Review: Devil’s Daughter

Review: Devil’s DaughterDevil's Daughter (The Ravenels #5) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on February 19, 2019
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“Phoebe had never met West Ravenel, but she knew one thing for certain: He was a mean, rotten bully.”

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book. I finished in in one sitting (stayed up late at night) and then immediately began to re-reading passages. Phoebe and West are so sweet and sexy together, and I loved the story of West having to overcome his past — mostly in forgiving himself and trusting in the future.

THE STORY: Phoebe, Lady Clare, is a widow with two small children. When her family attends her brother’s wedding, Phoebe encounters West Ravenel who she has never met but knows all about. West was the childhood bully of Phoebe’s beloved husband. Despite Phoebe’s dislike of West’s actions, she can’t help but be attracted to the charming West. West realizes that his past makes him completely unworthy of Phoebe even as he cannot stop thinking about her.

OPINION: The story of two people who have an instant connection, but any romance is threatened by West’s past. I loved this book and the characters, and it will be one that I will put on my keeper’s shelf.

West Ravenel is a man who is just beginning to put his life right. In the two years since he has taken over managing his brother’s estate West have been seen by all as a compassionate, intelligent, thoughtful and hardworking man. But West has a past. Before finding his purpose, West was a wastrel on all accounts. He drank too much, slept with too many women, caused fights and generally just behaved poorly.  When he meets Phoebe, he sees her as completely above him. What she needs is a decent man who will be good to her sons and will be a role model. West knows that he cannot be that man because of his past.

Phoebe is a widow with two young sons. She married the love of her life, her childhood friend, and now out of mourning, she is ready to return to the family estate and protect her son’s legacy. When she meets West at her brother’s wedding, she is determined not to like him because he was the bully of her husband when they were children. But Phoebe cannot help but see the good in West — his kindness with her children, his respect for her intelligence by being willing to teach her about estate management.

This story is really about West and his demons and his inability to see himself clearly. He knows what he has done in his past and he cannot bring himself to forgive his own actions. To West, he is always on the precipice of being the drunk, bully, untrustworthy man he was. I loved seeing so many other people try and make West see that he is worthy of being loved, of having a full life with a wife and family of his own.

Readers of the Ravenels series know of West’s journey. Through the four prior books, he has become the rock and support of the other characters. I loved seeing him get a happy ending of his own after helping others get theirs.

Another thing that really worked for me here is how Kleypas shows West as a supporter of Phoebe’s taking charge of her life and her son’s estate. He supports her — he doesn’t take over and become her protector. Instead, he values her for who she is and acknowledges her opinions and intelligence. Indeed, West’s final capitulation to love in some ways a surrender to Phoebe’s view of him and their possible future.

Phoebe is a woman coming into her own. The death of her beloved husband has changed her and this book is about her finding out who she is going to be. A strong and compassionate woman (who else could the eldest daughter of Sebastian and Evie be), Phoebe was the strength in caring for her ill husband and now she is using that strength to protect her children. Despite her prejudices about West when they meet, she sees who he really is and is willing to put her judgment aside.

This book is also pretty hot between West and Phoebe but everything is grounded deeply in their relationship.

What really tips this book over the top is the number of characters from this series and the Wallflower series that make appearances. This book feels really grounded in the relationships between the characters. I am a sucker for appearances by favorite characters (and we even get a bit of Gabriel and Pandora’s wedding itself).

This series has been a real winner for me, and this book is a great addition.

WORTH MENTIONING: Can I fall even more in love with Sebastian from DEVIL IN WINTER? He is simply adorable at the matchmaking dad here. But he is always the scandalous rake and I love, love, love that Kleypas allows Sebastian and Evie to continue to have a loving and sexual relationship even as grandparents.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DEVIL’S DAUGHTER is the fifth book in the Ravenels series.  This book is much better if read as part of the series, but a new reader should also include DEVIL IN WINTER which is from Kleypas’s Wallflowers series.  At the very least, a reader should read DEVIL IN WINTER, DEVIL IN SPRING before this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Cold-Hearted Rake

Review: Cold-Hearted RakeCold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels, #1) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on October 27, 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 419
Goodreads
four-half-stars

A Welcome Return by Lisa Kleypas to Historical Romance

“You are the vilest man I have ever met.”

FINAL DECISION: The return by Kleypas to historical romance typifies the heartwarming, character driven, deeply romantic books that made her a favorite among readers. COLD-HEARTED RAKE has one one my favorite storylines — a man who is changed for the better by a good woman.

THE STORY: Devon Ravenel unexpectedly inherits an earldom upon the death of his hated cousin. Devon has devoted his life to pleasure and lack of responsibility and the last thing he wants are floundering estates and caring for tenants and relatives of his cousin. He goes to the estate intending on sending the widow and sisters packing and selling the entirety of the estate. Kathleen was made a widow after only three days of marriage. She knows that the appearance of the new earl means that she must make her own plans for her future and is disgusted by Devon’s lack of caring about the history of the estate and the lives of the people who depend upon it. Open warfare emerges between Devon and Kathleen but the surprising result is that Devon wants to spend more time with Kathleen and begins to try and save the estate in order to spend more time with her.

OPINION: Devon and Kathleen are both strong willed and they have a passionate relationship. The relationship begins with passionate arguments and then turns to sexual passion. Kathleen is a woman who cares deeply although she constrains herself with rules and propriety. Her life has been filled with pain but she has reached out to others in response. Devon also has a painful past, but he has retreated to a life of excess in order to hide his pain. His interactions with Kathleen begin to change him. Determined never to marry or have children because of his own childhood, Devon slowly begins to change as his attraction to Kathleen compels him to reconsider his notions about responsibility. Kleypas writes wonderful rake stories. She realistically demonstrates how a woman can begin to change a man. Devon doesn’t even acknowledge that he is changing throughout the novel. He just knows that he is compelled to continuously make changes in his life in order to spend more time with Kathleen. Even better, Kathleen doesn’t become the catalyst for change by being a loving doormat…no, she changes him by challenging him to be a better person. It is only after he has changed that he becomes the kind of man who can love Kathleen.

This book is also filled with compelling secondary characters. I look forward to reading more about them as the series continues.

Kleypas fans rejoice. She has returned to historicals and hasn’t lost a step.

WORTH MENTIONING: I really liked this book but I am looking forward to the next book MARRYING MR. WINTERBORNE even more. The couple is introduced in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: COLD-HEARTED RAKE is the first book in a a new series about the Ravenel family and friends.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Hello Stranger

Review: Hello StrangerHello Stranger (The Ravenels, #4) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on February 27th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Not as good as DEVIL IN SPRING, but the unique heroine makes this book. Both outside of the typical aristocratic world, Garrett and Ethan have a sweeter romance than I expected.

THE STORY: Dr. Garrett Gibson is the only woman doctor in England and has made herself independent and finds herself just a little annoyed that Mr. Ethan Ransom keeps popping up watching over her. Ethan was formally with Scotland Yard but now works in the shadows. Although he knows that he should stay away from the intriguing Dr. Gibson, Ethan cannot. Garrett is determined to have a love affair if nothing else, but Ethan brings with him deadly danger from someone plotting a terrorist event.

OPINION: This book has an unlikely pairing — the first woman doctor in England and a spy. Garrett and Ethan meet periodically as Ethan first comes across her in his work. But even though he knows that there is something special between them, his work does not allow him attachments. He cannot avoid, however, watching over her and the two end up meeting again and again.

A funny way to begin a romance, but Garrett and Ethan bond over strange and practical things. While their meetings are prosaic at times, there is an intense underlying sweetness between them. They are so obviously perfect for one another, but Ethan’s job is dangerous and any attachments are dangerous both to him and to anyone he care about. I loved how the two are with one another and how Kleypas keeps the importance of Garrett’s job at the forefront of the story.

This is the story of equals. Garrett knows that she wants Ethan and is determined that somehow she will make things work. She has agency in this story. Her choices, her decisions are her own. And she will not allow Ethan to make the decisions for both of them.

With the description of this story, I expected more intrigue and drama, but the book wisely keeps centered on Garrett and her choices and this makes this book more personal and intimate and sweeter as a romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of West, he has a prominent role here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HELLO STRANGER is the fourth book in the Ravenels series. While this series has a different couple in each book, this is the story of a family and thus the books have overlapping characters and in this case, the romance between Garrett and Ethan actually begins in MARRYING WINTERBORNE and continues in DEVIL IN SPRING. While this book catches the reader up, I think it is better to read the series in order to know all the characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

 

four-half-stars

Review: Devil in Spring

Review: Devil in SpringDevil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on February 21st 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 370
Goodreads
five-stars

“You do not want to marry me, my lord. I would be the worst wife imaginable. I’m forgetful and stubborn, and I can never sit still for more than five minutes. I’m always doing things I shouldn’t. I eavesdrop on other people, I should and run in public, and I’m a clumsy dancer. And I’ve lowered my character with a great deal of unwholesome reading material.”  Pausing to draw breath, she notice that Lord St. Vincent didn’t appear properly impressed by her list of faults. “Also, my legs are skinny. Like a stork’s.”

FINAL DECISION:  So rarely does a highly anticipated sequel live up to expectations.  While not as good as DEVIL IN WINTER, this book is a worthy successor.  Will take a place on my favorites’ shelf.

THE STORY: Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent has accidentally compromised an unusual young lady, Lady Pandora Ravenel.  Neither, however, wants to marry — Gabriel because he sees that Pandora is completely unsuitable to be the type of dignified wife he needs; Pandora because she has no intention of allowing any man to control her fate and life.  Gabriel is fascinated with Pandora and finds himself drawn to her.  Pandora finds in Gabriel a man who listens to her and respects her opinions, but the risk of becoming essentially his to control is something she doesn’t want to risk even as she falls for him.

OPINION:

“No matter how she had tried to make herself want what she should want, she knew she would never be happy in a conventional life.”

Pandora is an amazing creation.  She is neurotic, opinionated, intelligent, oh so clever and yet sweet in a unique way.  I loved just about everything about her.  She is a different kind of wallflower.  A woman who is so brilliant that she has difficulties with the social niceties that society demands. Always the odd person in the group, she has managed to forge a future for herself as a game designer. (I absolutely loved her devotion to her budding career).  Everything about her character felt fresh and new and oh so lovely, especially for all of us who feel out of step with what people expect from us.

Gabriel is a hero who is so different from his father and yet has the best qualities of both his parents. He manages to be so incredibly caring and supportive of Pandora.  She is a special person and Gabriel knows exactly how to care for her. He is kind and so so dreamy.  Sexy and definitely a man in charge, he also has the gentleness of his mother and the benefit of having grown up in a loving family. He is a man who doesn’t need to be reformed to be a wonderful man — he just is.

“Your problem,” his sister continued, “is that you’re too good at maintaining that facade of godlike perfection. You’ve always hated for anyone to see that you’re a mere mortal. But you won’t win this girl that way.” She began to dust the sand from her hands. “Show her a few of your redeeming vices, dear. She’ll like you all the better for it.”

I rarely love a book as much as I loved this one primarily because Gabriel was such a warm loving man and he made it his mission to balance out all the jagged edges of Pandora’s life. His giving nature and willingness to put his own needs and desires aside to help fulfill Pandora was so wonderful to read about.  He finds Pandora incredibly charming and she brings something to him that makes him want to protect her.  And yet, he cannot crush her by forcing her to conform and be “safe”.

“It was insane to let a creature so perfectly beautiful and artlessly spirited and vulnerable as his wife venture out into the world that could crush her with casual unconcern, and he had no choice to but allow it. For the rest of his life, he would feel a stab of dread every time she walked out the door, leaving him there with his heart wide open.”

I loved this book and if I liked it a smidgen less than the book on Gabriel’s parents it is only because the timeless trope of that book — wallflower and rake — is probably my favorite.  But this one is original and fresh and very wonderful.

“Their marriage would be a partnership, just like their waltzing…not perfect, not always graceful, but they would find their way together.”

Just incredibly lovely!

WORTH MENTIONING:  I would buy this book for the Prologue alone where Evangeline and Sebastian from DEVIL IN WINTER are most prominent.  One of my all time favorite books and the prologue shows why.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DEVIL IN SPRING is the third book in the Ravenels series.  This book is much better if read as part of the series, but a new reader should also include DEVIL IN WINTER which is from Kleypas’s Wallflowers series.  This book is a direct sequel from that book as it tells the story of the son of the DEVIL IN WINTER couple (who make appearances of their own).

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Marrying Winterborne

Review: Marrying WinterborneMarrying Winterborne (The Ravenels, #2) by Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon on May 31st 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 416
Goodreads
five-stars

“I can’t be a gentleman,” he said hoarsely. “Not even for you.”

“You don’t have to be a gentleman. Only gentle.”

FINAL DECISION: Absolutely and completely adored Rhys, who might be one of my all time favorite Kleypas heroes.   I knocked down the rating a bit because I didn’t like Helen as much and became somewhat annoyed by her keeping secrets from Rhys.  Regardless, I overall enjoyed the book very much and look forward to the next in the series.

THE STORY: Rhys Winterborne is a Welsh commoner who has managed to create an business empire for himself. To complete his triumph he only needs an aristocratic wife to give him an entry into society.  Everything is going well with his engagement to Lady Helen Ravenel until their brief engagement is called off by Helen after their first kiss.  Then Rhys is surprised when Helen comes to him to plead with him to continue their engagement.  The gentle and quiet Lady Helen Ravenel seems a mismatch for the brash Rhys but something about him attracts her. She knows that she does not want to end their engagement although he overwhelms her. Helen scandalously comes to Rhys alone and is willing to do scandalous things in order to ensure their marriage.  As she falls for Rhys, however, Helen realizes that she has a secret that might destroy any chance they have together.

OPINION:  I would read this book again for no other reason that Rhys is so wonderful.  A self-made man who has the arrogance and determination required to be so, Rhys is also forwarding thinking, willing to adapt and change and take risks.  Incredibly supportive, understanding and really willing to do anything for Helen, I simply adored him.  What surprised me and endeared him to me most was his reaction once he discovered Helen’s secret.  Who could resist a man like that?

For me, the weakness of this book is Helen. She begins as a product of tradition and the stuffy aristocracy, but seems willing to break the chains in order to be with Rhys. Then he proceeds to keep secrets from him (which obviously will not be able to be kept secret) and fails to trust in him.  My annoyance with her grew as she takes bigger and bigger risks but won’t tell Rhys the truth.  (In comparison, Rhys is a saint).  It felt to me that she only revealed the truth when there was no other option rather than trusting in Rhys’ love for her.

I very much enjoyed this book and would read it again, but my reaction to Helen keeps this from being an instant classic for me.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Oh, oh I can’t wait for the next book of the series.  The preview for the next book gets 5 stars.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MARRYING WINTERBORNE is the second book of the Ravenels series.  Because the relationship between Rhys and Helen begins in the first book of the series, it is better to read that book first.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

UPDATE Feb 2018: I’ve given this book a 5 star review on re-read. Sometimes expectations of books can impact me when I read. This was one of those books. It didn’t go in the direction I expected from the reviews I had read and thus I was a bit deflated upon the first reading. Reading it a couple years later, I found that I found a subtlety of the relationship between Helen and Rhys that I really loved this time around. Also, the secrets in the story felt less forced this time. I truly loved this book this time around.

five-stars