Sunday, 19 June 2016
#CBR8 Book 59: "Marrying Winterborne" by Lisa Kleypas
Rating: 4 stars
Lady Helen Ravenel has lived a very sheltered existence on her family's estate and spent much of her life in mourning for one family member or another. Until very recently, the estate was so deeply mired in debt that Helen and her younger sisters were unlikely to have any dowries and it was very important that Helen and her sisters marry rich men. The current Earl, Helen's cousin (who inherited the estate after the death of their brother and in short order did his best to drag the estate out of debt, while falling in love with and marrying her brother's widow) arranged for Helen to marry his friend, the exceedingly wealthy department store owner, Rhys Winterborne. Then, due to a misunderstanding between them involving Helen's first kiss ever, the betrothal was dissolved.
Rhys Winterborne, born poor and uneducated in Wales, has worked his way up to become one of the wealthiest men in England. After being injured in a train accident, Helen nursed him back to health, and he was drawn to the ethereal and shy beauty before he even saw her face clearly. Nonetheless, he considers himself a savage brute and knows a lot of other people do to, despite the wealth and influence he now wields. He knows how unlikely it is that a commoner like himself gets to ally himself to a noble family like the Ravenels, so is unsurprised when Helen's sister-in-law Kathleen announces that the betrothal is at an end. What does surprise him greatly, however, is when Lady Helen herself shows up at his office some days later, claiming that while she was overwhelmed by her emotions, she was also very excited and she absolutely still wants to marry him. To the point where she's quite willing for him to compromise her thoroughly to make sure nothing gets in the way of their marriage once more.
Once Helen returns to the bosom of her family, quite thoroughly and enthusiastically deflowered, her family can no longer mount any objections to her marrying Winterborne. There are secrets in Helen's past, however, that may make her less desirable to Rhys once he discovers them. Can she get him to the altar before he finds out what only a select few people actually know?
The previous book in this series, Cold-Hearted Rake, was Lisa Kleypas' first historical romance in five years. It was rather disappointing, all things considered, and the best thing about it was the romance it was setting up between Helen and Winterborne, which we get the continuation of here. While this book is an improvement and I really liked both Helen and Rhys, both separately and together, I found the extremely contrived obstacle put in the way of their romance to be eye-rollingly ridiculous, especially considering how quickly the whole mess is sorted out when Helen FINALLY after so many chapters of agonising about whether to tell Rhys the truth or not (and a whole host of well-meaning busy-bodies telling her not to - bad advisors!), comes clean and admits to the deep dark secret, which (SPOILERS) involves her true parentage.
Some of her completely TSTL traipsing around the bad parts of London almost unaccompanied to rescue a plot moppet were also rather frustrating, but the things I enjoyed greatly outweighed the things I didn't and therefore this gets a higher rating than the previous book. The relationship between Helen and her sisters, both biological and by marriage is lovely and I loved her friendship with the female doctor (who I'm hoping is going to feature in a romance of her own further down the line). While the previous book seemed more about setting up the colourful Ravenel family, with Kathleen and Devon's romance taking the back seat, at least this book is focused entirely on Helen and Rhys. There is more than one mention of how Helen's younger sister, the quirky Pandora, never intends to marry. However, Kleypas has announced that Pandora's going to be the heroine of the next novel (with the son of Sebastian and Evie from Devil in Winter, probably my favourite Kleypas novel, as the hero). So what I'm saying here is, February 2017 cannot come fast enough.
Judging a book by its cover: Lord, have mercy, that is a LOT of pastel. The pink, the fuschia, the mauve, the purple, it's all getting very Old School romance cover up in here. Also, is she supposed to be walking up those stairs, because if so, she'll have trouble. Way too many flowers there. Someone's florist went a bit overboard. I can't imagine Winterborne hiring someone that incompetent.
Putting the cover model (that they've even made blonde, although not as ethereally, luminescently pale as Helen is described in the book - I think of her more with the same colouring as of Evanna Lynch, when she played Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter movies) in a wedding dress is fine, since the whole plot is how Helen and Rhys have to get to the altar and actually get married. I don't like the deeply impractical shape of the skirt. I think Winterborne would insist on Helen having a much more elegant and practical dress than that.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.