Devil in Spring (Avon/HarperCollins, Feb 2017) is a return to form for the incomparable Lisa Kleypas. Meticulously crafted with extreme attention paid to detail and the historical context in which these characters evolve; this latest effort proves to be on par with its' wintry literary relative (see what I did there #wink #DevilInWinterVibes).
Arguably, Kleypas’ greatest protagonist, Sebastian Challon, Duke of Kingston has raised an equally indelible and wholly irresistible heir in Gabriel. This not-so-fallen angel has all the wickedness of his Father tempered with the good-natured thoughtfulness of his mother. Gabriel is in no rush to meet a proper miss at the altar but when circumstances and honor come into play following an innocent attempt to play the hero, it takes very little to warm him to the idea. Especially when the reluctant soon-to-be bearer of his name and children is the enigmatic and distinctive Pandora.
Pandora is grasping on to her independence by both gloved hands as the demands of her lofty lineage becomes increasingly stifling. She suffers the mundanity of a London season for the benefit of her sister and strict chaperone but would much rather be home designing board games. Unfortunately, a chance encounter and an awkward predicament seeks to derail the carefully laid plans of this eccentric wallflower. Enter: A marriage she doesn't want, into a life she cannot abide, multiplied by the acute sense of loss over her dream to start a business that would see her self-reliant in an era where a woman's worth is measured by the man at her side. And damned Pandora’s luck that the perpetrator of this inconvenience happens to be the only Adonis in London that may be worth the sacrifice.
Rating: 4 Red Roses
My Favorite Part of this Book: Call me morbid but I love when a Heroine suffers an injury. Not your garden variety twisted ankle, but life threatening, gory, she may not make it through the night injured. And Kleypas DELIVERED (Oops, guess that's a spoiler). Whenever an author gives me that type of scene with characters I really enjoy it just enhances the story beyond measure for me. I guess I enjoy seeing the aftermath and that raw emotion that comes through when someone they care deeply for is almost taken away.
For a while, I have not been as blown away with the recent works of Kleypas. Starting with Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, that 'Kleypas Punch' she always delivered so deftly was starting to lose its sting. Even her return back to historical in Oct 2015 (Cold-Hearted Rake) felt a bit void of that magic I am use to finding between the pages. But it's safe to say Lisa Kleypas is back to steal your heart.
While I do feel this is a great book for longtime fans, one of my biggest points of contention came with the extremes of the characters. At times, I enjoyed Pandora’s quirkiness thoroughly, but more often than I would have liked, I found myself slightly turned off at how girlish she came off. I get that she's this bluestocking heroine fresh into her first season and had been closeted away on a country estate for far too long- but I wish the woman who yearned to discuss Darwinism with her potential father-in-law wouldn't have been so drastically flighty. It boarder on pubescent and was uncomfortable to read pass as the couple dealt with adult situations.
Gabriel also lacked some of that endearing edge that made his father one of my favorite heroes of all time. Have you ever had an Ice Caramel Coffee from Dunkin Donuts that was delicious but a TOUCH too sweet? You still guzzle it down but a little less sugar would have made the drink blend better. At a certain point, it becomes too tedious to go along with the "every breath she draws is a small wonder” prose. As cynical as I tend to be, I know the deal when it comes to reading these types of books and am no stranger to suspending my own disbelief in order to get to the emotional pay off I seek in these novels. Pandora's immaturity and Gabriel's overabundance of affection read more exaggerated than it was probably intended.
Another glaring grievance is that about 50% of the book is dedicated to this week-long countryside courtship. Don't get me wrong this was delightfully written but as I started to really get into the characters as a couple, I wanted to be done with the preamble and jump right into their union- especially when the blurb hints at a deeper, more nefarious subplot of mystery and danger ahead.
SO very often these "scandal to marriage' plot lines incessantly draw out a 'courtship period' prior to the union. It is 'SCANDAL TO MARRIAGE' for a reason. I reminisce over what I think of as the Mary Balogh and Johanna Lindsey-style; Where the characters relationship develops almost entirely within the confines of an unwanted marriage rather than on the road to it. (I believe some of Kleypas older works have done this cc: Suddenly You?). I've been having a hard time finding those types of books. Cutting to the chase would have benefited the story as a whole because once Pandora and Gabriel go on their honeymoon; it feels like we are starting a completely different story. Either half of the book was strong enough to hold its own but as a package they undermine more than the complement.
In the end, that fiction magic Kleypas spins like a spider’s web will most definitely ensnare and satisfy readers from the first page to the back cover.