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.
Published by Avon Books, 2006
Challenges: New Author, Historical Fiction, eBook, 100+
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)