The best (or at least my favorite) romance novel I have ever read is Lisa Kleypas’ Devil in Winter. It features Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, the best rake ever, and Evangeline Jenner, a wonderful wallflower. Their unlikely union was apparently a fruitful one and now Kleypas has picked Sebastian and Evie’s son Gabriel to star in the third of her new series on the Ravenels, Devil in Spring. Gabriel is much like his father in many ways – incredibly good looking, experienced with the ladies, smart and cunning. Our heroine is Pandora Ravenel, who had guest-starring roles in the first two novels in the series and now gets her chance to shine.
The novel opens with Pandora at a ball at the beginning of The Season, sitting in the corner and avoiding dancing and small talk, just as she prefers. Pandora is different from everyone else. She is quirky, tells the truth no matter what, and has no desire to get married. Her only dream is to start and run her own board game business. She’s mostly there; her brother-in-law has agreed to stock her shopping game in his department store in time for the holidays. She just has to hope for success and more ideas and then she won’t NEED to get married. While doing a favor for a friend, however, she (in what we learn is classic Pandora fashion) gets her dress caught in a settee and cannot escape without ripping it open. Along comes Gabriel, who cannot help but be amused by this weird young woman who happens to also be quite attractive. Fortuitously for this couple, a few party goers happen along and catch Gabriel and Pandora, alone WITHOUT A CHAPERONE and per the rules of society, now Gabriel must marry Pandora or she’ll be ruined forever, and so will her family. While at first both parties resist this arrangement, Gabriel comes around to the idea when he realizes he can’t think about anything but Pandora. Pandora, however, still refuses to accept. Most of the novel is spent with Gabriel trying to figure out how to convince Pandora he respects her need for independence and agree to marry him. The rest covers a brief but fun foray into danger when Pandora stumbles into some things she shouldn’t and finds herself in a situation no one expected for her.
I really enjoyed this installment, much more than the previous one (Marrying Winterbourne I think was the title). Pandora is so much fun and while in the earlier novels I thought Kleypas was writing her as a bit on the spectrum, we find out quickly that she has a sad reason for the strange behavior she often exhibits in the dark or relating to her ears. Pandora is so naive and sheltered that she is refreshingly honest about everything she does and doesn’t know. She and Gabriel’s first sexual encounters are more interesting than the usual virgin-knows-nothing sort. She doesn’t apologize often for who she is though she is fully aware if she were to conform more life might be easier for her. Gabriel for his part is also a great hero, much like his father. He is flawed, sure, but he is honorable, honest and really really really good looking, so that helps. His biggest flaw seems to be that he is super into sex and has the appetite of a sex addict. Thankfully there are just enough sex scenes. Not too many, not too few. The final third of the book dealing with the threats to Pandora’s safety is probably less interesting than the courtship itself. Not that it feels out of place – you get the impression Pandora will always accidentally find herself somewhere she shouldn’t be, hopefully with less dire consequences – just that it’s less compelling to me. I think a fourth installment regarding a mysterious potentially bastard Ravenel and a lady doctor is coming next month, I look forward to it!