Lisa Kleypas has written so many books that I loved that maybe I was anticipating this one too much! It didn’t live up to my lofty expectations. Not that it was colossally bad, but my attention wandered as I read, I found myself skimming parts, and the romance I expected was lack luster.
Devon Ravenel is the rake of this story, and as rakes are wont to do he enjoys his life of wine, women and debauchery. Then his cousin dies, leaving him with an earldom and an estate that is in bad shape. His brother, West, is just as rakish and the pair of them don’t want any part of these responsibilities. He also plans never to marry, as his family has always been noted for their violent tempers and early deaths.
Kathleen, Lady Trenear, is the widow of his cousin, and she is determined to keep the estate in one piece, for the sake of her sisters-in-law. She is also maintaining deep mourning, even though she was only married for 3 days before her husband died tragically. She’s been raised that pleasure is a sin, and wasn’t prepared for the intimacies of marriage so her mourning seems rather over the top.
They meet, and instantly despise each other. He alternately patronizes her, lusts after her, and tosses off cruel comments about her, in her presence:
“West, are we quite certain that Cousin Theo perished in a fall?” he asked coolly. “It seems far more likely that he froze to death in the marital bed.”
West chuckled, not above the enjoyment of a malicious quip.
Another quote of his sums up his feelings:
“Lady Trenear and I are correct in our assessments of each other. I am a scoundrel, and she is a heartless bitch who’s entirely capable of looking after herself.”
Eventually, the sexual attraction pulls them together, and there are some very steamy encounters as he shows her that pleasure can be a good thing. Yet, I never felt the real romance between them, as I usually do with Ms Kleypas’ hero/heroine. Devon is a pale imitation of Sebastian, Lord St Vincent (Devil in Winter), or Derek Craven (Dreaming of You), two of my favorite Kleypas characters. I felt that West showed more growth as a character. He spends more time with Kathleen, getting to know the estate and its tenants. He cares about them, in ways that Devon doesn’t seem to. There also seemed to be more chemistry between West and Kathleen, to be honest.
Adding to my frustration, the side story with Helen (Devon’s cousin) and Winterborne (Devon’s friend), took up far too much space in this book. I understand that their relationship needed set up for the next book, but I wasn’t that interested in their saga at this point.
So by the last chapter, I still didn’t feel the love. Devon was still treating her like a possession, after she confronts Winterborne about Helen:
Turning his attention to Kathleen, he pointed to the doorway.
She didn’t like being commanded as if she were a disobedient poodle. When he was in this state, however, she decided it was better not to provoke him. Reluctantly, she started forward.
This is close to the end of the book, and he’s giving me pause that he’s not any different than he was in chapter one. And then, in a turnaround so quick it should have given him whiplash, things are wrapped up with kisses and promises of happily ever after…really?
The epilogue didn’t give me any fuzzy feelings about their future either, as it focused on the next couple instead. Oh, I know, epilogues can be over the top with depictions of dimpled babies and doting spouses, but it just felt wrong not to give a bit more closure. Unless we get a glimpse into Devon and Kathleen’s life in the next book, I’m feeling disappointed with where it ended.