November 16, 2015
"I see you shiver with antici…pation." Dr. Frank N. Furter
Remember what you were doing the day Lisa Kleypas left behind writing historical
romances? Me neither. However, I do remember feeling a sense of loss because I always considered her to be one of the "big momma's" of historical writing. I wondered how I would fill the void. Afterall, she is responsible for one of my alllll time favorite heroes: Derek Craven. As in all things, there were plenty of up-and-coming authors to take her place. Even with all those newcomers bringing us joy, I was filled with an-tic-i-pat-ion when I learned that Ms. Kleypas was writing another historical romance series. You know, the word anticipation is a funny word. According to Webster it means: "A feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen; the act of preparing for something." It doesn't necessarily mean something pleasurable, it could also mean something vexing. So when I learned that Lisa Kleypas was lifting her pen/pencil/keyboard again into the historical romance genre I was pleased, which was followed quickly by a "what if her return fails like a number of other big authors who have left historicals only to return with a less than stellar performance?" For all those months of waiting I kept my fingers crossed. Contrary to what you may believe, I do want alllll authors to succeed.
Cold-Hearted Rake is the beginning of the Cold-Hearted Rake series. (I counted three other rakes in the book. Madame Zoltar predicts three sequels.) This one contains our hero Devon Ravenel, Earl of Trenear, and his brother West. Devon is not a happy camper. He didn't want all the responsibility that inheriting stuff brings with it. He was totally happy wasting away on drunken binges with his brother. Not only has he inherited an estate which is worth nothing, but included in the package of things he doesn't want are the late Earl's widow and three sisters.
The heroine of this piece is the Earl's widow, Kathleen. Kathleen is trying to hold everything together: the estate, the sisters, and the people who reside on the estate trying to eke out a living. When Devon and West pay a visit to the estate with the intent to sell the whole thing, it isn't long before Kathleen and Devon are at each others throat.
Devon is sorry Kathleen thinks he's a cad because he wants her. She on the other hand can't stand Devon, considers him to be pretty much a low-life like her husband was. Then Devon goes to London and leaves West in charge of surveying the estate. Of course, while he's away he cannot stop thinking about her.
Here's the deal - I had a problem with Devon leaving. I loved the secondary character of West, thought he was quite witty and am looking forward to his book, in my opinion he stole the show. In fact, I was more interested in almost all of the secondary characters. They were all charming and there was some terrific character building in preparation for the next book. But, this book was supposed to be a romance about Kathleen and Devon and I couldn't feel any of it.
Sure, the words were what one would expect when reading a Kleypas book, but this story didn't come anywhere close emotionally to some of her crowning achievements. I have come to expect more from this particular author and was disappointed that after so long of a wait the finished product wasn't what I expected.
I found Devon to be pretty close to being a bonehead hero, a high-maintenance bonehead who does come around in the end. He unnecessarily insults Kathleen, says things to her that are supposed to be funny but are just downright rude. He's has a mean streak, that really doesn't ever seem to be under control by the end of the book. The struggle between Devon and Kathleen was tiring. I had a hard time believing that these two people could ever fall in love. There was just not enough time spent on Devon and Kathleen to make this a compelling romance. The HEA seemed a little rushed and I was irritated that it only took the words "I love you" for Kathleen to accept Devon.
Bottom line. I'm delighted Ms. Kleypas is back writing historical romances and I'm looking forward to the others in this series. If you've never read Lisa Kleypas, I would suggest you start with one of her older novels, Dreaming of You. Cold-Hearted Rake is a good prequel to the next book in the series, but as a romance between Devon and Kathleen it fails.
Time/Place: 1875 England