written such that the violence of the abuse is real, but it's not excessively graphic. I'm not saying it's not difficult to read. It is. It's just that Ms. Kleypas did not under or overplay the nature of the abuse, and readers shouldn't avoid reading it for its graphic nature.
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Personal Discussion on the Abuse in Blue Eyed Devil.
As I mentioned in my review above, I had a difficult time effectively writing an objective review of Blue Eyed Devil back in March when I first read the book. I felt too personally affected by Haven's abuse to properly compose my thoughts, so I sort of just let it go without following through with a book review.
Then today, something changed. I read Ana's review of Blue Eyed Devil on The Book Smugglers blog where Ana and Thea are showcasing the works of Lisa Kleypas all this week. Perhaps it's because I haven't discussed or read a review of Blue Eyed Devil in a while, but as I read Ana's wonderfully written review, my vision blurred, tears rolled down my cheeks, as I became flooded with similar emotions I had as I read the novel several months ago. It was then that I realized I really did have something to share about this novel that could be of some value to other readers. What I have to share is perhaps subjective, and probably most readers don't want or need to know about this novel's personal impact on me in order to help them decide whether or not to read Blue Eyed Devil. But what if there is someone who comes across my blog, and what if they have experienced something similar to me, and what if my post is what inspires them to read Blue Eyed Devil? And what if that person reads it, and what if that person is similarly affected by Haven's story? And what if by posting my personal thoughts on Blue Eyed Devil, I was playing a part in helping someone else heal? So I decided to share why and how Blue Eyed Devil is such a special book to me.
As the abusive part of Haven's story unfolds, I began to identify with Haven in an alarming way, as I was subjected to similar abuse in my youth from my father. While my circumstances were slightly different from Haven's--namely that I was a child without choice and the abuse was from a parent and not a chosen partner-- I readily related to Haven's plight and recognized the pattern of Nick's behavior as the same of my father's. As I read the chapters of Haven's abuse, my heart rate elevated and my chest tightened as I identified and empathized so astutely with Haven and her state of desperation. The whole time, I was thinking to myself, "I know how this feels. I know what it's like to fall victim to this kind of manipulative abuse and not be able to get out. I know this." Lisa Kleypas wrote this part of the story so incredibly accurately, which thoroughly impressed me. I was impressed that Ms. Kleypas wrote all aspects of this abusive relationship with such amazing realism. I was also saddened as I was reminded that this kind of abuse exists in the first place and keeps happening to women all over the world.
Tears continuously slipped down my cheeks as I read the chapters of Haven's abusive marriage. I refused to put the book down until I knew she was out of the relationship and on her way to her happily ever after, which I knew would happen. This is a novel by romance author Lisa Kleypas after all. My empathy for Haven was so intense as I read on; I was desperate to find out how she managed to break free from the destructive relationship. I cried tears of relief when Haven started on the road to recovery. I continued to cry tears of sadness for Haven because while I knew that she would heal, I knew it would never be completely, because sadly, you never forget the pain and sorrow. After a time you don't think about it every day or even every week. But it's always a part of you that still puts an ache in your heart.
Then I got to Chapter 5. Haven started going to a therapist and I was given a revelation to my own past that I didn't quite expect. Haven's therapist Susan Byrnes told her that Nick suffers from narcissistic personality disorder or NPD, and proceeded to explain some of what that entails.
"A person with NPD was domineering, blaming, self-absorbed, intolerant of others' needs . . . and they used rage as a control tactic. They didn't respect anyone else's boundaries, which meant they felt entitled to bully and criticize until their victims were an absolute mess."
I can barely explain explain the intense and odd mixture of emotions rushed through me at that point as I learned for the first time that there was an actual clinical diagnosis for people like Nick Tanner and my father. I was a bit stunned, relieved, angry, sad, and . . . interestingly, I felt validated. As if having a name and description for my father's behavior actually brought some logic to the emotional abuse he subjected his family to all those years. At least I now have a little piece of understanding, for which I have Lisa Kleypas to thank.
By now my tears are not just for Haven Travis, but also for myself and anyone else who has suffered abuse by a loved one like this. I know how desolate it feels, and I know how terribly difficult it is to finally end the relationship. To better understand this kind of desolation, consider this quote from Lisa Kleypas, taken from the comments section of Ana's review of Blue Eyed Devil at the Book Smugglers blog just a few days ago:
"One of the experts I consulted told me that most abused wives have no more ability to leave than a young child would have to leave his or her home. It has nothing to do with the victim's intelligence or morality or anything like that . . . it's a mental prison that the abuser creates."
Thankfully, I am also fortunate to know how it feels to be in a healthy relationship and to be a part of a safe, happy, and loving home. I know this because nearly twenty years ago I found the wonderful man who is my husband and the father of my daughters and I'm living the happily ever after that I deserve. Not that everything is perfect . . . but it's pretty close and it's definitely healthy and loving.
Any reader who reads Blue Eyed Devil and can't believe or understand how Haven could remain with Nick for as long as she did is both fortunate and ignorant. They are fortunate simply because their incomprehension suggests they've never known someone who has NPD, they've never been in a relationship with someone with NPD, and they've never been abused by someone whom they trusted and or loved. They are ignorant because the story of Haven's abusive relationship with Nick is written with exceptional realism that I and many many others can attest to first hand.
To any reader who reads Blue Eyed Devil and recognizes themselves as the victim in an abusive relationship, I hope Haven's story of triumph comforts you as it did me. Not only is it comforting to know others know exactly how you feel and its affects on your soul, but it is also reassuring to know that recovery and progress to a better life is possible. I also hope that Haven's story inspires you to seek the support that you need to end the abusive relationship and move forward toward a healthier life. In the author's note at the end of the book, Lisa Kleypas has shared some links to websites that she found to be informative and helpful to understanding abuse and personality disorders.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline and website:
On a final note, I just want to say that as you can imagine, writing this post was rather difficult. I revisited a very sad part of my life, and shared some very personal things about myself that many people may find uncomfortable knowing about. I guess I've taken a risk of sorts by putting this piece of me out there for all the world to see (well, mostly maybe only 20 people?), but my intention is to put this out there in the chance that by sharing this, I may help someone else. What if, right?
I also want to state that I don't want to make you to feel uncomfortable about what I've shared in this post. To the readers of my blog who regularly visit and leave me comments, I know you are all warm, loving people whom I consider friends and I certainly apologize if I've made you uncomfortable. I'm not looking for sympathy and I want you especially to be assured that my experiences with abuse happened a long time ago and while the hurt and sorrow never completely goes away, I'm thankfully in a very happy and healthy place in my life now, forever moving forward. And you know what? Life is good, because I've got my very own version of Hardy Cates . . . in my husband.