16 February 2010

Review: Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

Evangeline Jenner is getting desperate: her aunt and uncle, with whom she lives, are about to force her to marry her cousin so they can control her substantial inheritance. Viscount St. Vincent is the quintessential lady's man, but he's starting to run out of money. He needs to find a rich innocent--and fast.

The book opens with Evie making a business proposition to the viscount: If they get married, both of their problems will be solved. Sebastian (the viscount) agrees and they escape to Gretna Green. Will they grow to love each other? Can Evie shed her wallflower persona? Will Sebastian become monogamous?

When my Skype book club decided to read a romance, I was game. After all, one good reason to be in a book club is to expand your horizons. Unfortunately, Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas was not really for me, and I can't quite pin down the problem.

First, I have nothing against a bit of romance and some sex scenes--I've read and loved all the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon, for example. Perhaps it was because Sebastian changed his ways so quickly. Does marriage immediately turn a womanizer into a faithful mate? And would a man who had never worked a day in his life suddenly become fairly adroit at running a business?

Second, I really love historical fiction, and, in my mind anyway, a historical novel should give me a feel for the time period. The story takes place in 1843 in England. Unfortunately, I didn't get a strong sense of the era; Evie and Sebastian could have lived anytime from, say, 1750 to 1850. I think this was a matter of misplaced expectations on my part.

Finally, Devil in Winter is the third book in Kleypas's Wallflower series. I freely admit that it might have helped to have read the first two novels. Perhaps if I had a better sense of the characters and their situations, I would have been more caught up in the story.

On the other hand, the plot, although predictable, didn't follow the usual romance formula. It is Evie (right on page 1) who proposes the marriage, and she does not enter into the relationship with any expectations of falling in love. After one night of consummating their union, they must hurry back to London to help out Evie's father. The next few weeks are not sweetness and light, and they both behave in mature and responsible ways. They are likable characters, and I couldn't help but root for them.

After I finished the novel, I was wondering what we would talk about at our book club meeting. I was surprised that Devil in Winter generated some interesting conversation about relationships, reading habits of women, and the romance genre in general.

If you are fan of romances, you will like this novel; although you might want to start with the first in the series. If you are looking for complex relationships, fascinating historical detail, and unexpected plot lines, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Lest you think I'm a hopeless unromantic, I've asked a fellow book club member to suggest a contemporary romance for one of our summer meetings. See, I'm willing to give the genre another chance.

Lisa Kleypas has a website where you can learn more about the Wallflower series, watch book trailers, and subscribe to her newsletter.

Devil in Winter at Powell's
Devil in Winter at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Avon Books, 2006
ISBN-13: 9780060562519
Challenges: New Author, Historical Fiction, eBook, 100+
YTD: 12
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)
Rating: C-


Meghan 2/16/10, 7:08 AM  

I have to admit I laughed at your criticisms, mostly because I agree and somehow still manage to like romance novels! A lot of readers like the "reformed rake" romance, which is what this is (and part of why I suggested it). I think most women like the idea that they can tame a duke, as unlikely as that change might be in real life.

When it comes to historical romance, some of them are definitely more "historical" than others. A lot of the time, it's simply an excuse to have modern characters in fancy clothes at balls. I must admit that I tend to ignore all these issues in favor of the characters, who really make or break the books for me. If I want something to be more historically accurate or representative of a particular time, or complex, I definitely don't try and read romance! There are exceptions, of course, but not too many.

Instead, I like to read them for what I feel are emotional truths. Maybe people don't behave exactly like this, but I know they feel how I felt when I was falling in love, and I like to remember.

Julie P. 2/16/10, 7:21 AM  

Meghan's comment is terrific! I love her insight.

I didn't mind reading DEVIL IN WINTER, but I'm probably not going to pick up any other ones in the series. It was light and entertaining for me because I don't usually read this genre. I actually enjoyed reading it and wondering about how huge the romance market is!

caite 2/16/10, 7:40 AM  

I really don't like the romance genre...historical or otherwise...so I think I will skip this one.

stacybuckeye 2/16/10, 12:02 PM  

I do like good romances, but I've never read this author. If you don't see or understand the transformation of the hero the books is bound to fall flat. And by having read the whole Outlander series you can consider yourself a historical romace expert :)

Sandy Nawrot 2/16/10, 1:03 PM  

I am not a romantic. For example, I would have been mumbling under my breath "yeah, but if he was womanizing before, sister, he's going to be doing it again before long". I like Outlander because it isn't too sappy. Claire will kick Jamie's butt 10 minutes after they have had one of their famous "sessions" if need be. I'll give this one a pass.

Kris 2/16/10, 1:54 PM  

I don't read much romance either, sounds like this is one to stay away from..at least for me.

Interested to see what the contemporary romance book is that you will read for the group.

Nymeth 2/16/10, 2:11 PM  

I have to say that the fact that we don't get much of a sense of the time period killed any interest I might have had in this :\ I think I'm a hopeless unromantic as well :P

bermudaonion 2/16/10, 3:19 PM  

This really wasn't my kind of book either, but I didn't hate it. I think the part that bugged me the most was how quickly they went from adversaries to lovers. Great review!

Dar 2/16/10, 3:27 PM  

lol-I'm just not much for the romance genre. These kinds of books just don't do it for me. Although Diane Gabaldon's books are a different story. Maybe it depends on how the story is portrayed. I hope your next venture into the romance genre is a better one.

Simcha 2/16/10, 6:13 PM  

I'm not much of a romance readers but I love reading Lisa Kleypas's books. (I've figured out that I can just skip the 3 obligatory sex scenes she includes in each book, and just read the story) I don't think that this series was her best, though and if you do read it is a good idea to start with the first one.

heidenkind 2/16/10, 6:56 PM  

I am definitely a hopeless romantic, and I really enjoyed this book (although it wasn't quite as good as the previous two books in the series). My favorite character was actually the Rom, Cam Rohan.

Melody 2/16/10, 8:09 PM  

I've yet to read this series though I've them in my pile.

Belle 2/17/10, 12:58 AM  

When it comes to romance, I'm more into the romantic comedy, chick lit type of romance. Couple that with the fact that I'm not really into historical fiction, and obviously this one isn't for me! But the storyline is quite intriguing - I like that Evie does the proposing, and on page one, too! Great review.

Dorte H 2/17/10, 1:38 PM  

I don´t read romance very often, and no, I don´t believe a womanizer turns into a faithful husband overnight (I wish he did, but ...) So this one is probably not for me.

Margot at Joyfully Retired 2/17/10, 3:13 PM  

When I saw the cover picture and the author's name my first thought was - no way. This is not the type of book you normally talk about on your blog. There's nothing wrong with that. We all have our favorite genres to read. But now that I know this was a book club selection, not yours, I understand. I love to read romance novels but they must have believable characters in believable setting doing believable actions. I give you credit for reading this one. I hope the next romance that's picked is a lot better.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 2/17/10, 5:02 PM  

sometimes I feel like a hopeless UNromantic, or that my reviews portray me as such, anyway. I don't always want/need a happily-ever-after ending.

Contemporary romance is on the docket for summer reading, huh?

Jenners 2/17/10, 7:50 PM  

I don't think this book is for me but I'm curious about your Skype book club. Are you all able to Skype at the same time or is it just a few people on one end and a few on the other? I'm just curious about the logistics really as I'm a new Skype user and I was wondering if we could somehow use the format your book club uses to have "family" conference calls. I couldn't figure out how to do it though.

Robin of My Two Blessings 2/17/10, 8:33 PM  

Historical romances aren't exactly my cup of tea either. Paranormal romances, yes, however. But I'm weird that way.

Violet 2/18/10, 12:21 AM  

The first 2 books are definitely better than this one. I thought this was good but not very good.

The thing with romance books like these is that you have to take things with a pinch of salt other wise it would be really difficult to enjoy the book for what it is.

I agree about your comment about him being faithful the moment he was married, too abrupt. But I think he turned into a good business man because he found something he really loved.

S. Krishna 2/24/10, 4:51 PM  

You know this one wasn't really for me either. But I like expanding my horizons!

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