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When Strangers Marry

So Lysette runs away. Lysette is found in the bayous by Justin and Phillipe Vallerand, the teenage sons of Maximilien Vallerand, a wealthy Creole planter. When Maximilien finds out that she is betrothed to Sagasse, he plans to use her as an instrument of revenge. When she was found dead, suspicion fell on Maximilien. Because there was no evidence, and because he was a Vallerand, Maximilien was not charged, but he is still under suspicion by society.

They refer to him as the Devil.

Series: Vallerands

When Maximilien finds out who Lysette is, he plans to make her his mistress. She would be ruined, but most importantly, Sagasse would be shamed and his honor would be forever besmirched. However, Lysette is much more strong-minded than the average meek Creole woman and rebuffs him. Still Maximilien might have gone on with his plan, except Lysette comes down with yellow fever, and Maximilien nurses her. What Maximilien did not plan was that he would fall in love with Lysette.

She is not meek and compliant, and she is not beautiful, yet he finds himself taken with her intelligence, her spirit, and most importantly, her total belief in his innocence. Maximilien is a wonderful hero. He has all the characteristics of a Creole gentleman of his time — the touchy pride, the sense of honor, adherence to the code duello, and yes, the belief in male superiority. But he is forward-looking in a society that is bound to traditional ways.

Maximilien, unlike his neighbors, can see that times are changing. He has started a shipping business, despite the horror of his neighbors. Unlike them, Maximilien is not afraid to soil his hands with trade.

When Strangers Marry (Vallerands, #1) by Lisa Kleypas

He speaks English, he works with the American governor of Louisiana, William Claiborne, and even makes plans to free his slaves. Lysette is the perfect partner for Maximilien. She has red hair and freckles instead of the black hair and pale complexion of the ideal Creole lady. She is also forthright and not demure.

Nothing could or would come of it, of course. However, she found it interesting, all the same.

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A touch of heat rose in her face, and she averted her gaze hastily. In despair, she had been packing her belongings to move back in with her mother. She was one of the most beautiful women in New Orleans, and he had long admired her. Mariame had been openly astonished by his offer to become her protector. In New Orleans, there were countless beautiful young girls, most of them of mixed blood, who were trained to become mistresses of the wealthy Creole planters and businessmen who could afford to keep them. Max had laughed at her comment. Name your terms, Mariame— I want you too badly to quibble over details.

She had heard the ugly rumors about Vallerand, and had long wondered about their truth. In the eight years since then, Mariame had never regretted her choice. Max was a tender lover, a generous provider, and a caring friend. Although he had taken care never to sire any children by her, he had paid for her son to be educated in Paris. The jewels and clothes he had given her through the years would be enough to keep her in luxury for the rest of her life, and she had no doubt that when he ended their relationship, he would give her an extravagant settlement.

Because Max had been kind to Mariame, she had resolved never to stand in the way of anything he wanted. When he decided to break things off between them, she would let him go without protest.

When Strangers Marry (Only Vallerands #1)

She had no wish to chain him to her, and she had wisely avoided falling in love with him. Lean-bodied and tall, she found it an easy task to rise on her toes and brush her lips against his. However, tonight Max did not respond as she had expected. He was unusually preoccupied, troubled about something. Mariame settled comfortably on the sofa beside him, her long, sleek legs dangling carelessly over one of his thighs.

She handed him a snifter of brandy. Mariame shrugged. Max gave her a sardonic glance, realizing that the rumors had spread even more quickly than he had expected. Her playful fingers stilled on the edge of his shoulder. How odd that the girl should come to you, of all people, for refuge. What are you going to do?

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Her smooth forehead creased with concern. I know that you would stop at nothing to repay Sagesse for what he did all those years ago. But you would come to regret it if you resorted to abusing an innocent in your care. Was this, perhaps, the first sign that his interest in her was waning? I would be quite successful at it.

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Right now I find your company far more diverting than that of my friends, who bring the same gossip to chew over week after week. You must tell me all about your mother, and about your friends in Natchez, and about your beaux. My sister and I were not allowed to have beaux. In fact, we seldom associated with even our male cousins or relatives. But it was that way with me. I never read a newspaper until after I was married.

I knew nothing of the outside world. Oh, how I begged them to take me back home! I did not want to be a wife at all, much less the wife of a Vallerand. Victor was a big bear of a man, and very intimidating. I was terrified of what he would require of me.

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Intrigued, Lysette set down her cup. I soon fell deeply in love with him. The Vallerand men are deceptive, you see. Outwardly they are quite masterful and arrogant. However, when managed by the right woman, a Vallerand will go to any lengths to please her. In your opinion, did she manage him properly?