Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday Review -- The Devil In Winter

It's time for a new feature here at Damned Scribbling Women, particularly since we've finally managed to attract a few readers other than friends, family and those forced by future conjugal ties to pretend an interest in our writing.

Here it is, the first Friday Review, this time of Lisa Kleypas' The Devil In Winter, out in March.

My introduction to Kleypas (in college) was through her Bow Street Runners series, and I have to say, I wasn't a fan. Maybe it was the romantic suspense-y vibe, but I wasn't all that fond of the characters, didn't love her writing, just didn't get the appeal.

But when she started her new Wallflowers series (and I got the first book free) I decided to give it a try. I loved Secrets of a Summer Night, from the unabashadly mercenary heroine, to the rough and middle-class hero to the delightful group of friends that I knew would form the heroines of the following books (not an Amy March among them). I liked the second book, It Happened One Autumn, the story of brash American heiress Lillian and starchy aristocrat Marcus, even better.

Fortunately, Kleypas' streak holds in this third book in the series. The hero is a familiar type in historical romance, the dissolute rake who thinks he's much worse than he is, but the fact of his having been the villain in the previous book adds interest, and he thankfully doesn't spend too much time wallowing in guilt over his stained past. He also demonstrates a marvelous energy in turning around a decayed gambling club once he gets hold of it that I enjoyed. Not often we see aristocrat heroes doing anything other than thinking about drainage and their tenants and possibly allowing a railway on the property (when not tearing bodices, of course).

The heroine, Evie, is really marvelous. She's painfully shy, with frizzy red hair and a stutter. She's the daughter of a respectable woman and the up-from-the-streets owner of the aforementioned gambling club, and after her mother's death she was brought up by her strict and abusive maternal relatives. She's incredibly appealing: strong-willed and determined without being irritatingly or stupidly pig-headed (as a lot of "modernized" historical heroines can be).

The tone of the book is perfect, just the right mix of light humor, percolating suspense, and inner turmoil. And the series' other characters are used sparingly but well.

In fact, the book's so good it makes me regret that after the last Wallflowers novel, Scandal In Spring, Kleypas will be turning to contemporaries (romantic suspense, I believe, which I find really tedious). Please don't stay away too long, Lisa! We need more decent historicals!


P.Devi said...

Talk abut your heights of ecstasy followed by the depths of despair! Great that this book was so good and awful that she's writing romantic suspense in the future.

Like you, after the blah Bow Street Runner books, it took this wonderful "Wallflower" series to rekindle my excitement about Kleypas.

Oh, I'm bummed.

Kristie (J) said...

Well, say now. I have a Kleypas I can recommend if you haven't read it yet. And that would be Dreaming of You. I'm on a mission see.

Theresa said...

What was so bad about the Bow Runners? I liked the one with the twins. It was fun.

On another note, I can't believe I'm writing history papers on a Saturday - flashbacks! - are you sure you want to go to grad school?

P.Devi said...

Kristie, I don't know about theflitgirl, but I've read DREAMING OF YOU twice in my life, which speaks volumes about my regard for the book.

sybil said...

Is it RS? I thought I read worse, that was going to women's fiction.

I recall a sale on Karen Fox's market place thing. I could be so wrong though. But now I will have to check again. I have read so few RS since I just don't like, that I would try a LK. But women's fiction just gets on my last nerve.

And she did say she was going to go back to historical, but I could see an author saying that just to check those fans around ;).

sybil said...

Yep unless this is wrong from Karen Fox's page ( it is worse than RS....

NYT bestelling author Lisa Kleypass three novels, contemporary women's fiction, to Jennifer Enderlin at St. Martin's, by Mel Berger at William Morris Agency (NA). - Publisher's Marketplace 2/17/05

Well I think it is worse ;)

romancelover said...

Damn...I was getting ready to write up a review to this book...I loved it as well and was lucky enough to get it early! It's so good...I'll have to check on what Kleypas will be writing...I know she mentioned it somewhere...RS? I don't think I've ever read any RS books...I thought it was just plain contemporary...hmmm...will check on Monday...I don't have my stuff here right now.

theflitgirl said...

I could certainly be wrong. All I know is she's leaving historicals, if only for a while, and that makes me sad...

Alex said...

Oh, your review just made me want to get it even more!!!

I liked the Bow Street Series... though I don't think it was Lisa's best. The Wallflowers it's her best series as far as I'm concerne. Though I love Again the Magic (Marcus first guest appereance) and Dreaming of You stands to be my favorite Hist Ro ever!

Anyway, just wanted to congratulate you on the job you're doing! It's very engagging.


Ps. Lisa said she'll keep writing Historicals, even if she does being to write Contemporary.

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