D.G.’s Rating: 3 skulls = B-
After reading more than 20+ books written by Lisa Kleypas, I’ve learned that her first in a series don’t do it for me. So it’s not a surprise that the best thing I have to say about Cold-Hearted Rake is that is a decent introduction to the series.
Devon is dismayed when he inherits an earldom and property at a time when that way of life is crumbling. He and his brother have lived indolent lives and have no intention whatsoever to chain themselves to a pile of debt and responsibility. All that changes when Devon meets Kathleen and realizes he must have her.
This was the first issue I had with the book. Devon’s turnaround was so impossible swift that his rake persona was not believable. In one moment, he’s about to sell every scrap of Eversby Priory and the next, he decides to take on the challenge. At the beginning, he didn’t seem remorseful or losing sleep over his decision to destroy the livelihood of all the people that depend on the earldom so when he changed his mind, I thought he had fallen in love with Kathleen. Imagine my surprise when he says he just wants to have an affair with her! Who the hell changes their life 180 degrees for somebody they just want to sleep with?
Kathleen, for her part, is a hypocrite busybody who thinks she knows what’s best for everybody and expects Devon to work miracles. She first chides Devon when she learns of his plans to sell everything and when he changes his mind, she badgers him when he has to make the tough decisions, expecting him to get the estate out of debt while keeping everything the same (like that worked for her first husband.) She’s the kind of pampered aristocrat that expects things to be perfect without appreciating the work goes into them. I wanted to strangle her in every other chapter: when she threw a fit because he had plumbing installed in the Priory, when she lectured everybody on propriety and then had sex with Devon in public places (that would be mildly scandalous today!) and when she meddled between Helen and Winterborne – her objections to him seemed more snobbery than anything else.
What saved the book (or doomed it, take your pick) was the focus on other characters. I didn’t mind that the main couple spent most of the first 100 pages or so apart as I was enjoying knowing the rest of characters. Lisa Kleypas has a gift for eccentric families and this came through and through in this book. West, the twins and even Hamlet the pig added to the great chaotic atmosphere. When Devon was forced to spend more time at the Priory, I had expected the romance to really start but then the book focused on Helen and Winterborne. Devon and Kathleen became the secondary romance in their own book.
I didn’t love Mary Jane Wells’ narration. She was really good with the female voices but her male ones were sub-par, specially Winterborne’s (yikes!). I’ll probably be reading the next book instead of listening.
Overall, I’m extremely happy that Lisa Kleypas is back to writing historical romance and I’m really looking forward to the next in the series.
Series Reading Order
1. Cold-Hearted Rake
2. Marrying Mr. Winterborne (releasing in 2016)
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