Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
I have been recommended Devil in Winter left, right and centre by my romance-reading friends. As I’m not the biggest fan of Kleypas, I hemmed and hawed but got it from the library, and then I got to the second renewal before actually reading it.
Guys. Guys, this one is amazing.
Kleypas doesn’t waste time getting into business: the first chapter jumps right into it, while doing a good job of explaining what the situation is. The painfully shy and stuttering heroine, Evie, is about to inherit her dying father and needs a husband in order to escape the clutches of her seriously abusive relatives. The notorious rake of a viscount Sebastian, our hero, is of an impoverished family and desperately needs to marry money. Evie proposes a bargain, Sebastian accepts it, and they elope to Gretna Green.
You will now think I’ve told you a massive spoiler. I have not: this is what the back cover will tell you, and all this takes place within the first chapter. What follows is examination of especially Sebastian’s feelings, and boy, is that a good ride!
But let’s talk about the heroine first. Evie, despite her shyness, is by no means a weakling. She’s got character, but has been constantly put down by her horrid relatives; understandable, I would call this. While I don’t imagine her characterization as an abuse victim is anything resembling accurate – in fact, it’s more of a plot point than anything else – I’m otherwise very inclined to like her. What I particularly like is her very credible naivety (particularly obvious when it comes to her father’s gaming club and sex) that at the same time doesn’t make her a prim prude, and her certainty about who she is. I also like how, whenever she appears to act without understanding circumstances, it is clearly always because someone (*cough*Sebastian*cough*) thought it better not to inform her or explain things to her. I hate it when couples in romance don’t communicate openly, and here the consequences of that are presented very clearly.
Sebastian is, on the whole, prone to be stubborn and keep to himself. Unused to strong emotions, he struggles with his feelings towards Evie, and it’s very fun to watch, while at the same time his yearning for her is positively heartbreaking. His love is clear to everyone but himself, one of my favourite tropes, and I now completely understand why the friends who recommended this book were screaming about him. For all he is a hardened rake, he proves himself a very caring and loving man as early on as chapter two – how, I will not tell. Read it for yourself. Read it and squeal.
In terms of plot, I don’t think there is much to say: it’s not anything in particular, but then again, a romance novel plot doesn’t need to be all action packed. I’m not entirely happy about how certain plot points were dealt with – namely, Evie’s cruel family – but considering that this book is much more about the personal development of the characters, I suppose it can be forgiven, if one tries.
I’m still rating this book five out of five though, simply because it has some of the best-described emotion I have read in a while, it has a good pace, good characters, and it’s a pretty compulsive read – only took me a couple of days instead of the four I had allotted to it. Well worth your time!