I was super excited to read Lisa Kleypas’ new book (and opener of a new series of historical romances) Cold-Hearted Rake. After my last book, I needed something light, refreshing and easy like a romance. Though this wasn’t quite as awesome as some of Kleypas’ past hits, it definitely fit the bill. And it felt appropriate to kick off CBR8 with a romance, as I owe CBR for getting me into them.
Cold-Hearted Rake is the story of Devon Ravenel (the aforementioned ‘rake’), who has just inherited an earldom. Not only are Ravenels cursed with foul tempers, they also rarely outlive their early adulthood; this is why someone as distantly related as Devon now finds himself in charge of an estate in serious debt and disrepair and four young ladies to boot. All of this is unwelcome for Devon and his rakish little brother Weston. One of the young ladies in question is the widow of the former earl, Devon’s much-loathed cousin. Kathleen Ravenel was married to (I’ve forgotten his name so he’s “Cuz” now) for either three days or three weeks, I can’t remember, before he got drunk and fell off a horse he shouldn’t have been riding in the first place and died. While she grieves the husband she didn’t really know or love but feels immense guilt about, Kathleen is inexorably attracted to his cousin Devon. She feels it necessary to uphold all the traditional mourning practices, while the whirlwind that is Devon threatens to unravel it all.
Overall this was a moderately satisfying read. Devon and Kathleen’s inevitable romance is a little overwrought with misunderstandings and cold/hot feelings. Her guilt surrounding Cuz’s death and the big secret about their last fight isn’t really that compelling. The supporting cast, with one exception, is actually far more intriguing and delightful than the main couple here. Cuz had three sisters that are all quite charming. There are rowdy, uncontrollable twins I can’t recall the name of and Helen, a quiet beacon of rationality, elegance and grace. Weston, Devon’s younger brother, is entertaining and lovely in his transformation from drunken lout to buff, sober estate manager (in spirit if not title). The only icky character is Winterbourne, Devon and Weston’s friend who owns a large department store in town. He’s handsome and rich, to be sure, but as he doesn’t originate from landed gentry, he has a huge chip on his shoulder and acts accordingly. There’s a particular episode with Helen (which we’re not really privy to, just hear about in passing) that I hope Kleypas can justify in the next entry in her series, which stars Winterbourne and hopefully will bring about his redemption. She did it with Sebastian, and he’s my favorite Kleypas hero thus far…
P.S. Any time I read this title I get a Paula Abdul song in my head. Shouldn’t affect you if you’re a young one.