I will try to calm my excitement induced vibrating to write this review. I discovered Lisa Kleypas when I dove into the romance genre in 2012 and read everything of hers I could get my hands on – The Wallflowers, The Hathaways, The Travises, Derek, Gideon, and Zachary. She is the author whose work I have read the most of and I was SO EXCITED to learn she was returning to historicals. How excited? I’m writing this review and the book hasn’t even come out yet. Will it have the trademark smolder? How hot will the [insert funky bass line here] be? Will the hero be sardonic, self-made, and wry? Will he call the heroine “sweetheart” in that way of Kleypas men? Will we get to see any of our favourite characters? Probably. (Answers: some, insufficiently, yes, yes, no)
As is the way of historical romance plots, Devon Ravenel has accidentally inherited an earldom. The last earl died in a horseback riding accident and now Devon and his brother, West, have come to look over the moldering pile of the family estate, the plentiful farmland hanging on despite the ongoing decline in the agrarian economy, and the women of the family, including the erstwhile earl’s beautiful widow, Kathleen. They had been married for only three days when he died. As the oldest member of the household, though not by much, she is acting as head of the family and arbiter of good conduct. Things proceed as well they should.
Cold-Hearted Rake lays a lot of the groundwork for the rest of the series, so much so that it was a challenge balancing that against the love story itself. I would have liked more romance in this romance novel. Devon falls hard and fast, Kathleen takes longer, but their interactions felt episodic as opposed to intrinsic to the story. The supporting characters are reasonably well fleshed out and I look forward to books for Devon’s brother West, their friend Rhys Winterbourne, and Tom Severin. Rhys in particular has been set up with a need for redemption, as there is a scene in which he acts sexually threatening towards the heroine, and he is up next. His conduct represented a couple of elements that I found dated, including West giving Kathleen “the gentlest shake” (a common Kleypas occurrence) and Devon behaving in a very high-handed fashion. I know it’s a historical romance, but certain elements were inconsistent with what I think of as the current state of the genre.
Lisa Kleypas is an autobuy author for me and, despite any disappointment I felt about the lack of couple time and, yes, insufficient sex and smolder, I will purchase the next book as I found the excerpt of Marrying Mr. Winterbourne tantalizing (his redemption is already in the works) and West’s should be a lot of fun as he was absolutely charming (if too easily rehabilitated).
I don’t often include quotes in reviews, but I wanted to share a couple of gems.
“No, he keeps the schedule of a cat. Long hours of slumber interrupted by brief periods of self-grooming.”
“You shouldn’t be in here,” Devon told him. He turned to the room in general. “Has anyone been corrupted or defiled?”
“If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find a tavern where I can pay an under-dressed woman to sit in my lap and look very pleased with me while I drink heavily.”
A complete summary of Lisa Kleypas’s catalogue, with recommendations (two classics and one of my personal favourites), can be found here.