30 October 2015
Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas (The Ravenels #1)
Devon Ravenel, London's most wickedly charming rake, has just inherited an earldom. But his powerful new rank in society comes with unwanted responsibilities . . . and more than a few surprises. His estate is saddled with debt, and the late earl's three innocent sisters are still occupying the house . . . along with Kathleen, Lady Trenear, a beautiful young widow whose sharp wit and determination are a match for Devon's own.
A clash of wills . . .
Kathleen knows better than to trust a ruthless scoundrel like Devon. But the fiery attraction between them is impossible to deny—and from the first moment Devon holds her in his arms, he vows to do whatever it takes to possess her. As Kathleen finds herself yielding to his skillfully erotic seduction, only one question remains:
Can she keep from surrendering her heart to the most dangerous man she's ever known?
Much fanfare accompanies the release of Cold-Hearted Rake because it marks the return of Lisa Kleypas to Avon Books for a new historical romance series. We are introduced to a high-spirited, temperamental, somewhat dysfunctional family, the Ravenels.
As Cold-Hearted Rake opens, we are introduced to the dissolute Devon Ravenel (Dev) and his younger brother Weston (West), drunk and sprawled over the furniture. Dev has just had the misfortune to inherit the Trenear earldom from his obnoxious, useless, and now very-dead cousin Theo with whom he never got along and now finds himself in possession of a mountain of debt and an extremely run-down estate. And three teenage cousins. And one widow. As Dev drunkenly whines about how inconvenient the whole, messy thing is and how the widowed Lady Trenear must be awful, Kathleen, Lady Trenear, reveals herself. She has heard the whole thing and gives Dev a piece of her mind. Dev is a right bastard in his response to her and so they arrive at a stalemate of mutual loathing.
Dev, as he starts unraveling the mess his cousin made of the Trenear estate, begins to see the potential in his inheritance. He has never had anything he could work at, nothing that he could create with his own hands and brain (because God-forbid the nobility actually be useful for anything), and realizes that he can become more than just the screw-up poor cousin. For her part, Kathleen wrestles with guilt over her possible association with her husband's death and with the shadow of her strange upbringing. She has never had a family that felt like "family" and now that she has three sisters-in-law and two cousins-in-law (West manages to make himself endearing far before Dev) she might have found the family warmth she had been missing.
Cold-Hearted Rake reminds me of Kleypas's Secrets of a Summer Night (Wallflowers #1) in structure - a lot of plot detail to set up both this book and the coming series, many side-characters (the three younger cousins - Helen, Pandora, and Cassandra - are a delight as is West), and a possible B-plot romance to set up the next book in the series, Marrying Winterbourne. However, there is so much other stuff going on in the book - and a long plot timeline - that we are constantly pulled away from the development of Dev's and Kathleen's romance. Dev is an out-and-out dickweasel to Kathleen at different points in the book, even after they have started to thaw toward one another, and Kathleen, in my opinion, needed a stiffer spine in places. We don't see them grow toward one another over the course of the book so it makes the HEA feel rushed and unconvincing. That's saying something considering Kleypas managed to take St. Vincent, who was more-or-less the villain at the end of It Happened One Autumn and turn him into one of the best romantic heroes in the follow-up, The Devil in Winter. The resolution in Cold-Hearted Rake makes me think Kleypas didn't put her all into Dev and Kathleen. It isn't terrible, it's just not as good as I know it could be (in addition, we never quite find out how Theo managed to screw up so much without anyone knowing about it).
Cold-Hearted Rake is out this week from US retailers!
Dear FTC: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher.