Doing it at: 73%
Catnip: Historical, Forbidden Romance; Bareback Riding; Strong Female Lead; Dual Narrative; Reformed Rake; Lords and Ladies; CoHo Exception
Shame Scale: I dare anyone to try to make me feel bad about reading a book whose title is a play on a Paula Abdul Song, come at me bro.
Fantasy Cast: Yael Grobglas; Joseph Fiennes (Circa Shakespeare in Love)
A twist of fate . . .
Devon Ravenel, London’s most wickedly charming rake, has just inherited an earldom. But his powerful new rank in society comes with unwanted responsibilities . . . and more than a few surprises. His estate is saddled with debt, and the late earl’s three innocent sisters are still occupying the house . . . along with Kathleen, Lady Trenear, a beautiful young widow whose sharp wit and determination are a match for Devon’s own.
A clash of wills . . .
Kathleen knows better than to trust a ruthless scoundrel like Devon. But the fiery attraction between them is impossible to deny—and from the first moment Devon holds her in his arms, he vows to do whatever it takes to possess her. As Kathleen finds herself yielding to his skillfully erotic seduction, only one question remains:
Can she keep from surrendering her heart to the most dangerous man she’s ever known?
I’ve spoken more than once on the blog about how historicals were my first romance book-love; I had a summer job watching kids whose mom inhaled paperback romances. She always had a giant bag of them in the living room that I would dip into, for an “education.” She was very into Sandra Brown historical’s, mostly set in the old west, and I still vividly remember a scene where the virginal heroine was titillated by watching the hero wash himself in just his britches from her bedroom window. And also Iris Johansen whose books I rediscovered last year, and loved all over again. The Johansen reread was a big part of my nosedive into full time romance. Anyway, this rambling introduction is just to lament how few historical romances I’ve been reading lately and to tell you I was really excited for Cold Hearted Rake, because Kleypas is pretty much the best historical fiction author working today.
Our heroine, Kathleen, was married to the Earl of Trenear for about five minutes, before he got himself thrown off of a horse and killed. The Earl had three younger sisters, but due to the laws of entailment (reading historicals has made me basically an expert on British laws of succession and property. #LEARNING), the estate goes to the nearest MALE relative. In the case of the Trenear Earldom, that’s Devon Ravenal.
He’s the late earl’s cousin, has no interest in being the earl, and has a reputation as a lady’s man. Kathleen is, understandably, not thrilled that he will be in charge of her future, and the future of her sisters-in-law. She, and the whole house, are in full-veils-over-our-faces-black-curtains-on-the-windows mourning for at least a year. Devon thinks this is ridiculous, and wastes no time letting her know that, firstly insisting that she take the veil off so he can see her face. He is, of course, completely transfixed at the first glimpse of her face.
The romance in Cold Hearted Rake plays out slowly, Kathleen takes her mourning seriously, she’s been brought up to respect propriety and the rules of society above all else. Devon could give a figgy pudding about any of that nonsense, but is finding himself unprecedentedly obsessed with Kathleen. Her mourning has to last one year and one day, and he is determined to be there on that 366th day, to make her his, permanently. Until then he is working on slowly wearing away at the Walls of Jericho she’s trying to erect between the two of them.
The former earl died before the marriage could be consummated, because he was a drunken pushy jerk with no finesse, and Kathleen knows next to nothing about sex. The forbidden foreplay that makes up her sexual awakening is delightfully steamy. There’s a carriage scene that rivals anything the contemporary genre has going for Sex En Plein Air. Think the car scene in Titanic only actually hot.
Kathleen is a well written, multi dimensional heroine that is easy to root for, Devon however is less fleshed out. He’s barely got an edge, and there isn’t much evidence of his rakishness presented. Additionally a good chunk of the book was devoted to the story of Helen, one of the sisters, and a friend of the earl who owns a large department store in London. I found myself frustrated that Helen and Winterborne seemed to dominate the second half of the book, until the ending given to Devon and Kathleen seemed rather rushed. This book included an excerpt of Kleypas’s next book, which will (unsurprisingly) be Helen and Winterborne’s full story. I’m sure it’ll be awesome, Winterborne already seems like a more complex hero than Devon. But I could have done with less of them in THIS book.
Even though I would have liked less of the side characters stories, Kleypas is a master at fleshing out her worlds. Devon’s little brother is particularly charming, and the twin sisters of the late earl were eccentric and quirky without being over the top. I also, always always, love reading about things like: tenant farming, why the kind of shirt a man wears is an important clue to his class status, and crazy Victorian etiquette. This book is the real deal for lovers of well researched, absorbing historical fiction.
Cold Hearted Rake would be a great Gateway Book, there’s sex –but not tons and nothing filthy or shocking–, its well written, and its a low shame read. You could probably recommend this one to your aunt who is really in to Downton Abby, the coworker at your office who is always knitting and bemoaning the manners of kids these days, or your bff who refuses to try historicals.
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