Review: “Cold-Hearted Rake” by Lisa Kleypas

Hello, my lovely imaginary readers! I finally got around to reading Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas, and I can honestly say that I’m glad I did. But not for the most obvious reasons, unfortunately.

The obvious reason would be that I like the book. Weeeell, I kinda, sorta, maybe liked it.

First, let me tell you, my dears, that I love Lisa Kleypas. Some of her books are on my all-time favorites list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve re-read Dreaming of You or Where Dreams Begin. And her Hathaway and Wallflower series were awesome!

Cold-Hearted Rake‘s heroine Kathleen is a widowed bride of the Earl of Trenear, to whom she was married for only three days. When the new earl, Devon Ravenel, comes to take the title and sell off whatever of the entailed property he can, misunderstandings ensue, mainly due to Kathleen rigid ideas of right and wrong. While she does have some redeeming qualities, like her sense of obligation and responsibility to the former earl’s younger sisters, whom she truly seems to like, she just never grabs the reader’s attention enough for him or her to say, “Love her!!” It just doesn’t happen.

But you can like a book without liking aspects of a single character. Unfortunately, the other main character, Devon, isn’t that great either. He’s a self-proclaimed gentleman of no talent and little work ethic. I mean this literally; he states in the first chapter that he has “‘always enjoyed a comfortable life without having to perform single day of honest labor.'”  FYI: This is not endearing. He just wants to chuck his responsibilities to the wind, including the guardianship of the former earl’s sisters and widow. This, of course, is something that’s overheard by Kathleen, which starts their enmity and their bumbling, forced relationship.

He doesn’t care for her judgments, whether or not they are deserved. But he overlooks this because she’s beautiful and he wants to have an affair with her. While he does change his mind eventually about putting them all out on the street, he does so mainly due to the fact that he considers Kathleen his from the first few chapters. He doesn’t redeem himself because he never does any of his “good” actions for anything other than selfish reasons, i.e. to fulfill his desire to have Kathleen.

His selfishness is highlighted by the fact that his younger brother, West, is exactly the same dissolute persona at the beginning, but one whose change is more progressive and realistic. I could feel how much West came to care for the sisters and Kathleen; he teased them and had meaningful conversations with them, showing me how much he started to consider himself family to these women. Unlike Kathleen and Devon, Kathleen and West had a better friendship, a more believable friendship. In fact, I kind of started to ship Kathleen and West, even though I knew Devon and Kathleen were the focus of this particular HEA. I mean, it is a romance novel, after all.

And the ending. I knew Devon was obsessed with Kathleen from the beginning, but he never indicates in thought or action that he’s anywhere near love, other than his little obsession with her. Then, it seems, suddenly, that he realizes that he loves her and tells her almost immediately. He has absolutely no compunction about telling her he loves her because he really believes, in my opinion, that if he deigns to love her, she’ll of course love him back.

And, umm, really, I didn’t even realized Kathleen liked Devon until she says she loves him, too. It was weird.

The only compelling thing about this novel were the secondary characters. I LOVED West! Seriously, he was awesome (and a little Leo-ish). I hope he gets a strong female lead, but hopefully not one of his twin cousins, Pandora and Cassandra, who acted more like little children than the nineteen-year-olds they were described as being. This is something I’ve never seen Kleypas do, marry the cousins off to each other, so I’m hoping I’m safe with my hope of West’s eventual love being outside the family line.

Then, there’s Winterborne and the eldest sister Helen. *Sigh.* The pages told from their perspective are the most intriguing and one of the only reasons I powered through this debacle until the end. Winterborne is the very rich owner of department stores by the same name. He resents his common upbringing, especially when he compares it to the privilege of the upper classes. But he wants to marry Helen, thanks in no large part to Devon’s mercenary suggestion that Winterborne could buy her and his way into society. (Yes, this happens, though Devon does claim that Helen will have the final say. But, still.)

I could tell that Winterborne wanted to marry Helen, but that he felt he was not good enough for her. And he mistook her extreme shyness for conceit, which infuriated and humiliated him. He does not understand how sheltered she is in comparison to the women he knows in London, and he doesn’t seem to know how to be gentle with her or even consider that it might be necessary.

And, really, being so sheltered, Helen doesn’t know what she wants herself. Devon, West, and Winterborne are her first real introduction into men of that society, and I couldn’t really expect her to make any choice than the ones she did. The excerpt at the end of Cold-Hearted Rake really made me wish it was already May 31st so that I could devour their relationship in one night.

So, there it is, as painful as it was for me to admit. I’ve decided to consider this novel as a transition novel, letting us in on the world we’ll be visiting in the series but not truly essential for any other reason. I figure Kathleen and Devon will become the head of the Ravenel family in the following books, so I guess it’s good to know some of their background since they’ll definitely keep popping up in the future books.

My final opinion? Wait until after Marrying Winterborne is out to read Rake so that you can immediately delve into a good romance to ease the disappointment of it. But I would definitely read it since it has so much background for the rest of the series.

I’m feeling a romance drought lately, so if any of you lovelies have suggestions, let me know! Until then, hope your romance reading goes well!

Ta-ta for now, my dear ones!

HMichaele

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