Summary: A devil's bargain
Easily the shyest Wallflower, Evangeline Jenner stands to become the wealthiest, once her inheritance comes due. Because she must first escape the clutches of her unscrupulous relatives, Evie has approached the rake Viscount St. Vincent with a most outrageous proposition: marriage!
Sebastian's reputation is so dangerous that thirty seconds alone with him will ruin any maiden's good name. Still, this bewitching chit appeared, unchaperoned, on his doorstep to offer her hand. Certainly an aristocrat with a fine eye for beauty could do far worse.
But Evie's proposal comes with a condition: no lovemaking after their wedding night. She will never become just another of the dashing libertine's callously discarded broken hearts -- which means Sebastian will simply have to work harder at his seductions...or perhaps surrender his own heart for the very first time in the name of true love.-- Avon
For February, our Skype book club decided to read DEVIL IN WINTER by Lisa Kleypas. It's a romance book, and truth be told, I wasn't exactly thrilled to "have" to read it. But I always say that's one of the great things about book clubs -- reading books that you normally wouldn't have picked up on your own! And I will admit that I didn't mind reading this book. I actually thought it was pretty darn enjoyable.
I claim to read little, if any, romance books a year; however, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I did like this novel. I wasn't really expecting much when I picked up this book, and the best I was hoping for was not to hate it. (Isn't that just awful?) I didn't hate it at all, and I actually found myself drawn into the story immediately. I am pretty sure that had something to do with the way Ms. Kleypas developed the characters of Evie and Sebastian and how she built the tension between them.
I couldn't help but love Evie and Sebastian! The book begins with a very shy Evie (she even has a stutter) approaching Sebastian and proposing that they be married. She is trying to escape from her brutal uncles before her inheritance comes in, and she sees her only way out as marrying Sebastian because he is in as desperate a situation as Evie. Sebastian's chracter appeared in prior Wallflower book, evidently, he was quite the rogue as well as a lady's man.
A lot of what occurs next in this book is somewhat predictable, but it didn't really bother me because I don't read many romances. There is definitely an attraction between Evie and Sebastian, but both of them are very hesitant to admit their feelings for each other. When Sebastian finally tells Evie that he wants her, Evie gives him a very challenging ultimatum to test his love. Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that he is even more frustrated with Evie than before!
There is some other action in this book besides just the romance. Evie returns to her father's "home" to stay with him for his final days. The thing is, her father's homes isn't exactly the place for a refined woman. He owns and runs an gentleman's club where men can drink, gamble, and hire women! Since much of the story takes place here, there is an interesting bunch of characters who add some suspense (and even mystery) to the story.
DEVIL IN WINTER is actually the third book in the Wallflower series, but it definitely can be read as a stand-alone novel. There are a few references to the prior books (or at least that's what I'm assuming) and the other Wallflowers do make appearances in this novel. All of the Wallflowers appear to be interesting characters, and I have to think that the other books in this series are along the same lines as this one. I admit to being a little curious about the other women's stories, so it's possible that I might even pick up another book in this series sometime in the future.
As far as book clubs go, I think DEVIL IN WINTER might work for some groups. I'll have a better idea after we discuss it on Sunday afternoon. I haven't read a ton of books from the romance genre, so I'm not really sure what we'd talk about; but there are some themes such as love, jealousy, grief, revenge, etc. that might lend themselves to some further discussion. Either way, I'm looking forward to talking with some fellow book-lovers!
If you are a fan of romance novels, then I do recommend DEVIL IN WINTER. It most definitely exceeded my expectations, and I was impressed with Ms. Kleypas' writing style and ability to draw me into the story.