Tag Archives: historical novel

The Ravenels: Devil’s Daughter – The Ravenels Meet the Wallflowers by Lisa Kleypas

The Ravenels series by Lisa Kleypas series has turned into “Sebastian and Evie’s Kids Get Hitched” and I am not complaining, Devil’s Daughter has the trademark Kleypas elements of wit, charm, a compelling hero, and delightful smolder. I’m just going to  assume you are familiar with all of the books and characters that feed into this one. 

Readers first met Phoebe, Lady Clare, as a squalling infant in one of my favourite Sebastian, Lord Saint Vincent moments from any of his appearances: “There, darling,” St. Vincent had been known to coo into the infant’s ear. “Has someone displeased you? Ignored you? Oh, the insolence. My poor princess shall have anything she wants…” 

Phoebe has grown up, married, had children, and been widowed by our next encounter with her. She’s stayed with her parents for two years while she grieves and is about to move back to her son’s estate and start dowagering for all she ‘s worth. She just needs to get through her brother’s wedding at her sister-in-law’s family estate which is managed by [cue trumpets] West Ravenel.

First introduced as a dissolute charmer, West was a spoiled and bored man-child who found unexpected redemption in a purpose in life. His is the book I have most looked forward to in the series and Kleypas has done very well here. Phoebe is instantly impressed by West as a lovely bit o’crumpet, but soon recognizes him as the bully who beset her husband at school. He’s sorry, she forgives, he performs protestations of unworthiness, and the dance begins. Sebastian makes frequent appearances remaining perfect into his sixties. Evie is around, too, being all serene, maternal, and irresistible to her husband.

I don’t know if Kleypas was consciously responding to criticisms of the previous Ravenel entries, but Devil’s Daughter is BY FAR the best of the bunch and most successfully abandons the outdated tropes in the four previous novels. Any problems I had investing in the story  because of disappointment brought with me from the previous installments, was likely entirely my issue and not the story or writing. Sebastian and West are a bit too idealized, but Kleypas is gonna Kleypas. It’s a genre based on hot men and wish fulfillment, and, let’s be honest, I am going to keep buying her books. This is was the first book in the series I have revisited or exclaimed “YAY!” at the end of.

I would love to visit more of the Wallflowers, surely I’m not the only one who would gladly climb Simon Hunt like a tree, but there is another Ravenel daughter who is up next with a mystery man and ruthless, self-made gazillionaire Tom Severin. He’s floated on the periphery in Ravenels books and even his closest friends don’t trust him so it should be interesting.  I’m getting a Harry Rutledge/Tempt Me at Twilight vibe from him and that is very promising.

Captious Aside: There is no way on God’s Green Earth that Sebastian would allow himself to be called “Gramps”.

Ravenels Series:

  1. Cold-Hearted Rake – I can’t remember anything about it. Wait! She has dark hair.
  2. Marrying Winterbourne – Self-made man who  physically intimidates his beloved.
  3. Devil in Spring – Best to this point, but there’s a scene of questionable consent.
  4. Hello Stranger – Dated tropes

A complete summary of Lisa Kleypas’s catalogue, with recommendations (two classics and one of my personal favourites), can be found here. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful or my  streamlined recommendations list.

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Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati

Before I continue to catch up on reviewing books I read last year, I want to take a moment to thank my ones of loyal readers who have all been waiting so patiently for more posts; silently and without interruption, or page views of the site to disturb my concentration, ignoring my blog completely to make sure I felt no pressure, going about your lives as though my sporadic reviews all of books in exactly the same genre are not the fulcrum of your very existence, and now you will be rewarded with a cursory and uninspired review of a book I liked well enough: Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati.

From Amazon: (Proof! “Cursory”. I’m not even going to write my own plot summary.)

When Elizabeth Middleton, twenty-nine years old and unmarried, leaves her Aunt Merriweather’s comfortable English estate to join her father and brother in the remote mountain village of Paradise on the edge of the New York wilderness, she does so with a strong will and an unwavering purpose: to teach school. (This is really just the first chapter or so.)

It is December of 1792 when she arrives in a cold climate unlike any she has ever experienced. And she meets a man different from any she has ever encountered–a white man dressed like a Native American, tall and lean and unsettling in his blunt honesty. He is Nathaniel Bonner, also known to the Mohawk people as Between-Two-Lives. (Hero alert!)

The first book in a larger series, Into the Wilderness is a historical novel in the vein of Outlander – a comparison the author no doubt finds tiresome – but without all that pesky time travel. A grand adventure and a great romance, the heroine is building a new life for herself in a strange country.  Elizabeth has been thrown into new cultures, both one that looks a lot like what she left behind in England and another that is completely new and foreign, plus there’s an attractive young man in the area. The hero is capable, stalwart, and other handy to have around frontiery things.  Nathaniel and Elizabeth take an instant interest in each other and manage to triumph over all machinations, travails, and travel (but not time travel as was previously clarified), to be together.

Historical books of the romantical variety can fall one side or tother of the verisimilitude divide and the ones which feel realistic are my preference. Most romances I read are not of the epic, multi-tome variety and I enjoy the plunge into detail that books like this one provide. I want to know everything: What are their clothes made of?  Who knit their socks? What are their pillows stuffed with? Did they even have pillows? How long does it take to travel? Where did they get the yeast for the bread? and so on. I can’t get enough of that kind of thing, but while I enjoyed this book, I had virtually no interest in the rest of the series in which the story continues for several more books, its chronology jumping ahead years at a time and Elizabeth and Nathaniel’s story takes a back seat to that of their family. Into the Wilderness was a consistently entertaining read, but, like that other series I can’t seem to help/am unwilling to stop comparing it to, the plot could be a bit Perils of Pauline as Elizabeth moves from adventure to crisis to challenge and back again.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by writer or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.