I feel so ashamed and so weak. And cheapened. How could I do this? Lisa Kleypas and I were officially divorced in March of 2018 after I read HELLO STRANGER. And then what do I go and do? Hook up with her again in February of 2019 for this book. Now that it's over I don't feel at all good about myself. And that time together wasn't pleasurable. No Big O for me here. I've been left completely unsatisfied and feel so bad about myself. Not only that, but I had to pay her for our time together.
I blame it on Sebastian, my long-ago heartthrob from THE DEVIL IN WINTER. He and his True Love Evie are the parents of this book's heroine, and I had heard he plays a larger role here than he had done in DEVIL IN SPRING, the book about their son Gabriel and that twit Pandora Ravenel. Alas, he may have been on more pages but he came across as a pretty generic silver fox duke who's a super husband (more faithful than a swan), super father/grandfather, and super aristocrat. I calculate he must be in his 60s but he's still gorgeous and still virile without the need to find fresh, nubile women for his bed or even little blue pills. Evie is one lucky little old lady. But as far as any new or interesting developments in their lives, no such thing.
And the plot and characters of this book? Just thinking about it and them is putting me to sleep. Generic young widow grieving her dead-too-young invalid husband and former close childhood friend. She's boring and has nothing of the "devil" in her DNA. Our hero is West Ravenel, whom we've known since COLD-HEARTED RAKE. He's a reformed rake and recovering alcoholic who has left London and his scandalous ways behind to become an excellent hands-on estate manager.
Phoebe thinks she'll never love again. In addition, she resents West, whom she had never really met, just because as a schoolboy he had bullied her future husband and apparently made his two years away at school a misery. And West thinks he's not worthy of love or happiness. And he fears he could become a physically violent man like his father. Yada, yada, yada.
Interspersed with the romance is some boring information about the old vs new ways of farming and managing estates, keeping an estate's financial records, stuff about pig excrement, an enraged bull, lots of descriptions of clothing, food, buildings, and interior decor. There's a token nod to agency for women in that Phoebe must learn to take over control of her son's estate rather than relying on a man. That one got very much watered down by the fact that she ends up relying on West rather than herself. Oh, and I mustn't forget the adorableness factor: the heroine's two young boys and a cat named Galoshes.
I'd say that at least one quarter to one third of the pages of the book are spent on sex scenes, whether it be foreplay or the actual deed. And it's all described in unbearably flowery, over-the-top purple prose. I highlighted a couple passages to share:
"...[he] eased his aching shaft out of her warm, succulent depths, his body aching in anguish."
"...she cried out as he slid back into her, his hardness stretching her lusciously."
"...a powerful climax began, wringing every inch of her body with raw force..."
Oh, good lord. Pass over the sick bag. I think I may lose my breakfast.
So, no thanks. But Kleypas gets two stars from me anyway. She enticed me into buying this, didn't she? If I ever buy another new Kleypas, I must remember to give that future book 5-10 stars, just because of what a good con it was and how she managed to fool me again. And you know what that fooling beyond the first time makes me, right?