Lou: When I saw the news about Kleypas returning to historical romance I imagined the sound of trumpets heralding the return of the Queen. Yes–I’m being dramatic but Kleypas’ historicals are some of my favourite books in existence. Eva. Cold-hearted Rake was a huge improvement on Joe’s book in the Travis series, which felt really uneven. Despite a slow beginning in Cold-hearted Rake, Kleypas’ voice is strong and she delivered an enjoyable romance with engaging characters and showcased her talent for wicked banter and humour. I wasn’t keen on Devon at the beginning because he came across as your average spoiled rake. He didn’t have a backstory or past that elevated him to heights of previous Kleypas heroes. But he really grew on me and I ended up savouring this book a lot so I could read it slowly.
Has: I was ecstatic to hear that Kleypas was returning to historical romances, although I did enjoy a lot of her contemporary romances. There is something special and comforting with this setting because she has such a wonderful voice. Devon Ravenel is a typical nonchalant rakish hero who doesn’t want any responsibilities in life other the pursuit of his own pleasure. But circumstances brings him into the role of being the Earl of Trenear, a crumbling and run-down estate. He also inherits the responsibility of three young women and his deceased cousin’s widow. Devon’s first thoughts and actions are to sell off the estate and ignore any obligations to the Earl’s family. But things don’t turn out the way he expected and he is determined to try to save the estate and reverse its fortunes despite his initial feelings. Devon is also deeply drawn to the widow of his cousin, Kathleen, who clearly dislikes him from their first meeting, but even though they disagree with each other, both are drawn towards each other.
Like Lou, I had issues with warming up to Devon because I found the first few pages hard to get through because I thought this would be another bored rake who clashes passionately with the heroine. I also have to admit, I got a bit bored. However, things swiftly changed and the trademark humour and wit with Kleypas’ fantastic dialogue and chemistry shone out for me and the buildup of tension between Kathleen and Devon was amazing. It was slow burn and I loved how Devon was the one became possessive and obsessive over Kathleen. He really fell hard for her and I love this type of couple.
Lou: Yeah the story really didn’t kick in until around 40% mark after a swoon-worthy moment (which made me wince a little) from Kathleen and it changed the direction of the story. Kathleen I really enjoyed, though she was pretty tame in regards to Kleypas heroines. Her marriage to Theo, her deceased husband, wasn’t plain sailing and his death left her traumatised because of how they argued beforehand. Devon isn’t particularly kind in the beginning of the book and he and his brother West come across as very spoiled people but West does a huge change-around which I loved, and Devon’s witty humour saved him from being a complete arsehole. Katleen inserted herself into the family despite her short time amongst them and Kleypas does family dynamics so well. It reminded me a little of the Hathaway series which I really enjoyed. A lot of the book sets up the other characters. The humour of the twins, Pandora and Cassandra, was enjoyable, and Helen, the eldest sister, had her secondary plot with Rhys Winterbourne, a very big character who has a very strong and dominant personality. Sometimes it felt as the Devon’s and Kathleen’s romance got sidetracked and just when I found myself enthralled with their romance, I was brought back out by the other subplot.
Kathleen and Devon’s romance is sorta the frenemies trope. Devon is so into Kathleen that he has no reservations about going after and seducing her, and he has no time for the mourning period, which he thinks is ridiculous. I don’t know if that’s because he thinks it’s a double standard for women, or because he wants inside Kathleen’s drawers so badly lol.
The sexy smexing was pretty hot!
A devil whisper sifted through the darkness. “Do you want me to kiss you?”
“No.” A half second after that, she took a sobbing breath and said, “Yes.”
A quiet laugh vibrated against her wet flesh, and she nearly swooned at the feel of it. “Which is it?” he asked. “Yes or no?”
It was not pleasant to discover that one’s moral resolve had all the strength of wet cardboard.
“Show me where,” he murmured.
Breathing hard with excited misery, she made herself do it, reaching down to expose the tiny peak. His mouth covered her slowly, tenderly, the flat of his tongue resting against the intimate throb. Her hands fell away and groped for the velvet cushions beneath her, fingertips digging tightly. His tongue slid over her. Once. Trembling and half fainting, she let out a plangent moan.
Has: I so agree with you about the detraction of attention with the setting up the romance and sequel for Winterbourne and Helen. At times I felt that they took centre stage and that Kathleen and Devon took a backseat, especially towards the end of the book. I was left wanting more because I think that last conflict and obstacle between Devon and Kathleen was a bit underdeveloped, and I wanted more time focused on them because I found the resolution and ending abrupt. Nonetheless, I did love that Kathleen took control of their relationship, and their affair had her in the position of power. I loved how that gave her agency, especially when she always felt abandoned and alone and stifled. I also like that Devon gave her that space because he was so head over heels in love with her, he would do or give anything so that he would be close to her. But I would have liked to see more of their issues with their past, especially their parents and how that affected them because there seemed to be a story thread which fizzled out because of the other subplots.
I also have to repeat the other highlight for me in this book was the humour, it had me laughing out loud several times, and I especially loved the twins who came out with hilarious things.
“They’re installing a boiler system,” Pandora said, flipping through a book. “It’s a set of two large copper cylinders filled with water pipes that are heated by gas burners. One never has to wait for the hot water – it comes at once through expansion pipes attached to the top of the boiler.”
“Pandora,” Kathleen asked suspiciously, “how do you know all that?”
“The master plumber explained it to me.”
“Dear,” Helen said gently, “it’s not seemly for you to converse with a man when you haven’t been introduced. Especially a laborer in our home.”
“But Helen, he’s old. He looks like Father Christmas.”
“Age has nothing to do with it,” Kathleen said crisply. “Pandora, you promised to abide by the rules.”
“I do,” Pandora protested, looking chagrined. “I follow all the rules that I can remember.”
Another aspect I really enjoyed about the book was the details and research that Kleypas undertook. I really felt that I was immersed into the period and it accentuated the plot with the problems and difficulties of the estate which I found interesting. I also found interesting the class elements with Winterbourne’s ambitions and the underlying theme of this series which focuses on dark and rakish heroes. I thought that Kleypas made this element feel intriguing and vivid as well as her gift of creating well fleshed out characters.
Lou: What I noticed was the setup of the characters seemed so different to others previously. I mentioned before that Devon didn’t have this huge backhistory or very dominant stamp that her other heroes had. These characters are much more low-key and it sorta has a Downton Abbey feel, or am I imagining things? I’d love for West to fall for a farmer heroine
All in all this was a solid read for me and I’m so excited and happy that Kleypas has returned to her historical roots. I adore the characters she created and I cannot wait for Helen and Rhys’ book because holy moly was he a bastard and he needs to do some serious grovelling!
The beginning and ending of the book were probably the weakest, as the reveal at the end which separated Devon and Kathleen seemed forced and cliched but heck, this is Kleypas. She’s still an amazing and talented writer.
I give Cold-hearted Rake a B
Has: Oh I definitely agree with you about the richer historical feel. I also agree about the weaknesses of the beginning and ending, but overall, I thought this was a wonderful start of a fantastic series that promises vibrant cast of colourful and memorable characters. The humour and wit, and the lush detailed descriptions of the setting made this book come alive. I really can’t wait for the sequel involving Winterbourne and Helen and to see what happens next to the twins, and who is this mysterious Severin?
I also give Cold-hearted Rake a B