This review contains mild spoilers, but anyone who has ever read romance novels (or simply has a brain) would be able to see them coming from a mile away.
Lisa Kleypas is one of my favorite authors, ever, full stop. Devil in Winter is probably in my top ten favorite books, and the hero, Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, is one of the most swoon-worthy heroes in literature. I bring this up only because I know that Ms. Kleypas has the capacity to write interesting, complicated characters and a satisfying romance. Marrying Winterborne, unfortunately, is not one of them. I rounded the review up to 3 stars (since I can’t give 2.5) because the first third of the book was great.
The basic story is that Rhys Winterborne – self-made man – is obsessed with Helen Ravenel, and in the first book in this series (the also disappointing Cold-Hearted Rake) they became engaged to marry before Helen’s sister-in-law took it upon herself to call the marriage off for Helen. This book begins with their engagement resuming. Apparently the author realized that with the H/h already re-engaged to marry, she needed to add some more conflict to the story to flesh it out into a full novel, and so we get a completely unimaginative sub-plot wherein Helen learns that her real father is Rhys’ sworn enemy. She resolves to reveal all to Rhys, but numerous other characters tell her she is making a mistake by being honest, and so she holds her tongue for the rest of the novel.
I said the beginning of this book was great, and I feel that is because it focused exclusively on the relationship between Helen and Rhys. Once the secret father “twist” was added, the story began to feel so contrived my eyes practically rolled out of my head. There are way too many coincidences in this book, which as I indicated before, just baffles me because I know this author can write interesting stories that feel natural to the time period and the characters. The trope of the hero who is obsessed with the heroine is one that Ms. Kleypas has visited many times in the past, and almost always to great effect. The transition from obsession to genuine affection is missing from this iteration, however. By focusing so much on the secret Helen was trying to keep away from Rhys, I think the author detracted from the actual romance; I simply never quite understood exactly why they fell in love with each other. Rutting in every available dark corner does not a romance make.
I would recommend reading Dreaming of You, Worth Any Price, or Seduce Me at Sunrise if you want to read a similar set-up, that is actually, well, good.