I had super high hopes for this book, and it just didn’t live up to them. While reading it I thought that it was the best in the series so far, but on reflection, it’s now tied with Marrying Winterborne (though it ends up with a lower grade because I am trying to be stricter with myself on grading and be slightly less generous).
Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, is the heir to a dukedom and a young man-about-town who is enjoying the finer things in life. He stumbles upon Pandora Ravenel, stuck behind a lounge in the summer house at a party. He chivalrously assists her out. Meanwhile their host hears her calling for help and finds them shortly thereafter, quite disheveled. Having been raised ‘properly’, Gabriel immediately offers to marry Pandora. Pandora is not a typical debutante, but a young woman who is in the process of starting her own business and never intends to marry because she does not want to give up her legal rights to a man. Gabriel invites Pandora and her family to his family’s country house for a week to try and convince her that they should get married.
Sebastian and Evie from Devil in Winter are one of Kleypas’ most beloved couples. Not one of my personal favorites (and I did reread that one last year, so it’s fresh in my mind), but they are wildly popular otherwise. The hero of this book, Gabriel, Sebastian and Evie’s son. He is practically perfect in every way. Handsome, chivalrous, and beloved by all. His two “issues” (I use this term *very* lightly) are that he is just expected to be SO perfect and good at everything all the time and it is a burden (cry me a river pretty, rich boy), and he has a bitchy ex-mistress in the wings (don’t they all?). Honestly, I would have been happier to just have him be ‘perfect’ rather than these annoying little things to humanize him.
Overall, Gabriel’s best characteristic was how understanding and accepting he was of Pandora, because she is the actual interesting character in this book. In the two prior books in the series we learned that Pandora was raised in the country away from the outside world and basically allowed to run wild. She is not comfortable in society, but that appears to be both from her upbringing as well as just who she is as a person. She is easily distracted and often in her own world and not paying attention to what is going on around her. She is the type of character who is charming in books, but I suspect would be absolutely exhausting in real life. Pandora is creating her own line of board games, and not only has she been doing the development, but she also wants to run the production of the games. She is justifiably worried about getting married as she will have to give up all legal rights to her games and any income she would make off of them. She is also concerned about a husband not letting her run the business and expecting her to fill a traditional role. Addressing these realities for women is where this book really made an impact.
Random final thoughts: This was not as much a marriage of convenience plot as I originally expected. Gabriel and Pandora decide they want to be together before the marriage takes place. I think some of my recent issues with Kleypas revolve around her reliance on chemistry between the characters to solve all of their problems. She does write great chemistry most of the time, but this was one where (despite Gabriel being great for her) I actually wanted Pandora to decide to remain her own woman (read: legal entity) and not get married.
I still stand by Lisa Kleypas being one of the greats, but I just don’t know if I’ll be pre-ordering her next book. I mean, I probably will, because even when a particular book is not her best, it’s still better than a lot of junk out there, but I won’t be hopping up and down excited about it (unless is it about Garrett and Ethan). She was the last author I was buying in hard copy, and I think that might also be out the window. It’s the end of an era.