Chasing Cassandra
Grade : C+

Everything has a price...

Railway magnate Tom Severin is wealthy and powerful enough to satisfy any desire as soon as it arises. Anything—or anyone—is his for the asking. It should be simple to find the perfect wife—and from his first glimpse of Lady Cassandra Ravenel, he’s determined to have her. But the beautiful and quick-witted Cassandra is equally determined to marry for love—the one thing he can’t give.

Everything except her...

Severin is the most compelling and attractive man Cassandra has ever met, even if his heart is frozen. But she has no interest in living in the fast-paced world of a ruthless man who always plays to win.

When a newfound enemy nearly destroys Cassandra’s reputation, Severin seizes the opportunity he’s been waiting for. As always, he gets what he wants—or does he? There’s one lesson Tom Severin has yet to learn from his new bride:

Never underestimate a Ravenel.

The chase for Cassandra’s hand may be over. But the chase for her heart has only just begun…

Dabney Grinnan, Evelyn North and Em Wittmann read the final chapter in Lisa Kleypas' Ravenel series.  Here's what they have to say about the novel.

Em: From the opening scene to the closing chapter, Chasing Cassandra never worked. I didn’t like the completely bizarre stranger insta-lust that set our principal characters in each other's path (and shouldn’t they have already been in each others circles?), and I kept waiting... and waiting... and waiting for someone to ACTUALLY OR FIGURATIVELY chase Cassandra. But no one ever did! Certainly not Tom Severin, who essentially decided he wanted Cassandra and then tried to talk himself out of it almost immediately. Because he liked her too much? The entire story felt like one big elaborate farce - they liked each other and wanted to be together so why not give it a try? - and I never got to know either of the principal characters enough to know if I liked them as individuals or a couple. This is a full length book that could have been two chapters.

What did you two think?

Evelyn: I liked it more than you. I enjoyed getting to know how Tom Severin worked - he’s been an interesting supporting character for awhile and I was happy to get more of him. I agree that you had to buy into his instant feelings for Cassandra for the book to work, and there were scenes that I liked - such as the discussions of their 'marriage contract', the scenes with Tom and his friends, and the boiler scene. I’d say I enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book but then it went a little off kilter. I kept imagining the Marquis coming back to undermine Severin - and where did Lady Berwick go? The ending was a little too contrived for me, too. It wasn’t close to my favorite Kleypas but I enjoyed most of it.

Dabney, did this one work for you?

Dabney: *struggles to recall anything - anything! - about Chasing Cassandra*

Not really. It wasn’t bad - no glaring plot holes or character leaps - nor was it interesting. It’s a somewhat similar story to Kleypas’ Tempt Me at Twilight (a book I like much more than this) but in this retelling, the instalust and the lack of any real barrier to true love made for a very slow read.

Evelyn: Yes, the barrier was 'I can’t love you because I don’t want the emotion of love in my life, if it even exists' - which is a tough sell for me. But I bought it - it was just what I expected Severin to be like. He’s definitely a hero who has shut down his vulnerable, feeling side. What did you guys think of Severin as a hero?

Dabney: Despite having read the earlier books in this series, Severin hadn’t really registered for me. Thus I had no expectations of who he would be as a hero. I must say, I’m sort of over these Kleypas heroes that are THE defining men of their time. Professionally, Severin seemed like a capitalist superhero and while I love learning about how new technologies shaped the Victorian era, I rolled my eyes at all that Severin did. And I truly do not like the 'I can’t love because it’s too dangerous' trope in romance. I am grateful that it wasn’t combined with 'She’s too good for me', another trope I rarely enjoy!

Em: I’m not going to heap onto the anti-Severin sentiments; I’ll simply say I agree, I didn’t know him well enough to like or hate him, and I didn’t understand his character motivations. At all. That said, Cassandra didn’t really work for me either. She’s seemingly bright and lovely, so why do only creeps like her? And if her family is so AMAZING AND AWESOME AND SURROUNDED BY AMAZING AND AWESOME people, where are the actual contenders for her heart? I thought she was naive in the extreme, and aside from her beauty and perfect manners - with homeless boys (ahem) and hard headed males - she’s kind of blah. Frankly, several weeks out from reading this story I’m also struggling to remember her in any significant way. Did you like her?

Dabney: Well, here’s one thing I thought was odd. Cassandra is supposed to be so gorgeous that men turn to gibbering idiots when she walks by and yet Kleypas never describes her. I don’t know what she looks like nor do I know how Severin sees her. I felt as though the book wanted it both ways: Cassandra’s beauty is the draw for Severin, at least initially, but that beauty isn’t dwelt on at all. It just was weird. As for liking her, sure, what’s not to like? But that’s not my kind of heroine. I like my leads to have depth and I just didn’t feel that here.

Em: Ladies, what I really want to talk about is the ridiculous deus ex machina after Cassandra finds herself in a spot of trouble. She’s nearly ruined... and then. Well, I won’t give it away but COME ON. Her ruination was clunky, the true villain has a blink and you’ll miss it appearance, and then it’s rainbows and unicorns in the very next chapter. What is the point??!!

Evelyn: I think that’s the place in the book where it started losing steam for me. I honestly thought the villains must be coming back at some point but…

Dabney: Yep. The plot in this book takes such a backseat to the characters. And that would have worked for me if the characters had more oomph. But I just found myself flipping through the pages.

Evelyn: I did like Severin. And his comments on the classics he read were hilarious. He and Cassandra are not going to be remembered as a great romantic couple but I think fans of the Ravenels will root for them. For me, the quality of the book varied - like I said, the first parts pulled me in, but the last parts left me scratching my head a little. Did you two enjoy any parts of the story?

Dabney: I loved the book plot; for me it was the strongest part of the story. And I enjoyed learning about trains, and how society’s needs for housing and transportation were changing so rapidly at that time.

Em: Agreed; the book discussions are a highlight. I also enjoyed the brief cameos of past Ravenel couples. But this couple? Well, I wish Cassandra’s possible ruination had been a bigger part of the story and that the villains were better developed. I’m reading another historical romance now, and the ruin of the heroine is central to her entire storyline from start to finish. It’s so much better finessed, and served as a means to develop and define the heroine. This story starts with two strangers falling in lust, and ends with them declaring it love. I couldn’t make the jump and I think readers are going to struggle with it too.

Evelyn: So it sounds like fans of the Ravenel series will enjoy seeing cameos of past characters but this story won’t wow them. Is that a decent summary?

Em: Yep. I'm giving it a C-.

Dabney: If you’re looking for a romance with a zinger of a plot and complex characters, this probably isn’t the novel for you. But, if you’re a Kleypas fan and love the Ravenels and friends, you’ll enjoy this book. It gets a C from me.

Evelyn: I think that’s a fair summary. I am a Kleypas fan and I do love the Ravenels so, even though it had some weak points, it’s a B- from me.

Buy it at: Amazon or shop at your local independent bookstore

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Reviewed by Dabney Grinnan
Grade : C+

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : February 21, 2020

Publication Date: 02/2020

Review Tags: the Ravenels series

Recent Comments …

  1. Having that problem too – just now, hugely enjoyed Spite House by Olivia Dade, m/f CR done wonderfully. Strong rec.

  2. I really didn’t think you were criticising anyone, so we’re good! There was a discussion on AAR some time ago…

  3. But, queer romance are as real to me as non-queer, so I still don’t understand your thinking. I still want…

Dabney Grinnan

Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day. Publisher at AAR.
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