The Ravenels, Book #7
(a.k.a. The Wallflowers, The Next Generation, Book #3)
(a.k.a. The Devil in Winter Epilogues, also Book #3)
Heat Factor: These are some horny Victorians
Character Chemistry: It’s totally insta-love, and it was written lucidly enough that it worked for me
Plot: “We’ll never work because of an unequal match” + “Why is someone trying to murder me?”
Overall: I re-upped my membership in the Bad Decisions Book Club for this one and read it in one sitting. No regrets.
Just when we thought that the Ravenels series was finished – on account of, you know, the last known Ravenel finding her true love – Kleypas sends us a curveball by adding the story of Merritt Sterling nee Marsden. Now, if you know Kleypas, you know Merritt is the oldest daughter of the protagonists of It Happened One Autumn, which is the second book in the Wallflowers series. The third book is the famed and beloved (I might be biased – deal with it) Devil in Winter, and those protagonists had five children, two of whom are (now) married to Ravenels.
I feel like this world is getting complicated.
Merritt’s love interest is Keir MacRae, a Scottish whiskey distiller who comes out of nowhere, but there’s a mystery attached to him that made me decide to go all in with this one and not stop reading until I’d solved the mystery. And then I read some more. Because, as with Kleypas books, there’s a little something going on in the first half(ish) that gets figured out and maybe also resolved, and then the second half(ish) is more focused on a spin-off problem.
Part of the fun of the book is this “what is the deal with Keir” mystery, so I’ll leave it there. But I’ll also say that, other than quite a bit of involvement from the protagonists of Hello Stranger and a cameo from the heroine of Devil’s Daughter (not the Ravenel in that story, I’ll note), this book seems to be more of a “Next Generation Wallflowers” book than a Ravenels book. So if you love you some St. Vincent, or if Westcliff is your uptight hero of choice, this book is probably right up your alley! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let’s talk about why this book might be fun for the people who aren’t already inclined to one-click a new Kleypas book.
The focus of this romance is the mystery/drama surrounding Keir, (yay for plot!) but the unequal match aspect definitely plays in for the “why they can’t be together right now” of the romance for a while.
Keir and Merritt have a really intense insta-love connection. I have neither a driving need to read insta-love, nor do I loathe it, so I usually take it as it comes. This rendition I very much liked. Keir is likeable in general, and he was as surprised by the sudden and overwhelming feelings he was experiencing as Merritt. But what really did it for me was that Merritt had been so pragmatic about her first marriage – not that she didn’t love him, but it was a very steady, sensible relationship – that when Keir shows up and she’s completely bowled over, she’s astonished that she can even be feeling what she’s feeling. She can’t believe that it could be real, but deep down she knows that it is, and she just decides she’s going to hang on for the ride because that’s what she wants to do.
It’s not angsty, I think, is what it boils down to. The willingness of the protagonists to embrace what they’re feeling, even though it’s totally bananas and realistically can’t last, was really fun. Kleypas also uses anatomically correct terms for genitals, so good on her. And the shenanigans that go on at Sebastian’s house were entertaining.
I simply really felt good reading this book.
P.S. Readers who don’t like the “I’m barren, but oh wait! Now my man has the super-sperm, and I’m pregnant!” might not enjoy that line in this book. I don’t love it myself, but it didn’t bother me too much in this book because a doctor actually diagnosed Merritt, so she was operating based on that information. Also, the condition she has can make conceiving more difficult (which is what the doctor told her – that she would have difficulty and might not be able to at all), but does not actually mean she’s unable to conceive or to carry a baby to term. To me, Kleypas handled this in a way that was scientifically accurate and also made sense in that Merritt would take to heart that she probably wouldn’t be able to have children. Ergo, not so bothered.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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