Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas (Cold-Hearted #1)

Synopsis:

24431358A twist of fate…

Devon Ravenel, London’s most wickedly charming rake, has just inherited an earldom. But his powerful new rank in society comes with unwanted responsibilities . . . and more than a few surprises. His estate is saddled with debt, and the late earl’s three innocent sisters are still occupying the house . . . along with Kathleen, Lady Trenear, a beautiful young widow whose sharp wit and determination are a match for Devon’s own.

A clash of wills…

Kathleen knows better than to trust a ruthless scoundrel like Devon. But the fiery attraction between them is impossible to deny—and from the first moment Devon holds her in his arms, he vows to do whatever it takes to possess her. As Kathleen finds herself yielding to his skillfully erotic seduction, only one question remains:

Can she keep from surrendering her heart to the most dangerous man she’s ever known?

Review:

Kleypas’ backlist is massive, with something nearly 40 books to her credit. While I’ve read the Wallflower series (amazing!) I haven’t read much else, so the fact that this is her first historical in five years doesn’t register with me. Just – new shiny book from an author I like! Yea!

Her solid writing is one of the many reasons that Kleypas has been so successful. Cold-Hearted Rake is nicely plotted, immaculately characterized, and quite believable. I have a couple of issues that prevent it from reaching golden status but it’s still a heckuva romance.

The Good:

  • Fear not, “cold-hearted” does not mean “without human qualities”. The hero is realistic and a little blunt, but nothing too major.
  • Kleypas can write the heck out of an action scene. I like that this one comes in the middle of the book, instead of at the end like some of her other novels. Action at the end only seems to cement the HEA couple’s love for each other, more of a relationship enhancement than anything else. By placing the… incident… halfway through it develops and tests characters, giving them a chance to change going forward. No one changes radically but the plot points are pivotal.
  • To quote the wonderful Sarah Wendell, this is a “historical not in a ballroom”. I have nothing against ballrooms but I do appreciate a change of pace.
  • The world of the novel is limited but never feels claustrophobic. Kleypas does a great job of developing characters and making them real people, eliminating the need for periphery characters that only serve one purpose. Minor characters are fully formed and you end up cheering for them even though they grace precious few pages.
  • While brother West goes through a dramatic character change I didn’t find it unreasonable. If you’ve ever been in charge of a team you may have had the experience of someone who, while okay, was stalled in their development. Giving them a bit of responsibility can reawaken their drive and propel them towards greatness. West is that person, just dropped into the Regency. Dramatic, yes, but not crazy.

Neither good nor bad:

  • The ending has deus ex machina elements but feels oddly earned.
  • There is a long lead up to the relationship in the next novel. I’m not used to this – am I just reading the wrong books? I like that they have a solid history going into their book but it makes it hard to read the series out of order.

The not-so-good:

  • Let’s get it out of the way – the cover. It would look perfect on the wall of McDonalds circa 1992. Eye searing.
  • And why is a heroine that spends the whole novel in mourning gear wearing pink like that? I know that widow blacks are a bit much for a cover but something more subdued would have been appreciated.
  • While Kathleen goes on and on about being proper during her mourning period we do not see a single person that cares about it. The servants would rather a little less gloom, and the tenant farmers are more worried about their crops than the propriety of the widow’s dress. And after going on and on about what people will think at the end of the novel she quickly and easily makes a decision that will definitely be held against her. So, huh.

Nits aside this is a wonderfully enjoyable novel. I’m excited to see how the next story unfolds in Kleypas’ capable hands.

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