My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
Sooooooooo...I know this one’s going to be a difficult one for me because I was really, really looking forward to this book. But alas! I may have expected too much. :(
I just finished Lisa Kleypas’s much anticipated book 3 of the Ravenels series, Devil in Spring, and I’m rather underwhelmed by it. Don’t get me wrong, the writing was great; the storyline was, again, great as well. Any of LK’s ‘mediocre’ books are wayyyy better than what’s out there in the name of historical romance. But I am not going into that direction. I love LK and I will love her writing no matter what I felt. But the problem with Devil in Spring was that no one can really surpass Sebastian St. Vincent for me. Unfortunately, not even his own son. His reputation, for me, only comes after Derek, the hero of Dreaming of You, my most favorite LK book. Sadly, I had not reviewed this one, neither did I review the Wallflower series, probably LK’s best known and most loved series till today. I read and re-read those in my pre-Goodreads era.
If you haven’t read either Dreaming of You or The Wallflowers series, you really should. Sebastian St. Vincent was the hero of book 3, Devil in Winter. And boy he kept his lovely Evie (and us) so warm during those winter months, and beyond. ;) I, in general, have a great dislike for rakes even when others swoon over them. But LK’s rakes are a league of their own. She just knows how to make me fall in love with them so I always trust in her writing. Both Derek and Sebastian were two of her biggest rakish heroes that many of us still adore like no other.
I can go on and on and on about those two books but this review is for Devil in Spring, sort of a sequel to Devil in Winter. This is the first time we actually get a glimpse of the characters of one of LK’s series where they’ve grown older (having grandchildren and all that). In their 50s, Sebastian and Evie still hadn’t lost their touch, as you’ll find out in the prologue of this book. Their chemistry can still make my toes curl in anticipation. That’s where Sebastian also breaks the news that their eldest son, Gabriel, has this time done the unthinkable. He’s gotten caught, and caught good. Now he’ll have to marry the girl too.
Then we get a flashback of a few days back where we find Lady Pandora Ravenel is in a ball, and trying her best to blend the shadows so she doesn’t have to dance and mingle. Even though her twin sister, Cassandra, is the more graceful one who’d probably become the toast of the ton and loves all sorts of mingling, Pandora thought a Season was a waste of her time. She has loads of plans for her life, and none of that has anything to do with marriage and husband and children. Eugh. But her cousin and guardian, Devon, has paid for all the expenses so she must act as interested as possible even when all she wants is to stay far away from it all.
Like that’ll ever happen. :/
Now, The Ravenels is a completely new series from LK, with new set of characters. Set in the Victorian-era, Cold-Hearted Rake, gives you the intro to The Ravenel family, and its two surviving males, brothers Devon and Weston. The Ravenels are a rowdy bunch who had always had a penchant for self-destruction. They live wild; always drawn to the adrenaline rush and the danger, never bothering to think about the consequences. And they die young too, which has come to be known as the “Ravenel curse”. Devon and West, both have the same bend on self-destruction by living a life fast and furious. They had no title or money but Ravenels are Ravenels and they know how to live. Even then, Devon didn’t want a title stooped under a pile of debt and a dilapidating country estate. But when his titled cousin, the last direct heir to Lord Trenear, breaks his neck from a fall from horseback, he had no other choice. Not only he had several duties that came with the title, Devon found that he’s now responsible for Theo’s 3 younger sisters—Helen, and the twins Cassandra and Pandora. If that wasn’t the worse thing to deal with, he’s also now responsible for Theo’s widow, Kathleen. At first, their relationship was that of oil and water but soon it turned into something else. Devon and Kathleen found themselves in love (which did nothing for me unfortunately), so on and so forth. A family, responsibility and love did change both Devon and West to become more cautious about their lifestyle, spending it on more fruitful ventures. As a result, now they have a thriving estate with Devon already having a child with Kathleen, his life seemingly fulfilled.
In book 1, we meet Rhys Winterborne, one of Devon’s close buddies and business partners. Born to low-class Welsh parents, Rhys has worked his way up and now owns the biggest chains of retail stores in London. He’s rich as Croesus, if not more, and so powerful that his background doesn’t matter these days. Well, only maybe to the Bon Ton. And to resolve that he needs to marry a Lady who would smooth his way in there as well. However, Helen didn’t come to him only as a solution to his problem, to be his ornament when he’s attending balls and soirees. They forged a bond when Rhys is gravely injured in a train crash that left Devon injured as well. That bond went a long way, and Rhys knew he simply needed Helen in his life, didn’t matter at what cost. Her platinum blonde beauty only complements his severely dark looks. They could do well together! However, what caught Rhys by total surprise was the fact that Helen wanted him too. Here he thought she’s gonna despise him for his background, but that didn’t matter to Helen at all. On top of that, her innocence was intoxicating as well, especially when it was her who was trying to seduce him, not the other way round! The rest is, I should, say history cause book 2, Marrying Winterborne, was marvelous. I loved it! Rhys and Helen’s chemistry was superb and they weathered every trouble thrown in their way with the strength of their love and trust in each-other.
In both books, Cassandra and Pandora were featured as secondary characters. We also met some other secondary characters who proved to be important parts of the storyline. I didn’t expect Pandora’s story to be published before Cassandra’s but was nevertheless surprised to find that’s how the series was to progress.
We’ve all known that Pandora has her little quarks. Even with her willowy body and long dark hair, comparing to her curvier, blonde twin, Pandora is more of a tomboy. She likes the sense and smell of all sorts of adventures. She likes making up words of her own that no one has ever heard before. She dreams of having her own life, where she’d earn her own living, never depending on anyone. In one word, Pandora is an independent soul. And she was so determined to be single and independent, happy to become the crazy aunt to all her nieces and nephews that, for her, marriage was a word equal to prison. She had already planned board games (LK definitely did her research to a tee on every single issue she’d touched on this, and other books of the series) which are already scheduled for printing before Christmas. Rhys has already ordered a good amount of copies to launch her career thru the Winterborne. No woman, hell even any man, can’t think of a better or bigger platform for launching their career! Pandora had so many things to do, so this Season thingy is more of a bother for her than anything else. She’d rather do something else to further her project than sit here and be bored in the most boring company possible.
Pretty soon though, she was about to have the thrill of her life. Soon her life was upside down when she goes to retrieve a pair of earrings for a trysting companion (I would’ve never done that, no idea why she did it)... and ends up meeting the town’s most sought after bachelor, Lord Gabriel St. Vincent, in the most unbecoming way possible. Stuck on a sofa, the same sofa where that trysting couple were...... yuck. But I digress........ It was definitely not the meeting of any girl’s dreams but Pandora is found with Gabriel by a busybody aaaaaaaaaand she’s now stuck with him. Even though, in looks Gabriel gives her the butterflies, the mention of marriage begins giving her the hives and hyperventilation of the worst kind. In fact, this is her worst nightmare, however devastatingly handsome the prospective bridegroom is. Pandora will not have it! And it’s not as if Gabriel himself was happy with the prospect but he was willing to give it a try and see where it goes. It totally felt like Gabriel didn’t find Pandora appealing in any way other than the physical. Obviously she wasn’t the type of women he was used to, and she rejected his suit right in front of his face! ;)
After that comes that ‘famous’ scene where Gabriel unburdens himself to his father about his sexual needs and how whatever-it-is that makes him run to his current mistress, even after knowing how his parents disapproves of his liaison with a married woman. No other women will do, she has whatever power that makes him a slave to her. I was equally intrigued and horrified by the prospects. I was like, maybe he’ll be a rival to his father in his own way…hmmm. At one point even dark BDSM crossed my mind and I thought, well, maybe only the mistress can handle his demands...hmmmmm. The hints were too vague so I kept on reading, thinking how Pandora will go about handling his demands and all that...
To have the families meet formally, St. Vincents invites the Ravenels to their beautiful country estate closer the ocean. Despite everything, Gabriel was anticipating Pandora’s arrival. He was already attracted to her even if he wasn’t happy with her odd notions and ideas about life. On the other hand, Pandora was having all sorts of bad thoughts. Oh she also totally get why women wanted Gabriel, her body would give her signs on that regard. But will he let her do what she wants to do? Let her market her board games? How were his parents? Will they even accept a girl who not only doesn’t know how to behave like a lady, but also have radical ideas? She wanted to be accepted by them if this marriage was to take place. She wanted Gabriel to understand her POV about life. I totally got her agitation about it.
In no time though, Sebastian and Evie put all of Pandora’s uncertainties to rest. She finds that she’d be one hell of a lucky girl to have such in laws. And Gabriel becomes the man of any girl’s dreams by being charming, super nice, and quite understanding! The chemistry was there, even if not in full bloom. I was super excited to see where this was going! Gabriel was trying to do what Sebastian told him to do, to give this a try and see where it goes, and found he likes being with her, even if she’s not the type of women he’d been with before. So different, so like...Pandora! He’d treat her like a child a few times, which, at first, I found cute. Their banters about Gabriel’s reputation as a seasoned rake were one of the funniest conversations of this book. :P Oh Pandora, you’re a gem! No wonder I liked you so much!!
For the first 50% I was super optimistic, even if I wasn’t totally into Gabriel yet. I also loved the whole Ravenel family together... Loved Sebastian and Evie... Loved seeing Marcus again (hint: The Wallflowers). I loved how beautifully descriptive was LK’s writing, and I could transport myself in that cove, and the sandy beach where the first seed of love is woven between Gabriel and Pandora. I mean the idea of love, nothing literal. Not yet. LOL
But things kind of started going downhill after Gabriel and Pandora’s wedding. I found Gabriel’s super easy transformation into a devoted husband too unbelievable. Pandora was a blast but she was also an innocent. And their chemistry was never more than lukewarm. Their kiss didn’t make my toes curl, neither did their love scene make me sigh. It just didn’t. And he continued to treat Pandora like a child with a smile here, or a tone there, that I thought sounded more like he was placating a child. It kept on happening and I simply couldn’t stand it. Yes, Pandora was rather naïve about things but she was a fast learner. I don’t know, but my doubts about their relationship never went away. Plus I failed to find why he was so enamored of his mistress? For what particular reason? :/ Apart from a very light bondage scene with Pandora, I didn’t think Gabriel had any other kinks or whatever that any seasoned courtesan couldn’t handle. :|
Anyhoooo.........back to the story. In a few chapters into the story, comes the other ‘famous scene’ where Gabriel’s jealous mistress strikes her barb at Pandora. And I was like, no, LK just did NOT go there! *gasp* Then I was horrified by Gabriel’s behavior towards her. Yes, I mean the mistress. I understand that the relationship was purely based on sex, still, was there not even a bit of affection? Previously, it didn’t sound like he hated her and took what she offered without any qualms whatsoever. Now that he’s married, she’s someone he’d rather not acknowledge. Hypocrite! I do think the mistress was stupid to do what she did, but that scene could’ve been dealt in a better way. Gabriel had no grace to speak of and I hate to think if Pandora is in any type of trouble with him, how he’d treat her. If the point was to make Gabriel look like a devoted husband, it failed. I only thought he was an a$$. And I don’t exactly see why the mistress was even made to make an appearance at all. Entirely pointless IMO.
After that, their relationship held no more magic for me. I tried but failed to find anything to cling to. Thankfully, there were other happenings in the story, and I was more interested in the sub-plot of the Irish radicals and how their assassination plot was incorporated here to pave way for the next books. We, again, meet Ransom, an inspector of the law. He was introduced in book 2. In here he seemed to be greatly involved in figuring out what was going on. It seems there’s this secret and rather terrible scheming going on inside the government to turn things upside down, and no one was acknowledging the latest incidents, including the assassination attempt on Pandora. Gabriel was duly furious and had promised to help Ransom whenever he needed it. There’s also a hint that Ransom maybe someone closer to the Ravenels than we’ve thought before. Hmmm... I also enjoyed seeing Dr. Garrett Gibson again, even if I don’t like her manly name, whose book will be the next, titled Hello Stranger. And I have to wait till next year to find out more! Why oh WHY? :(
In the end, I know very well that I’m in the minority. And I’d say this again that I LOVE Lisa Keypas but sometimes it’s just what it is. However, I’ll request that you to read the book (but try read them in order for better enjoyment) and find out for yourself. What bugged me may not bug you at all. For me, I’ve moved on, and now eagerly awaiting the next installment. 3.5 stars.