This book a nice return to form for Lisa Kleypas. She is one of my top two favorite historical authors, and the last book (Cold Hearted Rake) was a huge let down. This is the second book in the Ravenel series, and I’m liking the Victorian setting.
The set up for this story in Rake was that Helen Ravenel is a very sheltered, slightly fragile young woman looking to *maybe* break out of her shell. Rhys Winterborne (in the vein of many Kleypas heroes) is a self-made man who has pulled himself up in society through hard work and force of personality. Helen wants to marry Rhys to get out of her sheltered existence and she finds him intriguing. Rhys wants to marry Helen because she is beautiful and sweet and the daughter of an earl, which will improve his social standing. This is NOT the story told in Marrying Winterborne. I mean, it *is* the story told because everything I stated is still true, but it’s not what happens with the story.
Kleypas set up what I thought was going to be a class conflict story where the leads also learn more about themselves through the course of their relationship. Nope! By basically the end of the first chapter Helen has become pretty strong-willed and confident and Rhys sees Helen as a person rather than a means to an end. So, that conflict was off the table. Okay, I can roll with that.
Then, since the hero and heroine seem to really be connecting easily, I expect this book to be about the two of them fighting against the outside opinions of the world and Helen finding her footing in this new life. Rhys has built a department store empire, and the descriptions of the store and what he knows of running it are fascinating. I wanted more of that, and I wanted the two of them banding together to fight off judgmental society. If that had been the story it would have been an A+ one for me since I really liked both Helen and Rhys. This was not to be.
Instead, there is suddenly DRAMA thrown in with a secret from Helen’s past. I cannot remember if this was set up in Rake, but it is boring. There was so much potential with the story I outlined in my last paragraph. In the hands of a master like Kleypas the subtleties of that conflict would have been wonderful. Instead we get contrived melodrama and much less interaction between Helen and Rhys as she tries to hide things from him.
Great things about this book: both leads are very likeable and there is an awesome lady doctor who I am praying gets her own book (and please let it be with Ransom Ms. Kleypas!). After the dreadful first outing I am back to being excited for the rest of this series and have already pre-ordered the next book that doesn’t come out until February 2017. 🙁