In the spirit of full disclosure, this review might be a tad biased because I worship any word that comes from the virtuoso that is Lisa Kleypas. Also, Evie and Sebastian are one of my top five favorite romance couples and this book has been a biannual read for me since I first got my hands on it. That being said, let’s move on to the review.
Marriage of convenience, be it historical or contemporary, is my absolute favorite romance trope. Add in a shy wall flower and a rake turned villain and you might as well just take my wallet and run with it. Devil in the Winter is the third book in Ms. Kleypas’ Wallflower quartet and my favorite of the lot. Though it picks up right from the previous book’s epilogue and a large part of the plot revolves around the incidences that took place in book two, there’s enough rehashing of the past that it can be read as a standalone without getting confused.
The story begins immediately, with Evie – our shy, stammering, redhead wallflower – escaping her abusive guardians in the middle of night and barging into Sebastian St. Vincent’s library. The purpose of this uninvited and decidedly inappropriate visit? A proposal of marriage that shocks both, the reader and the man she’s uncharacteristically ambushed.
“I need a h-husband. You need a rich wife. And we are both equally desperate, which leads me to believe that you will agree to my pr-proposition.” – Evie
Though the situation appears clandestine and rather untoward – something Sebastian is quick to point out – Evie’s reasons for being so very logical and straightforward. She needs protection from her evil Uncles who wish to marry her off to a cousin in order to get hands on her fortune. Sebastian, on the other hand, is an impoverished heir to a dukedom and in dire need of money. He’s also burnt all bridges by trying and failing to kidnap another heiress – aka, fiancé of only and now ex-best friend – and thus, cannot afford to be picky. In other words, both are drowning and too desperate to be choosy about the straws that come their way.
And thus, begins the unlikely partnership of two people everybody in the world agrees will not suit. But the world can take its opinions and go jump off a cliff because Lisa Kleypas is genius who turns this unlikely pair into one of the most beloved and swoon-worthy couples in the history of romance.
“Mysteries of attraction could not always be explained through logic. Sometimes the fractures in two separate souls became the very hinges that held them together.”
The plot pretty much picks up hereafter and their journey to Gretna Green is a delight to read. With every step of the way, the readers and Evie are exposed to a side of Sebastian previously unseen. The selfish, callous, spoiled, manwhore, criminal aristocrat is also a thoughtful, attentive man who takes remarkable care of is soon-to-be-bride. He feeds her when she’s hungry, cuddles when she’s sleepy, massages her aching shoulders and fills the foot warmer at every stop. [Confession: I want one!] More of all the above continues with dirty-talk when they are married and start living together at the Jenner’s, Evie’s father’s gambling club which now belongs to her and by virtue, to Sebastian.
While the premise may seem like it, this is not your typical shy girl meets wicked rake romance. For one, most of the novel takes place in a gambling club, which was all kinds of interesting. There’s also a lot of rehashing of the hero’s past but not in the way you’d presume. For one, he doesn’t really regret it until much later and the heroine uses it to blackmail him to stay celibate and faithful, a scenario they’d both previously agreed wasn’t required given that this was a marriage of convenience. One such hilarious exchange is as follows:
impossible,” he snapped.
“Because I’m Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent. I can’t be celibate. Everyone knows that.”
He was so arrogant, and so indignant, that Evie suddenly had to gnaw on the insides of her lips to keep from laughing.
Moreover, for two people so ardently opposed and afraid to romantic intimacy, Sebastian and Evie stick to each other like bees on honey. That is to their journey towards falling in love is both, decidedly sweet and filled with deadly stings. As two observant people who have been through a lot, Evie and Sebastian have a remarkable knack for pin-pointing each other’s weaknesses and slinging hurtful words.
There’re also added trials of jealousy, trust, evil relatives and life-threatening employees. But these episodes of ordeal and danger serve as the platform for the reformation of Sebastian’s character and for Evie to start shedding her timid layers, exposing the spine of steel hidden beneath.
“If my love can hold you, I’ll keep you with me.” – Evie.
I’d recommend this book to any romance reader who loves deep, epic romance with delightful heroines, scoundrel heroes and delicious dialogue.
“I want to fill every part of you…breathe the air from your lungs…leave my handprints on your soul. I want to give you more pleasure than you can bear. I want to make love to you, Evie, as I have never done with anyone before.”
RATING: BRILLIANT 5/5 STARS