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I was all set for Lisa Kleypas's release day: I had to kids washed, brushed, and read for bed by7, and we said our prayers by 8. I knew I'd read this book in one sitting and gave myself 2.5 hours to do so: The plan was to start at 830 and be done by 11.
Silly me. I ended up finishing at 1 o'clock in the morning, not because the book was overlong, but because the book was excellent, and I was afraid for the experience to end. So I lingered and read, and reread some passages, and then paused -- anything to stretch out the wonderful feeling that comes from reading a Lisa Kleypas book.
And this is the Lisa Kleypas book her historical romance fans have waited patiently for, and, pardon the cliche, but it was well worth the wait.
Kleypas has done odd-couple pairings before, with tremendous success, and this one is no different, but there's a freshness and snap to this Kleypas book that I am enjoying. Devon Ravenel has just inherited an earldom, and a massive debt that his predecessors amassed. He is a man of modest income and equally modest ambitions, so this windfall and change in his circumstance is definitely unwelcome and unwated. It doesn't help that he and the former Earl, his cousin, Theo, weren't really friendly with one another. Devon intends to find a way to break the entail, sell off all the properties, and wash his hands of all business pertaining to his late cousin -- and this includes his cousin's three sisters, and his widow.
Unfortunately, the widow accidentally overhears Devon's ruthless plans for the estate, and it's dislike at first sight. Kathleen knew her days at Eversby Priory are numbered with the coming of the new Earl, and she had already made some plans for herself and her sisters-in-law, but she hadn't expected the new Earl to be so enthusiastic about getting rid of them.
"My condolences for your loss," he said.
"My congratulations for your gain."
- loc 116
Devon and Kathleen are left to clean up a mess that was not of their making. It's ice meets fire as our hero and heroine clash over everything. Never have two people been so completely at odds with each other in all aspects, except one: they find themselves irresistibly attracted to the other. It's a difficult attraction because Kathleen is newly-widowed, and Devon isn't really in any position and doesn't really have the time or resources to pursue anything with Kathleen.
Dear God ... he wanted her beyond decency.
- loc 877
With an old, mouldering estate of tens of thousands of acres, a hundred or so families depending on him, and a debt that had grown larger and more impossible to pay off over several years, Devon desperately wishes he could return to his normal life, but he also can't ignore the needs of everyone who have depended on Eversby Priory and the Davenel family for their livelihood. Devon also can't ignore Kathleen, who is as vibrant, and as intelligent as she is beautiful.
The Ravenel Family, as we've read in the book, are a family of extreme passion and Kleypas captures very well the intensity of the emotions of every character. There is a wonderful dynamic in this hodge-podge of a family, and I love how the author weaves their lives together. This is not a perfectly harmonious family, but one with a lot of squabbling and differences, but, at the end of the day, they work around their differences. The bulk of the story is really focused on how to save the estate, and I have to admit to being excited as Devon and West and Kathleen work (grudgingly) together for the "greater good" -- Kleypas is very good to highlight the small issues (individual tenants) and the bigger issues, and how difficult it really was to manage such a large estate.
I love how one event (inheriting the earldom) changes not only Devon, but everyone else around him. I particularly liked Weston -- he reminded me a bit of Gideon Shaw from Kleypas's Again The Magic, but there's fight in Weston (wherein Gideon had already surrendered to his vices) --
..."Did you think that we were going to go through life completely unaltered?" he asked. "That we would occupy ourselves with nothing but selfish pleasures and trivial amusements?"
"I was counting on it!"
"Well, the unexpected happened. Don't trouble yourself over it; I've asked nothing of you."
West's aggression weathered down to a core of resentment. He approached the desk, turned, and hoisted himself up with effort to sit next to Devon. "Maybe you should, you stupid bastard."
- loc 1270 to 1281
Kleypas also features Helen, and the twins, Cassandra and Pandora, sisters of the late earl, who happen to be very fascinating young ladies. Devon again shows his cold, calculating self as he arranges a match between Helen, and his friend, Rhys Winterborne, a wealthy, self-made man and owner of the Winterborne Department Store. Despite the class difference, Devon is being pragmatic, viewing the match as advantageous for both: Helen gives Rhys the social acceptance he needs, and Rhys provides the family money. Whether one would see it as a convenience or as fate, Rhys and Helen's relationship grow beyond what even Devon had planned for them -- but, of course there are obstacles and complications, and we will read about how they resolve it in Marrying Mr. Winterborne, the second book in the Ravenel Family series.
Cold-Hearted Rake is book 1 in Lisa Kleypas's new historical romance series on the Ravenel Family. To find out more about Lisa Kleypas and her books, click below: