Lisa Kleypas can produce drool worthy men!
So, I just finished reading my third Lisa Kleypas book in a row and all I can say is, boy does Lisa Kleypas create some really sinfully, hunky heroes. I would continue reading more of her books, but there are other authors calling my name. Maybe later.
After I finished with my Derek Craven adventure I decided to read the first book in the Gambler series, Then Came You, and then the semi-sequel, Devil in Winter, which has Evangeline Jenner featured as the heroine. Jenner is the daughter of Ivo Jenner, a character from Dreaming of You. Devil in Winter is also part of the Wallflowers series. I'm so confused; I feel as if I'm looking at a ancestral chart for the royal families of Europe...so many connections.
Let's start with Then Came You, which introduces us to Lily Lawson as a heroine who seems to be bored with life, and like many people bored with life she overcompensates by being just a tad bit wild. At least that is the persona she presents to society. Then there is Alex Raiford, a rather uptight, cold man with tons and tons of responsibility dumped onto his shoulders. He is not at all impressed with his first glimpse of the frivolous Lily ...probably because she jumps into the stinky Thames to retrieve her bonnet. There is a reason Alex is disdainful of Lily and that is because his much loved fiancée fell and broke her neck in a hunting accident after not heeding his advice.
Then Came You is a perfect tale of two people who seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. Silly Lily and stodgy Alex, although I have to say somehow Kleypas' stodgy guys are really quite hot. Anyway, when these two get together it's immediate firework time. The bickering and bantering is a joy to read. This book is filled with some really strong characters, especially Derek Craven, who almost steals the show.
I noticed when I read these particular Kleypas books that even though there is some kind of nefarious activity going on in all three of the stories, it is really the romance between the two main characters that fills the pages. In this book, Lily's daughter has been kidnapped and even though she is upset, for most of the book her emotional upheaval is because she is overwhelmed with her feelings for Alex. The missing child is very much a background story, which may have been just a little bit of an issue with me. I found myself questioning whether Lily wouldn't have been more upset than she was portrayed in this story. And, would a mother of a missing child have found time for the hot romance found in this book? The other issue I had was the very fast solution to the nefarious villain; it was almost an afterthought. Because the romance was so strong in this book, I wondered if the plot of the kidnapped child was even needed.
Regardless of the kidnap issue, this is a very strong book, a great companion piece to Dreaming of You and if you haven't read it yet, you really should.
Time/Place: 1820 England
On to Devil in Winter. Devil in Winter is connected a bunch of other Kleypas stories and it's up to you just what order your going to read them in. I read this one because it is connected to Then Came You through the secondary character of Ivo Jenner. However, both the heroine Evangeline and the hero Sebastian are secondary characters in It Happened One Autumn. It is Sebastian who steals the show in this book, and what we have in his character is a romance novel redeemed villain. You see, in It Happened One Autumn, he is the bad guy. I will be honest, I didn't reread It Happened One Autumn so I don't remember how bad he was, but from the clues given in this book he must have been a real stinker. I should go back and read that one again too - later - later. Too many books, too little time.
Anyway, Sebastian is a pretty fascinating man. He is truly a bad boy in need of a heroine. He is one of those manly romance novel men that I, as a reader, wonder how he made it to thirty-two without contracting a disease. According to him, he's been careful. When this story begins he is nursing some wounds from his failed kidnapping of the heroine from the previous book when who should arrive on his doorstep but our heroine Evangeline, or Evie, as she is called through most of the book.
Sebastian is in need of some cash and Evie has a deal to make him. You see, she is one of those heroines with horrible relatives and she needs a husband to rescue her from their nefarious plans. She's looking for a man who isn't afraid of anyone and who has loose morals, hence Sebastian. They strike a bargain and are off on a race to Scotland to get married. Well, it doesn't take long for the insufferable Sebastian to fall - one of my favorite themes in romance is the debauched rake who stumbles through the love of a good woman. Devil in Winter is one of the better examples of a stumbling rake - I loved Sebastian's struggle with his emotions.
Evie is a great partner for Sebastian. There is more to Evie than just someone who is horribly shy and has a stammer. Underneath it all, she's quite a strong person, dare I say stubborn. While Sebastian says some pretty hurtful things to her, she doesn't let them subdue her for very long. In fact, in most of their encounters it is Sebastian who learns the lessons.
There is also a very funny wedding scene involving a Scottish blacksmith with a rather heavy brogue - a chuckle escaped me during Evie and Sebastian's wedding.
All in all, this was another very satisfying read and I highly recommend Devil in Winter, along with Then Came You and Dreaming of You. There were also numerous secondary characters who have books of their own and I must reread them. Let me say once again, I am very glad Ms. Kleypas is returning to historical romance; I'm sure we have some future manly men waiting for us to drool over.
Time/Place: England 1843