Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Book Review 2022 #2 - Lisa Kleypas's Devil in Winter

Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
Published by: Avon
Publication Date: February 28th, 2006
Format: Paperback, 368 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Evie Jenner keeps the true horrors of her life hidden from her friends. She can not hide the stutter she has developed from being broken by her mother's family, but she would never tell her friends about the abuse, both physical and mental, because she knows there's nothing they could do about it. All she wants to do is get away from her family and see her father before he dies. But Ivo Jenner runs a gaming hell and it wouldn't be "proper" for Evie to visit him. What's more, her family have their eyes on Ivo's fortune. Evie will be married to her cousin Eustace and then, well, she has a feeling they might do away with her. When the Viscount St. Vincent attempted to marry her friend Lillian Bowman by kidnapping her and running off to Gretna Green Evie realized how desperate the rake was. Desperate enough to swap one heiress for another? Showing up on his doorstep one night Evie tells him of her plan. They are to immediately set out for Gretna Green where they will be married. They will consummate their marriage to make sure it is legally binding in case her relatives have any ideas. They will return to London where Evie will take care of her father until he passes. At which time St. Vincent will get his money and they will live a marriage in name only. He will have his money and she will have her freedom, both getting exactly what they want. The only problem with this plan is that on their long trip to Scotland St. Vincent starts to be intrigued by his future wife. After they consummate their marriage he is shocked to realize how much he still wants Evie. This has never happened to him. Women chase him he will be damned if he will chase after his own wife! But his protective nature that he never knew he had is brought to the fore by Evie. He worries about the long hours she spends at her father's bedside. He has started to worry about the club. In fact he's rather taken with Jenner's and is taking over the business. For someone who has spent their entire life broke, idle, and a womanizer, the arrival of Evie Jenner in his life has changed everything. The question is, will he be able to hold onto it?

Going into Devil in Winter I had two questions that needed to be answered. One was how were they going to make Viscount St. Vincent palatable after he kidnapped and threatened to rape his best friend's fiance? The other was how would the book be structured after the first two books were basically the exact same premise with different wrapping paper? Both were rather quickly answered. The book has a structure all it's own and St. Vincent was desperate but would have never really raped Lillian and would have not even kidnapped her had he realized the depth of his friend's feelings. Yes, this is a bit of backtracking to make St. Vincent that most common of tropes in romance, the domesticated rake, but given as he's the hero it was to be expected. But what's interesting is that Lisa Kleypas doesn't fully reign him in. His reputation with women stands and it's by making Evie's life the worst nightmare that Charles Dickens could ever have dreamed up that St. Vincent is the only option for her. I actually really liked the darkness of Evie's life. With fellow Wallflower Annabelle's story we got a hint of the seedy underbelly that existed in this time period, but it was at a remove. The degradation was happening offstage in another room to her mother. Here Evie is being tormented and tortured by her own family. She literally would probably be better off dead than stay in her current situation so sure, a possible rapist really isn't that bad when she'd be holding the purse strings. By moving beyond St. Vincent and into the gambling den that is Jenner's we stay within this lower echelon while being shown that just because you live in the demimonde you don't need to be the evil that is embodied by Evie's family. You can be good and prosperous, just not of the higher ranks. Though once St. Vincent is done with Jenner's anything is possible. I just loved this story because it had more depth, more of a Deadwood vibe, and just wasn't at all what I expected. Now the question is, can Scandal in Spring surprise me as well?


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