I jumped right into the middle of The Wallflowers series with Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas. This book can most definitely be read as a standalone, but I have a feeling it would be even better if I had read the first two books in the series.
No matter, I still fell in love with Sebastian as many have done before me.
Devil in Winter
Evie Jenner is one of the wallflowers on which this series is based, and she goes to Sebastian to ask him to marry her to help her escape her abusive family who only wants the fortune she stands to inherit from her father. Sebastian, being in need of funds, is only to happy to help, and there we have our classic marriage of convenience historical romance trope.
The two are married after a mad dash to Gretna Green, and here is where I’d like to start the discussion.
There Is No Warming Up Period
I want to be plunged head first into any story I’m reading, and Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas just doesn’t plunge us, it shoves us right into the action. Not only does the plot advance quickly, but so does the relationship between Evie and Sebastian. You’re lead to believe that Sebastian is a cruel rake, and as a reader, you expect him to behave a certain way.
The opening of the book refutes this. Deliciously so.
Due to the nature of a Gretna Green dash, our two characters are forced into an intimacy that would otherwise not occur in this time period. The result is a quickly moving plot, a breathtaking spike of character development, and possibly one of my favorite openings to a historical romance novel.
The Hits Keep Coming
The story did not slow down once our pair were married. Kleypas is a master of those careful, poignant moments that surprise you. For example, Sebastian learns that Evie was physically abused by her family when he gestures during an argument and Evie flinches.
The moment is heartstopping.
Our devil-may-care rake is suddenly confronted with something he’s never had to face before. The fact that someone might live a less privileged life, that someone might face such issues as abuse. The moment is so real, and Kleypas relates it without the reader realizing what an important point they just read. The clarity of the moment is stunning. It’s brilliant.
Even more, Sebastian’s character arc is probably one of the best I have ever read. You can feel his struggle through these pages. He really wants to remain a rake, but his thoughts and feelings are ripped from his control by outside forces, namely his growing love for Evie. The transformation is exquisitely done.
In Part of the Whole Historical Romance Genre
Kleypas’s writing is heavy on rich descriptions and emotional turmoil. Her dialogue is strong, but her ability to wrought every emotional bit from the reader is where she excels. If you’re a fan of Julia Quinn for the witty dialogue, you won’t find that here. Instead, you’ll find an emotional roller coaster that will keep you holding your breath until the very end.
Devil in Winter was published in 2006, and writing standards have changed greatly since then. The descriptions of one of the characters who is of Romany descent might be objected to now. In which case, I would approached this story with an open mind.
Like many authors with a long career, their earlier works may be reflected on with a modern lens and found lacking. I would caution against that here. Kleypas writes with respect and any slight is, to my opinion, unintentional.
Devil in Winter was recommended over and over again in several of my historical romance book club groups. I was not disappointed. The characters were splendidly crafted, and the emotion was thick and dangerous. I loved every minute of it. If you enjoy wallflower historical romance, this is the book for you.
If you want more wallflower historical romance, you might like my book, The Duke and the Wallflower.