Monday, 1 April 2019

#CBR11 Book 12: "Devil's Daughter" by Lisa Kleypas

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

This is the fifth book in the Ravenels series. While you don't have to have read the previous books in the series, it would probably enhance your enjoyment and make you more familiar with most of the cast of characters. While you also don't NEED to have read it, you really should read Devil in Winter, because it's a classic of the genre, and will give you more insight in some of the supporting characters here.

Plot summary from Goodreads, because I finished this book over a month ago:
Although beautiful young widow Phoebe, Lady Clare, has never met West Ravenel, she knows one thing for certain: he's a mean, rotten bully. Back in boarding school, he made her late husband's life a misery, and she'll never forgive him for it. But when Phoebe attends a family wedding, she encounters a dashing and impossibly charming stranger who sends a fire-and-ice jolt of attraction through her. And then he introduces none other than West Ravenel.

West is a man with a tarnished past. No apologies, no excuses. However, from the moment he meets Phoebe, West is consumed by irresistible desire...not to mention the bitter awareness that a woman like her is far out of his reach. What West doesn't bargain on is that Phoebe is no straitlaced aristocratic lady. She's the daughter of a strong-willed wallflower who long ago eloped with Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent—the most devilishly wicked rake in England.

Before long, Phoebe sets out to seduce the man who has awakened her fiery nature and shown her unimaginable pleasure. Will their overwhelming passion be enough to overcome the obstacles of the past?

Only the devil's daughter knows...

For the previous four books in this series, I have been rather impatiently waiting for Lisa Kleypas, writer of some truly classic historical romances, to deliver something even half as enjoyable as some of her best books. While Devil's Daughter by no means can compete with the best of Kleypas' back catalogue, it was a very satisfying read and I didn't want to spend most of the reviews nitpicking all the things that didn't work.

I liked the premise of headstrong, young woman finding herself reluctantly attracted to her husband's former bully. In West Ravenel's defence, a lot of teenage boys are exceptionally thoughtless and stupid, and his own social standing and family connections made him prone to lashing out at others, one hapless victim of which was Phoebe's sickly, now deceased husband. Considering the redemptive arc that Phoebe's own father had to go through in Devil in Winter and West seems like a choir boy instead.

West has been possibly my favourite supporting characters in the series so far. He's quite the worthless, drunken layabout at the start of Cold Hearted Rake, but over the course of the series becomes a truly changed man, devoting himself to land management and taking care of his family members, yet always feeling like he can't atone for his boorish and uncouth past. So when he falls head over heels for the beautiful Phoebe, he never believes himself good enough for her.

Phoebe married her sickly childhood friend, who lived long enough to give her two sons. The daughter of strong-minded and very formidable parents (so beloved by romance readers everywhere), she keeps repressing her passionate nature and inquisitive mind, devoting herself entirely to the raising of her two sons, while letting her husband's cousin deal with everything involved with her estate, even though both her father and brother feel she should take a more active role in caring for her sons' inheritance.

While she wants nothing to do with West, remembering all the bullying her late husband wrote to her about in his letters from school, her family members keep pushing her in his path, because he's clearly the best person to teach her how to properly manage her own lands. That everyone around them can see the sparks flying every time West and Phoebe are near each other, probably doesn't hurt either.

West is an excellent example of a properly reformed rake and while his own self image is wildly distorted, he eventually comes to understand how much good he could do for Phoebe. She needs time to properly come to terms with the loss of her husband, yet realise that she's still young, and deserving of love and some of the promises she made to her husband while he was dying were unreasonable in the extreme.

As I said, this is the first book in the series I would recommend without reservation and I'm now very intrigued by what I'm assuming will be the final book in the series (all the other Ravenels are now married off). Kleypas is good at making complicated and rather dislikable individuals into very interesting romance heroes, so I can't wait to see how she redeems Tom Severin next year.

Judging a book by its cover: All the books in this series have had absolutely awful covers, and while this one isn't great, it's not quite such an eye sore of anachronistic prom dresses as some of the previous ones. Considering Phoebe is still a widow in half mourning, the golden meringue monstrosity she's wearing on this cover seems deeply inappropriate (if not as bad as half undone, pastel pink tulle nightmare that the cover model wears on the cover of Cold Hearted Rake, where the heroine is a widow whose husband JUST died. She literally wears full black throughout the whole book!) Also inappropriate for a proper widow and mother of two is this lady's unpinned hair, which appears to be part tentacle - so when I feel this is the best cover of the series so far, it is not complimentary in the slightest to the four previous books.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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