Devil in Spring

Lisa Kleypas

There’s always a risk when reading a book by one of your favorite authors, particularly when that book involves the child of a favorite couple from a beloved novel. The tie in to the earlier fantastic story raises the stakes, creating high expectations for the new tale. The hero of Devil in Spring is Gabriel Challon, Lord St. Vincent, son of Evie and Sebastian, the central characters of Ms. Kleypas’ incredibly popular Devil in Winter. While it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, and won’t go down as one of my favorite Kleypas books, it was certainly worth reading. And although it can be read as a standalone, familiarity with the other characters of the Ravenels and Wallflower series makes it much more enjoyable.

The book begins with the compromising of Pandora Ravenel by Gabriel. Anyone who knows Pandora from the previous two books in the series won’t be surprised that she felt cooped up at a ball and decided to venture outside on an errand for a friend. Heedless of any potential for scandal, Pandora wanders into a greenhouse and manages to get herself stuck in a settee, at which point Gabriel wanders onto the scene. In this innocent moment, where his only intention was to help a damsel in distress, the party’s host (who still bears a slight grudge against Gabriel’s father) shows up and declares the pair compromised.

Although neither Gabriel nor Pandora is enamored by the idea of marrying a stranger, it’s Pandora who is most vocal in her refusal to marry anyone at all. Gabriel, while unhappy that the parson’s mousetrap has been abruptly sprung, finds himself intrigued by Pandora’s disregard for the institution of marriage. They both return to their families for advice on how to proceed, and ultimately Gabriel’s parents suggest that the Ravenels come to visit their estate in Sussex, where Gabriel and Pandora can have a week to get to know each other. At the end of that time, they can decide the best way to move forward, either with a marriage or some other plan.

Amid long walks by the ocean and cheerful family gatherings, Gabriel and Pandora fall in love. While Gabriel is quick to change his attitude toward their marriage, excited by the prospect of spending the rest of his life with this interesting girl, Pandora remains unswayed. Although she can acknowledge she’s falling for Gabriel, her main opposition to their marriage has to do with the civil rights of a wife as opposed to a single woman, not with Gabriel himself. As Lady St. Vincent, Pandora will not be able to own and manage her own board game company, as she’s been intending to do ever since she had the idea back in Marrying Winterborne. Finally, after numerous conversations and a painful dancing lesson, Pandora agrees to marry Gabriel on the condition that he keep “obey” out of their vows and allow her to run her company, even though he will technically own it.

Ms. Kleypas does a good job with the characters of Evie and Sebastian here, keeping them mostly on the sidelines, and only occasionally offering advice. I’m sure it’s difficult as an author to ignore beloved characters when they’re in a scene, but doing so allows for more focus on Gabriel and Pandora and prevents the book from feeling like one extremely extended epilogue to Devil in Winter. However, one of the other pitfalls of writing about the children of past couples is how to go about the character development of the next generation. No one would want Evie and Sebastian to be anything less than perfect parents, and as a result their children all seem well-adjusted, particularly Gabriel. While that’s wonderful in an abstract sense, it makes for a bit of a boring hero. I liked Gabriel, but he was too perfectly perfect for me to really connect with.

Pandora is the saving grace here, because her personality feels irrepressible. She has trouble being ladylike, is determined to be a successful entrepreneur, and has her own set of insecurities due to a burst eardrum sustained in a childhood injury. Pandora’s distinct goals and issues kept me interested in the book, whereas Gabriel’s well-rounded perfection left me sad. As the son of one of my favorite romance couples, I so wanted to feel compelled by his story, but while Evie, Sebastian, and Pandora all have clear desires and struggles that made you care about them, Gabriel is a passive character who seems mostly content with his life. Well, content unless his wife is being threatened.

You may be wondering when Pandora is threatened, because the story I’ve described up to this point doesn’t seem all that dangerous. I won’t give everything away, but suffice it to say that after Gabriel and Pandora have settled into wedded bliss, an intrigue plot abruptly crops up, and although I do enjoy a bit of scheming from Ms. Kleypas, this clashes with the rest of the story. What I wanted was more character development and a deeper look at Gabriel and Pandora’s relationship – after all, it was mostly forged over the course of only seven days. Dangerous hi-jinks get in the way of a more character-driven romance towards the end.

I want to make it clear, though, that for all my disappointment with Gabriel’s character and the plot shift after their marriage, I still truly enjoyed Devil in Spring. Ms. Kleypas is one of my favorite authors, and for good reason. Her writing style has always been amusing and romantic, and I anticipate more from her soon, hopefully involving the bevy of secondary characters who show up here. The sharp intelligence and playfulness which shines through in Ms. Kleypas’ work is especially apparent in Gabriel’s siblings, and I hope that we’ll have the chance to read some of their stories after Ms. Kleypas has finished telling those of the Ravenel family.

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Book Details

Reviewer :      Alexandra Anderson

Grade :     B

Sensuality :      Warm

Book Type :     

Review Tags :     


  1. Dabney Grinnan February 15, 2017 at 7:21 am - Reply

    I’d give this a B+. Gabriel worked for me–yes, he falls hard and fast but the things that call to him about Pandora make sense. I did find the suspense plot not as integrated into the storyline as I’d like.

  2. Amanda February 15, 2017 at 7:56 am - Reply

    She gets… stuck… in a settee?

    Interesting that Pandora was the stronger of the two protagonists here for you. It gives me hope that maybe there’s been some much-needed maturity and character development from her appearance as a secondary character in the first two. I found her too sheltered and, frankly, annoying in those books.

    Does anyone know if there are more planned for this series? I’ve been mentally pairing off some of the other secondary characters, too.

  3. CarolineAAR February 15, 2017 at 8:16 am - Reply

    That cover INFURIATES me for a historical. What, is the book set in 2007?

    • Caz Owens February 15, 2017 at 12:24 pm - Reply

      Agreed – the stepback is similarly anachronistic.

    • Keira Soleore February 16, 2017 at 4:49 pm - Reply

      Right?! What’s up with Regency covers that look like 20th century prom dresses? Annoying as heck.

  4. Blackjack February 15, 2017 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    Helpful review, and I have decided to pass on this one. I’ve been disenchanted with Kleypas for a while and just have too many other authors I prefer much more now.

    • Dabney Grinnan February 15, 2017 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      I think this book showcases Kleypas’ effort to have a more feminist heroine. Much of this book is an argument for the modern view of marriage in which women and men are seen, by their government, as equals. I loved that about it.

      • Blackjack February 16, 2017 at 5:14 pm - Reply

        Kleypas is in need of more enlightened heroines and less domineering heroes, I think, and so that’s good to hear. However, I’ve been disappointed with what feels like wallpapery use of history, instant attractions that lack the time and effort to develop a genuine romance, and rather shallow characterizations of the main characters. I would say that it is going to take grades higher than the B’s to convince me to try again, but the second book in the Ravenel series had A reviews and I could not get through that one either. I’ve just had to accept that she was an important author that drew me back into reading romances once upon a time, but I’ve moved on.

        • Amanda February 16, 2017 at 6:27 pm - Reply

          A couple of years ago, I reread a few Kleypas books and was super turned off by the behavior of some of the heroes. And then maybe a year or so later I reread a few of those same books and I was okay-ish with them again. It’s odd. I did read her Travis series for the first time last year (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this a thousand times!) and was very pleasantly surprised by how much I liked those; I gave two of them 5 stars and that was largely due to the heroines, whom I loved. Maybe it was the contemporary setting…or the fact that it tackled a very sensitive issue in IPV.

          • Dabney Grinnan February 16, 2017 at 7:54 pm

            Her heroes that I love are Marcus (from It Happened One Autumn, Jack from Suddenly You, Cam from Mine Until Midnight, and Harry from Tempt Me at Twilight.

          • Blackjack February 17, 2017 at 7:41 am

            I generally liked the Travis books too, especially _Smooth Talking Stranger_ and I’ve really liked a number of Kleypas heroes.

            But, I’ve become disenchanted with the parade of heroes in book after book who are designated with the task of Teaching the heroines all about sex and initiating them into an erotic world. It’s difficult to think of any of the leading men not taking on such a role. Any?? I mean I liked Jack from _Suddenly You_ and given that he’s the younger partner, their sexual life could have had more sexual parity, but he’s still the sexually experienced one. Marcus from _It Happened One Autumn_ teaches Lillian all about her own body and how to enjoy sex. Even in Kleypas’s contemporary books where the heroines have the freedom to be sexually experienced, the men are more so and still have the upper hand. Anyway, not to beat a dead horse but just a main reason why I’ve grown weary of Kleypas and why she feels a bit retro to me.

    • Kate February 15, 2017 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      Count me as another who has been let down by Kleypas’ latest series. I adored everything she wrote before and Devil In Winter will always be my favorite book. I know that historical romance is rooted in a time that isn’t feminist, but there are many new authors like Kelly Bowen who do a better job of portraying women as strong and smart.

      • Dabney Grinnan February 16, 2017 at 7:34 am - Reply

        In this series, Pandora is definitely a far stronger, smarter heroine than the two that came before.

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