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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 :     


Recent Comments

43 Comments

  1. Dabney Grinnan
    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
      Caz Owens February 15, 2017 at 12:24 pm - Reply

      Agreed – the stepback is similarly anachronistic.

    • Keira Soleore
      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.

      • Keira Soleore
        Keira Soleore March 1, 2017 at 1:41 pm - Reply

        Er, I meant to, vehemently, write Victorian, not Regency.

  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
      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
            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
        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.

  5. Em Wittmann
    Em Wittmann February 21, 2017 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    Oh I loved this right up until the last few chapters. He’s great, she’s great, their romance is delightful & sexy & playful and everything clicked. Light, lovely and then…well, I’m not sure how I feel about the intrigue at the end. When they were happily married at 60% into the story, I knew something had to happen to threaten their happiness. I expected there to be a few speed bumps related to Gabriel’s need to protect Pandora. But this twist seemed a bit extreme and sort of random in the context of the story. I was also convinced Ms. Black would feature more prominently in the latter half – but her absence and the actual intrigue didn’t spoil the book for me. I loved meeting up with Ransome again & I’M VERY ANXIOUS FOR HIS STORY (with Phoebe?!?).

    Solid B+ for me & I can’t wait for the next book.

    Re: the cover – it’s very modern but it’s also very beautiful IMHO.

    Also, I just know Caz is going to tell me who’s featured in the next book. She always knows before I do. And that my dream pair – Phoebe + Ransome sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G – isn’t going to happen. Just saying.

  6. Bona February 23, 2017 at 2:29 am - Reply

    I enjoyed this book. Mine is going to be a 4-star review. I loved Pandora, she’s one of the most interesting female characters Kleypas has written. Gabriel was quite conservative for my taste and I’m not sure that he is redeemed at the end of the book. Yes, I did also find that the last third of the book was a little bit lacklustre. And I had this feeling that there was something about the sexy part that was not fully developed.

    • Em Wittmann
      Em Wittmann February 23, 2017 at 7:34 am - Reply

      Yeah – I liked the sexy part too & thought this was a missed opportunity. It’s obvious from Gabriel’s hinting & the corset scene that he likes a bit more kink in the bedroom. Also, that she’s into it too! I thought it added a nice little edge to him & could have used a bit more development of this side of his character.

  7. puce February 24, 2017 at 3:17 am - Reply

    Pandora is less annoying than in the previous books, but still annoying. I liked Phoebe and I hope that after the Ravenels we’ll have the Challons.
    I wonder if the next book will be about Cassandra (with Severin? West? Others?) or the new surprising Ravenel. And Drago and Garrett need some love, too.

    • Caz Owens
      Caz Owens February 27, 2017 at 12:06 pm - Reply

      I’m glad I’m not the only one annoyed by Pandora. I did like a lot of things about her, but can’t get past the fact that Gabriel really put himself out for her, time and again, but she still insisted on mistrusting him towards the end. He gave and she took… but I didn’t see much going the other way.

      • Amanda February 27, 2017 at 7:02 pm - Reply

        I couldn’t stand Pandora in the first two books so I expected to feel the same way here, but I warmed up to her over the course of the book. Still not a big fan, but I think I see where Kleypas was going with her character. Gabriel was a bit dull. I gave this one 3 stars.

  8. puce February 27, 2017 at 4:20 am - Reply
    • Em Wittmann
      Em Wittmann February 27, 2017 at 9:40 am - Reply

      I can’t open that link here at school but I’m so excited to check it out when I am home for the day! Thanks for the info! I loved this one – did you?

    • Em Wittmann
      Em Wittmann February 27, 2017 at 9:43 am - Reply

      Just opened it on my phone! Who you think Garrett will be paired with?!

      • Caz Owens
        Caz Owens February 27, 2017 at 12:03 pm - Reply

        Back when I read Marrying Winterborne, I thought I’d like to see her paired up with West. But I don’t know anything for sure (yet).

        • Em Wittmann
          Em Wittmann February 27, 2017 at 7:11 pm - Reply

          Oh I love Garrett too! I can’t wait to get her story. I’d love to see her with either of those guys. But only 4 books in the series?!? NOOOOOOO!

          I need West’s story & Ransome’s! And Phoebe’s! And Cassandra’s! What’s up with that?

      • Keira Soleore
        Keira Soleore March 1, 2017 at 1:34 pm - Reply

        I’d love to see Garret paired with Ransome.

    • Amanda February 27, 2017 at 6:59 pm - Reply

      I’m surprised Garrett is getting the next book if this is only a 4-book series (which it is, according to her website–I didn’t notice this before). I think she’s being paired up with Ransom. If so, this would mean no book for Cassandra or West (or Cassandra/West, the pairing I’d love to see!) unless they have secondary romances. Not sure how to feel about that. Having said that, I find Garrett’s character fascinating. She’s definitely caught my attention–in fact, I like her more than the heroines of the other books, bar maybe Helen.

      • Caz Owens
        Caz Owens February 28, 2017 at 2:55 am - Reply

        I heard it would be 5 books – but if it says 4 on LK’s website… I would think she should know! Mind you, Phoebe is a Challon, not a Ravenel, so…

      • puce February 28, 2017 at 2:55 am - Reply

        In the video mentioned in the link I posted, LK now talks of 5 books. I guess Garrett will be paired with Ethan, because being probably a half-brother he can’t be paired with Cassandra. The last book could be about Cassandra and Severin or West. Phoebe could have a secondary romance or start a new series.

        • Amanda February 28, 2017 at 9:06 pm - Reply

          There’s something about the way she introduces Phoebe’s character that sets off my *FUTURE ROMANCE HEROINE* bells 😉 But yes, maybe it will be a secondary romance. I’d love to see it. I have a soft spot for widow/er romances where the first spouse wasn’t a terrible person. See: When He Was Wicked (my favorite Bridgerton book) and Within Reach by Sarah Mayberry. Both also happen to be friends-to-lovers, hmmm.

          Anyway, I don’t know why I’m so set on Cassandra/West…I just am!

  9. PegS February 28, 2017 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    I just started reading it a few days ago, and although Pandora is mildly less annoying her she’s still annoying enough for me to set the book down. Now that both the new Meredith Duran and Theresa Romain are out I may just read those first before returning to this book.

  10. Em Wittmann
    Em Wittmann March 1, 2017 at 6:42 am - Reply

    Not a lot of love for this heroine in the comments!

    Well, I’ll raise my hand and say I loved Pandora. I thought she was charming, funny and a nice foil to Gabriel’s sleek, playboy persona. I also thought her innocence and awareness of it – along with her awkward confidence (and funny words), made for a refreshingly unique heroine. She’s naive yes… it just didn’t bother me as much as it seemed to bother other readers. I particularly enjoyed the likening of Pandora to a nervous, skittish colt in Gabriel’s imagination. It’s a vivid and rather brilliant analogy that helped me to better imagine her.

    I just really liked this book.

  11. Keira Soleore
    Keira Soleore March 1, 2017 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    I completely agree with you, Em. I loved Pandora as a heroine. She was just perfect for Gabriel, and I enjoyed seeing how Gabriel changed his opinion so completely from what he expected his wife and future duchess would be. After having met her, he accepted and adored Pandora the way she was and had the confidence that she would grow and mature into her role. What I especially liked was that whether she changed or not, he was willing to be supportive and loving. He went from thinking she was a disaster to thinking she was perfect for him.

  12. Keira Soleore
    Keira Soleore March 1, 2017 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    I, too, wanted to see more of Mrs. Black and wanted to see Gabriel recover his equilibrium and grow into indifference towards her. His anger in that Haymarket scene shows more of a continued emotional involvement. That scene was the place for him to display aristocratic ennui, but his murderous rage is more in keeping with Kleypas’s possessive heroes.

  13. puce March 4, 2017 at 6:28 am - Reply

    It’s Garrett and Ethan. LK has read an excerpt from it during a book signing.

  14. Gigi March 4, 2017 at 11:01 am - Reply

    I entered a promotion with Avon. If you provide proof of purchase of Devil in Spring they will email you the first chapter. Like others mentioned it is Dr. Gibson’s and Ransom’ s story and while the excerpt didn’t reveal a whole lot it left me very intrigued. I was disappointed when I heard that the hero wasn’t West but now I’m really looking forward to this one!

  15. Em Wittmann
    Em Wittmann March 5, 2017 at 11:03 am - Reply

    Oh I loved the Avon tease too!!! That chapter has me so excited for what’s to come. I think the chemistry between Garrett and Ransom is already delicious – I’m excited for this.

    • Lisa March 6, 2017 at 1:00 pm - Reply

      How do I get a hold of this excerpt?!??!

    • Lisa A March 6, 2017 at 1:53 pm - Reply

      How can I get my hands on the Garrett and Ransom excerpt?!?!

  16. puce April 17, 2017 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/books/a9261460/lisa-kleypas-interview/

    What about Cassandra, Pandora’s sister? Does she have a book in the works?

    Definitely. I believe she’s going to be the last one, which will be the sixth novel. I think the one after this, I’m going to have West, who’s the younger brother of Devon. I’m going to pair him with Phoebe, who is the sister of Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent. She’s the young widow in Devil in Spring. That’s not a guarantee, but I have a lot of good ideas for them, so I think that’s gonna happen. A lot of people were suggesting that I put Cassandra together with West, and I was like, “Uh, it might feel kind of incestuous and I can’t see a lot of sparks between those two.” So I’m really thinking about putting Cassandra together with Severin, the railroad owner, who is sort of like [Benedict Cumberbatch’s] Sherlock. He’s almost like a high-functioning sociopath. There’s something so sexy about a guy who is that into his brain and that smart. It just feels like there’s so much underneath. He would also be tremendously difficult to have as a romantic partner, to just deal with him.

    • Caz Owens
      Caz Owens April 17, 2017 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      I definitely like West and Phoebe – thanks for sharing the info!

    • Keira Soleore
      Keira Soleore April 18, 2017 at 12:58 am - Reply

      That was such a great interview! Lisa Kleypas is a class act in person and online.

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