Devon Ravenel, along with his younger brother West, are the last of a long line of rakish Ravenels. When their cousin, who neither of the brothers could stand dies, Devon unexpectedly inherits an earldom and the accompanying town house, estate and lands. The brothers show up to survey the inheritance when they discover that their cousin had only been married for three days when he managed to get himself thrown off a high-spirited horse in a fit of the legendary Ravenel temper. He left behind a beautiful widow and three younger sisters, who due to Victorian mourning conventions have barely seen anyone but servants for years.
While the estate is quite rich in land, the former earls also left quite a chunk of debt and no modernisation has been done for decades. Devon wants to sell off as much as he can, but Kathleen, his cousin’s temperamental widow, is appalled that he would abandon his duties and leave all the people depending on him to fend for themselves. She feels he should step up and take responsibility for his new title, estate and dependants and as he falls madly in lust with her the minute they first start arguing, Devon changes his mind and decides to try to save the lands instead. Anything to spend more time with Kathleen, helping her out of her mourning attire and into his bed.
He enlists the aid of his drunken younger brother, who conveniently turns out to have quite the knack for estate management. He convinces Kathleen to stay on as a companion and tutor of sorts to his young cousins, the serene and bookish Lady Helen and the rambunctious and imaginative twins Cassandra and Pandora. As previously mentioned, Devon wants to seduce Kathleen, but her Catholic scruples and her guilt at what she believes was her culpability in the death of her husband makes her remarkably resistant to his rakish charms.
Cold-Hearted Rake is Lisa Kleypas’ first historical romance in five years. The book, which is clearly setting up for a new series, had a lot of people very excited and there were a lot of expectations that needed to be met. Unlike the esteemed Mrs. Julien, whose eloquence on the romance genre puts my humble reviewing efforts to shame, I haven’t read the entirety of Ms. Kleypas’ historical back catalogue, and I tend to rate quite a few other historical authors higher in my general estimation. Yet there is no denying that Ms. Kleypas is one of the greats and has written some wonderful classics. She’s also very good at writing entertaining scoundrels.