Dear Ms. Kleypas:
I was delighted to see you dip your toe back into the historical romance pool after publishing a number of contemporary and paranormal-type romances. I find I can always count on you to write an historical romance that satisfies me, which I can say about very few authors these days. Cold Hearted Rake is no exception.
Devon Ravenel has inherited an Earldom. A wholly undesired Earldom that comes with a house, Eversby Priory, that has more than 200 tenants all depending upon him for their welfare. Given that Devon has always enjoyed his dissolute lifestyle, the news of his inheritance is unwelcome in the extreme. Along with the dilapidated house and grounds, he must deal with Kathleen, Countess Trenear, his cousin Theo’s widow. Theo and Kathleen were married only three days before Theo broke his neck being thrown from a horse during a drunken ride after an argument with Kathleen.
Kathleen and Theo’s three sisters, Helen (21) and twins, Pandora and Cassandra (19) have no dowry settled upon them, so along with the expense of the household, he must find a way to settle them as well. All of this is a bit much for a confirmed bachelor who has no interest in giving up his lifestyle. And Devon does not react well to being hemmed in. When he meets Kathleen, they clash immediately. Mostly because Devon’s initial response is that he’ll be selling Eversby Priory and everything in it post haste. The Priory has been in the Ravenel family for hundreds of years and the selling of it is really unthinkable. Not to mention the many tenants and servants who will be without means of supporting themselves once he sells. Kathleen tells him in no uncertain terms that he is making a mistake and is a wholly reprehensible person for even thinking of deserting the many people who are depending upon him.
Devon is completely resentful of Kathleen goading him into agreeing to keep the Priory and to begin to try to locate funding to begin to renovate the house. But agree he does and as he leaves for London, he finds that he can’t stop thinking about the prim, uptight Countess Trenear. He’s wholly attracted to this woman who is so bound by propriety that he can’t help but want to compromise her.
Kathleen is only trying to do what is proper. She insists upon a proper mourning period for her husband, and she’s trying her best to take over the supervision of her sisters-in-law who need guidance and in the case of the twins, an introduction to proper behavior as they’re both hoydens. She’s horrified that Devon would consider selling the estate, and then, when he sends his equally reprehensible brother, Weston to the estate to oversee an issue with the tenants, she’s pushed to her limits. When Devon returns he and Kathleen begin the slow push-pull of the prim lady and debauched hero. It’s delightful.
The book hits on so many things about your writing that I love. The seemingly unredeemable hero, who while yes, a cad, also has a good heart and means well. The prim, uptight heroine who pushes all of the hero’s buttons. A cast of wonderful secondary characters and situations that made me chuckle or laugh outright. And a wonderful romance that left me heaving the happy sigh.
My quibbles would be that I felt that Kathleen clung to the “we can’t, I’m a widow” excuse for a bit too long, and I did feel that the conclusion of the story was a bit rushed. I also thought that you focused a good deal on setting up the next romance, which was OK for me, as I liked the characters and am eager to read their romance, but I think perhaps that set-up short changed Devon and Kathleen’s HEA a bit. But overall, I was truly delighted to read Cold Hearted Rake and am delighted to see you writing historical romance again. Final grade: B.