Salute to Kleypas
Have I told you how much I love Lisa Kleypas? I seriously adore her. I know that I made a brief mention of her series, The Hathaways in my 2017 Year in Review post and made a reference to the fabulous audio book versions of her Ravenel series, but that is simply not enough to do her justice. I recently went on a deep reread in preparation for her newest release, Devil’s Daughter. Join me for this joyous journey through some of my favorite historical romance.
Let me preface this by saying that I have yet to read any of her contemporary offerings, I’ll get to them eventually, but after spending most of last year in that genre I’m thoroughly enjoying being back in the historical romance world.
Kleypas has the knack for balancing banter, romance, and just the right amount of drama. Her books are very well researched and it shows, her world feels real. On occasion, she does take artistic license with history, but she always follows it up with an author’s note at the end, explaining where she took liberties and gives the historical facts. She often includes a recipe for a food which has been referenced as part of the story, which I find very amusing. Her Victorian England feels so real because she truly has created her own world. Although all of her historical books are not one huge series, characters from other books tend to pop up in person or in reference, which makes everything feel related and cohesive. I especially love when the elusive Lord Westcliff makes an appearance, you know I love a brooder turned happily in love family man. Interestingly, especially for the genre, many of the Kleypas heroes are working professional men, very successful and wealthy, but untitled.
Let’s do this chronologically. I know that I read The Gamblers of Craven’s and that I really like them both, but I’ve only read them once and they were so many books ago that I can’t really remember what happened. I did give both of them 4 Stars though, so I still recommend them!
I gave the Bow Street Runners series another read. They are very fun and exciting. The first book concerns mistaken identity, amnesia, and a murder plot. The second is about a woman bent on revenge, who then falls for the man she is supposed to be ruining. The third is about a long missing Viscount and a runaway bride, plus we meet Lord Westcliff for the first time (chronologically at least). They are quite lovely, 4 Stars for all.
My first foray into Kleypas began with her wonderful series, The Wallflowers, which has become one of my all-time favorites and was a part of my recent reread. The series is set in early Victorian England and times are changing, the peerage is not what it once was, but is slow to embrace progress non the less. We are introduced to a group of girls who for one reason or another, has been relegated to becoming a wallflower at all of the events of the season. At once such event, they finally begin talking among themselves and decide to band together to help one another find a husband. Annabelle is in dire need of a fortune to save her family, Lillian and Daisy, two sisters, are American heiresses who lack the polish and pedigree that the aristocracy is looking for, and darling Evie suffers from a debilitating stutter and shyness. Of course they all find true love and end up fabulously happy, but the series is also a story about friendship, both between the women and also the men. I love, love, love this whole series, but Devil in Winter, Book 3 is one of my absolute favorites. We end Book 2 with Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, as a true villain, and yet after Book 3, he’s one of my favorite heroes of the genre. Man oh man, I love an anti-hero. Secrets of a Summer Night, 5 Stars. It Happened One Autumn, 4 Stars (Lord Westcliff gets 5 stars and Lillian gets 3). Devil in Winter, 5 Stars. Scandal in Spring, 4 Stars.
I’ve already talked about The Hathaways in an earlier post, but I just reread them and they are still fantastic. The Hathaways become neighbors to Lord Westcliff and Lillian a few years after they’ve married and the hero of the first book, Mine Till Midnight, Cam Rohan is also an important secondary character in The Devil in Winter. They are a wonderful, close knit family, though not without their problems. The series begins after an unexpected inheritance of a title for the oldest Hathaway, Leo, now Lord Ramsey, and includes gypsies, hidden treasure, the ghost of a lost love, sabotage, a second chance love story, a grumpy secretly gorgeous governess, a sneaky ferret, secret love letters, and a hedgehog. If that description doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what your problem is. Mine Till Midnight, 5 Stars. Seduce Me at Sunrise, 4 Stars (even though Kev bugs the crap out of me). Tempt Me at Twilight, 4 Stars. Married By Morning, 5 Stars (Leo and Cat give me heart eyes). Love in the Afternoon, 4 Stars.
And thus to the Ravenels! Kleypas is currently writing this series and I’ve been following it since right before the second book was released. Prepare for gushing. I’ve read and listened to the audible versions of these books and the narrator, Mary Jane Wells, does an exceptional job on them. We start with Cold-Hearted Rake, about thirty some odd years after the Wallflowers, Devon Ravenel has just inherited an earldom, much to his consternation. He and his brother West, are blue blooded, but were distant cousins to the former Earl and never desired the title or the responsibilities entailed with a crumbling estate and the massive debt amassed over decades of poor management. His plan is to break the entail and sell everything to try to cover the debts, but after visiting the estate and meeting his cousin’s widow, Kathleen, his plans change. Kathleen, Lady Trenear, is a constant thorn in his side, challenging his plans at every turn, partly due to her naivety concerning the estate’s finances, most mostly due to her pushing Devon to due the right thing, for his land, tenants, and new family. The late earl died three days after his wedding to Kathleen, providing nothing in his will for his three younger sisters, quiet and shy Lady Helen, and the twins, wild and rebellious Lady Pandora and Lady Cassandra. Devon can simply throw them out, but decides to take them on as his wards instead. More on them later, the series is called The Ravenels, after all. Obviously, Kathleen and Devon have a connection, which led to lots of sighing on my part. This book is everything I love about Kleypas, but I don’t want to give anymore away, so just go read it, 5 Stars.
The second book in the series is Marrying Winterborne, centering on the ethereal Lady Helen and department store owner Rhys Winterborne, who became engaged in the first book, only to have the relationship ended by neither of their consent at the conclusion of that book. This starts right where that left off, with Helen visiting Rhys to reinstate their betrothal. Winterborne is a self made man, a bit rough and tumble, who thinks marrying into an aristocratic family with complete his success. Helen, sheltered and secluded for most of her life, is drawn to Rhys, but discovers a terrible secret about herself that threatens their happiness. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but I <3 this book so much, Rhys is definitely one of my favorite heroes and Helen is lovely, 5 Stars.
I have mixed feelings about Book 3, Devil in Spring. I originally rated it 3 Stars, but after my last read, I changed it to 4. I love the hero, the new Viscount St. Vincent, Gabriel, but ADHD Lady Pandora borders on annoying. I find that I like her, despite herself, although parts of the book are grating, before her oddities become charming. My issues with her through the beginning and middle of the book are mainly due to her immaturity and unwillingness to look at things from anyone else’s point of view. Her concerns about her rights as a woman, though warranted, feel at odds with her overall naivety about the rest of the world, and inability to acknowledge how her actions impacted those around her. Gabriel, is in fact the son of Sebastian and Evie from Devil in Winter, who have now ascended to their titles as the Duke and Duchess of Kingston. Get it? Devil in Winter? Devil in Spring? Well, anyway, I liked it and it was quite fun seeing them and their children.
Onto Book 4! Hello Stranger is about Garret Gibson, the first female doctor in England and Ethan Ransom, a spy and the bastard son of the old Earl of Trenear, both of whom we met in the second book. This one felt a bit rushed to me, I didn’t feel like the characters connected as much as the others in the series. I didn’t feel like they earned it. There were some fun bits with West Ravenel, which I always enjoy. This was a first read for me and as of now I can only give it 3 Stars.
At long last we get to Devil’s Daughter, the book that inspired this post. Phoebe, Lady Clare, daughter of Sebastian and Evie, has been widowed and left with two young sons and an estate to run. She’s just come out of mourning and her first major event will be to attend the wedding of her brother, Gabriel, and Pandora at the Ravenel estate, which she has been dreading. Although she is happy for the couple, she is less than anxious to become acquainted with Weston Ravenel, Lord Trenear’s brother and estate manager. When they were boys at school, West had been a bully to her late husband, causing her to have a deep seated resentment of him. West is immediately dawn to her and cannot understand why she dislikes him on sight. Both characters are well developed and complex, probably helped by their appearances in the other books. I’m always a sucker for a character who sets out to hate someone and then finds themself liking them against their will. I especially loved getting more of Sebastian and Evie and the former’s efforts to meddle on the couple’s behalf. For this first read, I’m going with 4 Stars.
I’m rooting for the next book to be about Lady Cassandra and Mr. Severin, who appears as a minor character in most of the books as a bit of an anti-hero.
I tried not to reveal anything too spoilerific, now go out and discover some Kleypas for yourself!