Tuesday 5 May 2020

#CBR12 Book 20: "Chasing Cassandra" by Lisa Kleypas

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Official book description:
Railway magnate Tom Severin is wealthy and powerful enough to satisfy any desire as soon as it arises. Anything—or anyone—is his for the asking. It should be simple to find the perfect wife—and from his first glimpse of Lady Cassandra Ravenel, he’s determined to have her. But the beautiful and quick-witted Cassandra is equally determined to marry for love—the one thing he can’t give.

Severin is the most compelling and attractive man Cassandra has ever met, even if his heart is frozen. But she has no interest in living in the fast-paced world of a ruthless man who always plays to win.

When a newfound enemy nearly destroys Cassandra’s reputation, Severin seizes the opportunity he’s been waiting for. As always, he gets what he wants—or does he? There’s one lesson Tom Severin has yet to learn from his new bride:

Never underestimate a Ravenel.

The chase for Cassandra’s hand may be over. But the chase for her heart has only just begun...

I had originally rated this book 4 stars, but since I can barely remember a single detail about the plot less than three months after finishing the story, I don't think the book is worthy of such a high rating. This is the sixth and final book in the Ravenel series, but the book stands on its own just fine.

Lady Cassandra Ravenel is the last of the sheltered young ladies of the family to get married. Unlike her brilliant twin who always wanted to be a businesswoman, inventing board games, Cassandra has never wanted anything but a loving husband, a cozy home and some children to love. Having grown up in an abusive household, she wants safety and security and is happy that her sisters and cousins all now have loving relationships, exactly what she wants for herself. So, while she finds Tom Severin fascinating, his self-professed inability to love seems to rule him out as a suitable future partner for her.

Tom Severin is a brilliant businessman, who only allows himself to feel five different emotions at any given time. Love certainly isn't one of them. He's a self-made man and utterly ruthless in the pursuit of his goals, even when it on occasion hurts his friends or associates. He is utterly mesmerised by Cassandra from the first moment he sees her, and wants nothing more than to make her his wife. However, for all his claims of being without softer emotions, once he realises that he's not the man to give Cassandra the love and family life that she wants, he insists on her forgetting all about him and finding someone else. He then spends much of the book pining for her, adopting a street urchin and reading various novels that Cassandra or others of his friends have recommended, to learn about love and other finer feelings.

Kleypas has said in earlier interviews that Severin may be a bit of a sociopath. He certainly comes across that way in earlier books. He's also written in such a way here that he seems to be neuro-atypical side, where it's not that he doesn't feel emotions the same way as everyone else, he just has more difficulty understanding them. Kleypas has taken heroes with villainous traits and made them work just fine in the past - one of the problems with this book is that Severin and Cassandra spend a lot of the middle of the book apart. It's only once Cassandra is faced with scandal, having been slandered by a young nobleman, that Severin comes to see that he may be the only one able to help save Cassandra's reputation. He swoops in, offers to marry Cassandra to save her reputation, and buys the newspapers that printed the scurrilous rumours about her so he can expose the guilty parties and save the day.

Once Cassandra realises the changes Severin has made during their time apart, changes he doesn't think mean much at all, but gives her hope that his heart of ice can eventually be thawed, she agrees to marry him and fiercely defends him from the concerns of the rest of her family. She knows that she'll be able to do a lot of good in society with Severin's scads of money, and the fact that he's taken in an orphan (despite claiming not to care what happens to the boy) and read a slew of novels to try to understand just what everyone else (especially Cassandra) sees in them gives her hope that he may come to be the husband she needs.

Lisa Kleypas is one of the more famous romance novelists out there, but if you're new to her books, I would recommend starting with her Wallflower series, or the Hathaways (although stay away from Seduce Me at Sunrise, which is awful). There are a few decent books in the Ravenel series, but her back catalogue of classic historicals is much more likely to give you quality reading material.

Judging a book by its cover: All of the books in this series have had absolutely infuriating covers, with women in highly anachronistic and inappropriate attire considering the time period the books are set in. On this one, the cover model, supposed to portray a sheltered Victorian woman, appears to be wearing a modern-day wedding dress while running (see the book title features the word "chasing" and she seems to be running - so clever!) through an ice cave full of candlesticks? With her long hair flowing free behind her like the mane of some spirited horse? Seriously, Avon, you failed miserably with these.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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