Desert Isle Keeper
Devil in Winter
Let me begin by stating that Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, wins the award in my book for most anticipated future hero. As I finished reading It Happened One Autumn, I was stunned to discover that extreme bad boy Sebastian would be featured as the hero in its sequel and I must admit that I was enthralled by the idea. While I did wonder just how Kleypas could redeem such an immoral character, I didn’t doubt that she would pull it off with style – my confidence in her abilities has certainly been rewarded. Although Devil in Winter is an engrossing romance, it is ultimately the story of Sebastian’s redemption.
Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, is debauched, amoral, and perversely proud of it. His chosen role of degenerate seducer always worked well for him – that is until he added kidnapping to his long list of villainous acts. Although he holds the title of viscount and is heir to a dukedom, it is a poor heritage that can no longer keep Sebastian and he needs to marry a fortune. He knows women find him dangerously attractive and his title alone makes him a desirable addition to many families, but Sebastian had once hoped to shortcut that whole process and after his latest debacle, can see no remedy for his financial plight.
Evie Jenner, daughter of the notorious gambling club owner Ivo Jenner, is in a rather desperate situation herself. An heiress of a large fortune, Evie’s family is determined to force her to marry her revolting cousin and, even worse, she fears for her life once the deed is done. Barely escaping their clutches, the only viable solution she can see to her dilemma is to find someone whose desperation equals her own and marry quickly. Lord St. Vincent is an insufferable aristocrat with few scruples, but Evie thinks that such a man could be a fitting adversary for her relatives. If he agrees, he will undoubtedly make a terrible husband, but, since she cares nothing for him, Evie believes she can easily turn a blind eye to his indiscretions.
Arriving at Sebastian’s door late that night, Evie forces her way into his home after he refuses to see her. As Sebastian ponders the lamblike creature standing before him, she proposes a marriage of convenience. Regarding Evie with veiled contempt, Sebastian contemplates that she might have made a decent match these past few years if not for her crippling shyness and torturous stammer. Her kind of innocence never fails to arouse his disdain, but as he sits taunting her, he knows her offer is a godsend to him and figures she either is a pea wit or has remarkable nerve.
Leaving for Gretna Green that very night, Sebastian soon discovers that Evie is actually quite stubborn and endures the trip with a resilience he wouldn’t expect from someone who seems so fragile. Evie experiences a bit of a surprise herself at Sebastian’s tender care as she sits freezing in the coach and he attempts to make her more comfortable. While traveling, much of his aristocratic hauteur melts away and, as she succumbs to the cold and exhaustion, he willingly holds her in his arms for most of the trip.
The majority of the book takes place at Jenner’s gambling club and more than once references to Derek Craven are made, bringing to mind pleasant memories of Dreaming of You. Sebastian has never gambled to excess but certainly knows his way around a club such as Jenner’s. Although short on funds, Sebastian isn’t considered a spendthrift – it’s just that a profession wherein he could earn money seemed to be such a personal inconvenience. His desires for his life appear to be undergoing some serious changes, but what is most disturbing to Sebastian is the extraordinary effect Evie has on him and the jealously he feels any time she is near another man.
Sebastian warned Evie that she was a fool to trust him, but, despite his best efforts to prove how contemptible he truly is, trust seems to be the direction they are headed. When he realizes she doesn’t stammer around him because she feels comfortable, it amuses him to think anyone could consider him the comfortable sort and assures himself he will correct her impression in the future by doing something diabolical. Although Sebastian is an unexpectedly kind husband, he isn’t shy about demanding Evie’s obedience – what little good it does him since her nature can hardly be called biddable. I can’t honestly categorize Sebastian as a purely alpha hero – he is better described as insensitive and selfish with an alpha bark and a serious learning curve.
Third in the Wallflower series, Devil in Winter abounds with secondary characters. Lord Westcliffe from It Happened One Autumn plays a strong role, but it is the introduction of Cam Rohan, the half-gypsy factotum at Jenner’s who has future hero written all over him, that most intrigues me. Daisy’s book and the last in the series, Scandal in Spring is scheduled for release later in 2006.
A few Lisa Kleypas 1990s books are among my all-time favorite romances. In my mind her last few releases are missing some of the distinctiveness and boldness of her earlier books, but Devil in Winter clearly stands out as the best amongst this latest group. Only my frustration with several overused plot devices kept this from a solid A grade.
In the end, I was totally captivated by Sebastian – a bone-melting hero whose wickedness only enhanced his overall character. Although extreme opposites in more ways than one, Evie and Sebastian experienced little conflict and communicated openly and honestly, a rarity it seems these days. And Sebastian? It seems that he reforms…well, enough anyway.
Buy it at Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes and Noble/Kobo
|Review Date:||March 27, 2006|
|Book Type:||European Historical Romance|
|Review Tags:||The Wallflowers series | Top 100 Romance|
chrisreader – I completely agree with you that “people like what they like” and yes, Kleypas can in fact write what she wants. I never suggested otherwise, and none of that really speaks to my critique. However, as far as whether content in writing actually “hurts” someone, that I find is an overstatement just from the perspective of the power writing and art more generally has on audiences because content affects everyone in complex ways. For instance, repeated exposure to representations of women lacking sexual agency can certainly impact how readers feel about sexuality and independence. Thankfully, Kleypas is not the only HR author out there though and there are many competing views of hetero relationships to offset her depiction of the alpha male/submissive woman. I can certainly attest that a steady diet of that weighs on me as a reader, and I do not think I’m the only one, but clearly she’s popular and has an audience for this type of depiction. I do disagree incidentally with your definition of feminism as individual women getting to choose as an individual what they want because feminism is above all a *collective* movement that advocates for gender rights for women as a group. While I’m not hell bent only on reading feminist authors, I do object to authors who only advocate for women relishing inferior sexual roles as a way to bolster the dominance of men. That issue is one of the main reasons I steer clear of Kleypas now.
I think, by the way, that the Julie Anne Long novel you might be referencing is Like No Other Lover. If so, yes, I love it and it is about a blatant social climbing woman. Cynthia Brightly is quite a wonderful character for many of the reasons I love Annabelle from Secrets of a Summer Night.
I don’t think of Kleypas’s heroines “relishing inferior sexual roles as a way to bolster the dominance of men” just because the men have more sexual experience in most (but not all) of her novels. I don’t think anyone having more or less experience, if that is their choice, is in any way superior or inferior. The only way I think the experience, or lack thereof, is inferior is if it is not the person’s choice. I also don’t think the Kleypas heroines in any way lack agency- as it is always their choice as to what they engage in and she has repeatedly shown them engaging in behavior outside of society’s norms or approval.
I can think of a number of romance novels I have read where the male is the more inexperienced one and I don’t think of his role as “inferior” either. We are going to have to agree to disagree about this entirely.
I do however agree that the Julie Ann Long book “Like No Other Lover” was a great read, I loved the heroine and it just made me angry though, that even she was made to feel that she was “bad” somehow for doing exactly what society was set up for and encouraged women to do. Annabelle in Kleypas’s book always had the support of friends and family which was nice, and poor Cynthia was completely on her own. Something that made her plight and situation even more precarious.
Well, I see it differently for sure with respect to Kleypas. She has a gender agenda to my mind, and it is to celebrate masculinity and perhaps even patriarchy. I note patterns in authors’ works when I’ve read enough of their books, and it is so striking that Kleypas never has women take charge in the bedroom, much less have parity in bed. I’m not really sure either what you mean by a character’s “choice” because we’re not discussing real people. Characters are fictional constructs an author uses to convey ideas. When you state that it is the heroine’s choice to be be sexually taught, you’re really saying that it is Kleypas’s choice as an author to represent women as wanting to be taught and in many cases dominated. Ultimately, since sex is so much a part of any Kleypas book, one of the main ideas I always get from a Kleypas novel is that the sexual authority and skills of men are glorified.
Well, this is going to be a bit spoilery maybe. Apologies.
Evie does take charge in the bedroom, initiating sex during Sebastian’s recovery to force him to lose the abstinence bet.
Tangentially related to this topic is the pleasure I take in the ladies of the Ravenel series sharing their knowledge of “marital relations.” First, Kathleen “explains a few things about the marital relationship” to Helen, who promptly puts it into practice on Winterborne (in a very brief example of Helen taking charge, which she then cedes to Winterborne when she asks for a Welsh anatomy lesson). Then Helen shares her knowledge with the twins, who aren’t even having sex with anyone at that point, because she doesn’t think women should be kept ignorant.
However, I agree that Kleypas’s historical works celebrate alpha masculinity and titillate with male sexual expertise.
I think many a romance reader fantasizes about just that: male sexual expertise. I’m sure they’re are others who dream of being in, ah, the driver’s seat. Kleypas is reliably a writer who celebrates more traditional sexual roles and clearly that works for many many readers.
@Deborah – I just recently reread Devil in Winter and I loved that Evie starts to take charge to tempt Sebastian out of his bet with her. However, notice how Sebastian, even incapacitated with a bullet wound, has to reassert himself by guiding her and telling her what to do,and where to place her body? It really is incredible to me how every single sex scene in a Kleypas book finds a way to put the man in charge.
I have not read the Ravenel books, as I’ve given up on Kleypas now, but I would be happy to hear that there are changes in how she handles female sexuality going forward.
Candy Tan, the original Smart Bitch, had a keen sense of the genre
and a wicked sense of humor.
Here’s her opinion of Devil in Winter: http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/reviews/summer-round-up-books-what-i-read-while-on-summer-vacation/
I absolutely love reading people’s lists because I am so often surprised by other people’s favorites and WHY they loved them, particularly when they are ones I don’t care for. Example: I think Blackjack often enjoys a lot of the same books I do based on on our comments, yet her two favorite Kleypas books are 1.) a book I don’t remember a lot of and never cared enough about to reread (Secrets Of A Summer Night) even though I really love the Wallflowers series and 2.) “Then Came You”which is my absolute least favorite of all Kleypas’s historical (barring her really early, old out of print stuff). When it comes to Kleypas we are not in sync at all. My top Kleypas books can fluctuate so it’s hard to choose a definite #1 but my top three (based on number of re-reads) are Dreaming Of You, Mine Till Midnight and Devil In Winter. Those are the ones that I keep coming back to over and over when I want a guaranteed great comfort read. I think the heroes are all quite different, while the heroines are all intelligent with a solid core of goodness and common sense. I love Dreaming Of You because it is the first romance that I remember using one of my favorite tropes- the *really* poor self made guy and the starchy bluestocking. Derek Craven is one of the first really “low class” drag himself up from the gutter heroes that wasn’t a secret illegitimate noble and didn’t speak perfect English. I love the bespectacled, middle class, author heroine and every time I read about Derek sureptitiously stealing her glasses as his secret momento of her my heart melts a little. Every single time. I love Mine Till Midnight for a reason that probably a lot of people don’t like it- no alphahole drama from the hero. Cam is just an absolute doll IMHO. Sexy kind, wise, charming and a real adult. He doesn’t spend his time being a jerk and trying to recapture a life he doesn’t want anymore. He realizes Amelia is what he wants and the life of a Romany he hasn’t lived since his youth simply doesn’t fit him anymore- and he doesn’t agonize over it. His calm wisdom merges beautifully with Amelia’s motherly instincts, which doesn’t sound sexy on paper yet Cam absolutely is. It’s one of those books I read from start to finish and enjoy every part of. They are one of my favorite couples and I finish it every time solid in the belief that they are going to enjoy a very happy and contented partnership together. It makes the sequels with the other siblings that much more enjoyable for me as I get to see this play out. Devil In Winter- I’ve probably already discussed this ad nauseum but Sebastian is the kind of hero I don’t even want to like (I don’t generally like slutty heroes as I always imagine they are both germy and obnoxious) but he completely won me over with his golden good looks (which I also don’t usually like) and most importantly, his wit. I find his dry remarks and sarcasm genuinely funny and charming. Kleypas really conveys through it (before we see Sebastian buckling down) that this guy is actually smart so it’s not a total shock that he has the raw goods to make the club a success. I really like Evie’s quiet stubbornness and the way she has absolutely no real respect or regard for Sebastian when they first team up. She expects nothing but the worst from him and considers him just as much a means to an end as he does her. He’s just a way for her to escape her family, keep some of her money and spend time with her dying father. He has to prove himself to her as much, if not more, than he does to anyone else. Kleypas makes him really work for his self worth and his redemption and I love it. I also have a particular fondness for Love In The Afternoon (the epistolary section is particularly charming) and I think Bea is a very fun and original heroine. Married by Morning has one of the best turnarounds of a character for me as I despised Leo through much of the other books until he reformed and became very funny and the Nemesis Of straight laced Marks. Looking at him as a broken guy who “loves too much” rather… Read more »
I’m not hugely fond of Kleypas’s heroines and I know I’ve written lots about my dislike of heroines repeatedly depicted as sexual ingenues and/or virgins, which is a terribly overdone trope in her whole body of work. But the reasons I love Secrets of a Summer Night and Then Came You are, I think, because they both feature heroines who are borderline unpleasant and outside the parameters of gender expectations for women. Annabelle is an avaricious social-climber and not at all ashamed for wanting to marry up. It’s one of the most honest accounts of women on the marriage markets I’ve read and I really enjoyed the flat-out honesty of Annabelle’s conversations with Simon, a self-made man who actually appreciates Annabelle’s ambitions. Lily from Then Came You is quasi-suicidal from personal loss and also just furious with the limitations her world has placed on her from the first page of the novel. I remember being mesmerized by her antics and rage and complete disregard for social expectations, and I love that Kleypas created a hero who is speechless and somewhat at a loss of how to deal with her. Yet, Alex is always willing to stick around and keep trying. So, even though Kleypas’s current books don’t work for me, I’m happy that I still have these books because I do reread them probably once a year every year.
How many young women weren’t virgins in this time period? I get, really get, the eye-rollingness of virgins in contemps, but in historicals it makes sense.
It’s not Kleypas’s use of virgins that bothers me. It’s her representation of romance couples where the hero is always on top, so to speak, and always in the position of being a sexual svengali to the inexperienced heroine,. Many historical romance authors routinely feature virgins but they don’t all participate in the cult of virginity where the man eagerly takes over to educate the woman in a very one-way sexual relationship. And, Kleypas does this with sexually experienced heroines too, even in her contemporary novels where the women are not always virgins but are always in need of sexual instruction from their male partners. Or, they have had sex but it’s bad sex and only the new man in their life can show them the way and educate them on their own bodies. I can’t think of a single Kleypas title that does not follow this formula, and quite frankly, it is sexist.
I have to part ways with you on this. People like what they like, and if Kleypas wants to write about couples like this and people want to read it, it’s their taste and it’s not hurting anyone. It’s not inherently sexist any more than a book about a female sub and a male dom is sexist. That’s not my thing, but it’s what some people like and they have every right to like it.
Just like every woman doesn’t have to stay home and raise a family if they don’t want to, those who choose to shouldn’t be judged as being less “feminist”. The same way stories about women who choose more traditional roles aren’t inherently sexist either just because that’s they way it was for so long. Feminism to me, is that women get to choose what makes them happy whatever it is. And that goes for what romance they like. I used to read Barbara Cartland books when I was young (I even joked about at the time), that would make me gag now quite frankly. It didn’t do me any harm though. I’m a self sufficient woman with two degrees and a respectible career. Cartland’s breathless, goofy virgins that spoke with constant ellipses…….didn’t change my personality or make me a subservient person.
I understand we are in an age of unheard of freedom and choices for women and I think it’s amazing- but just because women can be the more sexually experienced one, or as sexually experienced, doesn’t mean that’s the only way to be and any other representation is “sexist”. The bottom line is the experienced guy who leads the more “innocent” heroine is obviously a sexy trope that works for a lot of people (based on sales numbers alone) and I don’t think authors who write it (or any of the hundred other types of tropes) or the people who read it should be judged or labeled as “sexist” because they like it.
I didn’t like the hero or the heroine in Then Came You. Neither one of them seemed very nice to me and I never bought into their romance. I thought Lily was annoying and a try hard and he was stoic, grumpy and boring. Her “outrageousness” didn’t bother me, I just never found any warmth between them as a couple. I liked them so much better as a supporting couple in Dreaming Of You. I had no problems with Annabelle being a social climber- I just found her and Simon kind of forgettable, He was a watered down version of the Winterbourne type hero I’ve seen Kleypas do so much better. It was by no means a bad book but as I’ve read so many of hers it didn’t stand out. As much as I love Kleypas I read another author who did the blatant marrying for money heroine much better, I actually loved her for it. Was it Julie Ann Long? It’s an author I own several novels from, but have only read one book of theirs and meant to go back and read more.
For me my Kleypas top five from bottom to top would be:
Devil in Winter
Tempt Me at Twilight
Mine Until Midnight
It Happened One Autumn
Dabney, my Kleypas list would be very similar to yours:
Devil in Winter
Smooth Talking Stranger
It Happened One Autumn
It is a mystery to me why I don’t love her contemps. They’re excellent and yet, I read them all once and have no desire to read them again.
I love her Travis stories.
#2? Huh. I like this book but it’s not even on my top ten list.
Indeed. Though in my case it’s n.10 in my Kleypas list (10 out of 15 that I have read from her).
Whoa. I have a hard time imagining Devil in Winter being so low on someone’s Kleypas-only list. What are your top 3? (I think DiW slides in at #3 for me, but I have to admit I haven’t actually ranked her works.)
Yeah–enquiring minds want to know!
I’ll add my name to the chorus. I love to read other people’s favorites lists. DIW is in tough competition amongst my favorite Kleypas books. I find it really hard to assign numbers, but I agree with Deborah that DIW is amongst Kleypas’s top three books. And I am a big Kleypas fan. I’m pretty sure I’ve read them all.
Disclaimers first: All my Lisa Kleypas book have been read this year (as in 2017/2018). DIW might have been my 3th or 4th book from her and I had very strong expectations based on general reviews. Also, I tend to be very heroine oriented (versus hero) and I was a bit disappointed with Evie as a main character. Other Kleypas’ characters spoke higher to me.
Now to the list… drums
– Top 1: Marrying Winterborne (totally a DIK for me: enjoyed everything about it: the heroine, the hero, the romance, the secondary plot…)
– Top 2: Again the Magic (might be a DIK too, mostly because I’m a sucker for a good angsty love story)
– Top 3-4: Tempt Me at Twilight and It Happened One Autumn
Enjoyed them (some more than others)…
– Middle 5-9: Mine Till Midnight, Worth Any Price, Married by Morning, Scandal in Spring, Hello Stranger
– Middle 10-11: Love in the Afternoon and Devil in Winter
– Middle 12-14: Cold-Hearted Rake, Devil in Spring, Dreaming of You
– Lower 15-16: Seduce Me at Sunrise and Suddenly You (both on the line of “skipped most, close to DNF”.)
Had to check my Calibre for rates. It’s interesting that while revising my own grades I had some hard time remembering the plots of some of these books and why they appealed to me (the middle of the table ones). I think the top 4 might not change unless Kleypas puts out something outstanding. Regarding her last, Hello Stranger, I loved Garrett but the romance was almost on the meh side.
Oh, just checked your (Dabney and nblibgirl) top 5. Uh-oh… I think I’m in trouble. ;)
Like you, I tend to be a heroine-centric reader and I do agree with you that Evie is not a particularly strong heroine. DiW is definitely Sebastian’s book. I find Evie’s goodness a bit too one-dimensional and there is something that does not sit well with me about her stutter and cringing from fear of being struck. She just feel a bit Disneyfied. Kleypas clearly had an idea of representing a painfully shy woman with a history of male abuse, but somehow it just feels a bit of a caricature rather than a deep character analysis.
Kleypas no longer works for me and I no longer read her current books, but Secrets of a Summer Night and Then Came You are still favorites for me. Both feature her best heroines, I think.
My TBR list is huge and the Kleypas’ novels I missed so far are not on the top. Still—I did have Then Came You in it, but now (based on what you say in some comments, Blackjack) I think I’m more interested in Secrets of a Summer Night. I normally prefer heroines that are not totally sympathetic and are bit flawed (as with Balogh’s Freya Bedwyn, who has tons of character and is pretty much unique).
There are some exceptions, of course, like Helen Ravenel. She’s quite naive and shy, but in all she’s a very well built character (imo). Her weaknesses are well justified and her maturing during the novel seemed to me very credible. Plus, I think she was very well paired with Rhys Winterborne.
I do understand when you say that Kleypas no longer works for you. If I was to make my list of top-10 HR writers, I’m almost sure Kleypas would be out. Even if Marrying Winterborne is on my top reads. In a way, I think Kleypas might have crystallised in her story and characters building. Hello Stranger could be a great novel (I still maintain that Garrett is a fantastic character), but it fell short in any other way. I’, afraid the same has happened to Julia Quinn… I love some of her Bridgerton novels, but the last ones I read (like the Rokesby series) don’t have the same appeal.
Chrisreader, yep, I’m one of those folks who felt cheated by Hart McKenzie’s book. Hart had done a lot of despicable things in his past, and I needed to see–but did not see–sufficient character introspection and growth to make his redemption believable. Oh, and after teasing us with Hart’s “mysterious” bedroom activities in previous books, Jennifer Ashley barely spends any time exploring them when we actually get to Hart’s book. I think maybe at the very end of the book we learn that he and Eleanor are engaging in some little sex games (being tied up or some such). Big whoop. Verdict: “Bait and switch” is exactly the right term!
Good comments. I’m clearly in the minority on this one. I was re-reading It Happened One Autumn when it came up on the AAR Top 100 list not that long ago, but I don’t remember the other books in the series. (Though I do think I read them all at some point.) It’s true, St. Vincent doesn’t come over as a sneaky villain throughout much of IHOA, and I do see your point, Blackjack, about Sebastian perhaps being a not-so-horrible guy who just makes a spectacularly bad decision under pressure. But somehow, in my mind, the fact that he did kidnap Lillian and didn’t seem overly upset about it while doing so actually made me appreciate him more as a villain. Like, he had just moved up a level on the ladder of wickedness, going from spoiled rake to someone willing to do whatever was needed (even if that meant kidnapping and forcing someone into a marriage) to get what he wanted. Me, I loved that development and looked forward to dealing with more of that character in DIW. But the latter book just didn’t deliver the edge or conflict/tension I was expecting.
I think there are a lot of other readers (as I said above) that agree with you. It may be the minority opinion- but it’s a good size minority.
It’s something I also remember hearing a lot about the character of Hart McKenzie in Jennifer Ashley’s “The Duke’s Perfect Wife” as people felt they got a “bait and switch” there. A lot of people were expecting him to be more villainous based on previous books, and more dominant, less mainstream and felt they got a watered down version of what they were expecting. Sebastian’s son in The Devil In Winter also wasn’t as rakish or “devilish” as some had hoped he would be.
One real villain that did work for me was in Kerrigan Byrne’s book “The Hunter”. Even though the hero was a paid assassin and survived pretty much a life time of abuse I bought that he really fell for the heroine and that he finally redeveloped feelings he had blocked off since his mother was murdered. It’s actually the only Kerrigan Byrne book so far that I truly enjoyed.
stl-reader, I’m completely on your side. I found this book an overwhelming disappointment. Did I need St. Vincent to be a huge villain? No, but the thing is, without it, this is just another superficial virginal-heroine-slightly-naughty-rake book. I find it so annoying when the magic ticket for a man who’s done everything is the pure woman who’s never done it at all, but is inexplicably better at it than anyone else. The villain part might have give this story an edge, but without it, this just doesn’t distinguish itself from a slew of 90s books just like it by Kleypas, Quinn, Garwood, etc. Sarah MacLean’s Numbers books are a better gaming hell story. Flowers from the Storm is a better virgin/rake story, as is Carla Kelly’s Libby’s London Merchant/One Good Turn duo.
I interpreted Sebastian from IHOA as a redeemable man under pressure, which forced him to make some drastically bad decisions. I was glad that Westcliff caught up with him, and Sebastian’s loss was quite deserved in that book. But I was not surprised when Sebastian proved to be capable of love and kindness as he never really seemed like a villain to me from earlier books. I recently reread this book and still enjoy it and find it to be among Kleypas’s best books.
I have heard a lot of people echo your sentiments about Devil In Winter so I know it is a pretty popular opinion amongst readers who wanted a *really* bad guy and were disappointed. I am of the opposite opinion. I really loved Sebastian and it made more sense to me that his behavior in It Happened One Autumn was an aberration brought on by the extreme stress and the circumstances he found himself in rather than how he was on a daily basis.
To me it makes no sense that a man as famously upright and moral as The Earl (I forget his name as he isn’t a favorite of mine) in IHOA would be life long friends with a completely immoral guy with no redeeming features. Sebastian is known as someone handsome, spoiled and selfish and a real rake but before the kidnapping, no one ever referred to him as really horrible or someone to be shunned from polite society. He was known as a seducer and a rake-but not a depraved abductor. That really caught everyone off guard. Lillian and her family is charmed by him as most of society is. He’s known as a lover of women and a wit but no one ever mentions that he’s actually mean (at least that I recall). Unlike some heroes of Anne Stuart who I would call sociopaths or borderline sociopaths, Sebastian is spoiled and lazy and looking for an easy out.
When he takes off with Evie he’s sarcastic and rude to her at times (and his goal is to get her money so obviously he doesn’t want her freezing to death on the way) but he does show her some kindness and keep her warm. He’s a guy who likes women and he’s not at all displeased that he’s managed to land one with money that he’s actually attracted to, but he’s not won over 100% by her right away. His plan is to dump her off, hook up with other women and get his share of the money.
Of course that’s not how things play out and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Sebastian come to care about someone and something. I find it easier to root for a spoiled guy coming into his potential than a basically horrible and depraved one somehow being redeemed. For me, it’s far less believable that somone truly awful or basically cruel is ever going to be a good man and a good husband. It’s the problem as I have said, with some of Anne Stuart’s heroes. When they can repeatedly keep doing really depraved and cruel things I don’t buy that the heroine is ever going to have a happy ending with this guy. I did believe Evie was going to have a very happy life with Sebastian by the end of The Devil In Winter and I also understood why the Earl and others were friends with him in the first place and ended up willing to forgive (IMHO) a pretty unforgivable transgression.
I’m with you on this one – that’s a great analysis of the character IMO. I also like the fact that Sebastian finds a sense of purpose that is not simply due to “the love of a good woman” – and almost in spite of himself. For the first time in his life, it seems, he finds he’s good at something (running the club) other than being gorgeous and that it’s something he can take pride in because it’s something he has achieved rather than has been born with.
Yes! Sebastian finding his way a gambling club entrepreneur is just as entertaining to me as his romance with Evie. And it all goes hand in hand so nicely, I love how it all begins with him unable to stand things done poorly or seeing Evie doing something reckless or foolish,
I think it’s one of the reasons I love the character of Cam Rohan here, and in his own book so much. I adore the way he puts Sebastian through his paces and really makes him take on the chores of running the club- from studying the accounting ledgers to being an impromptu bouncer. I like to think Cam has almost as much of an influence in shaping up Sebastian as Evie does. I also think Evie and Sebastian give Cam an idea of what married life can be with the “right” woman which flows into Cam and Amelia’s romance in Mine Till Midnight.
Of course beyond it all I really love Sebastian’s sardonic wit the most. When it’s done right, as it is here, or with Adrian in Joanna Bourne’s books it really makes a character sing for me.
I recently re-read this and found it rather disappointing.
I expected the same Lord St. Vincent I had seen in It Happened One Autumn–a smooth-talking operator, an unlikable and rather amoral man who would go so far as to kidnap his friend’s rich girlfriend in order to force her to marry him (thus providing access to the funds he needed for his impoverished estates). I looked forward to seeing St. Vincent slowly evolve into a person I could actually root for. Especially given that Evie, who we’ve seen is a shy young woman from an abusive household, was apparently going to be the heroine of the book. Imagine the type of character development such a pairing would require in order to pull off their romance!
Instead, once Lord St. Vincent marries Evie, it’s like he’s almost a different person. Other than some sarcastic comments to Evie, there is little rakish behavior to be seen. In fact, almost from the start, St. Vincent seems pretty protective of Evie, and it doesn’t take that long for him to develop serious feelings for her, though I’m not exactly sure why he does. In addition, shortly after his marriage, St. Vincent is faced with taking over the operations of a gambling establishment, and he does so in a very capable fashion. I guess his days as a dissolute, immature, amoral rake are magically over.
As for Evie, it turns out that she’s not so meek after all. And if I recall correctly, her stutter begins fading away early in the book, reappearing only occasionally. What ever happened to truth in advertising?
Do you know what I loved about Elizabeth Hoyt’s book Duke of Sin? It’s one of the few series books (IMHO) where the character we are fascinated and yet repulsed by early in the series is exactly the same way when he gets his own book! I cannot say the same for A Devil in Winter.
I was wondering when someone was going to bring up Hoyt’s Duke of Sin as a comparison in this discussion (I am re-reading DiW hence my looking up its review here) – it is one of my favorite books, period. So well written and developed and yes, the hero is very much himself and we do get to know why. The heroine is well matched to him, I find.
Someone mentioned Flowers from the Storm here – I read it not long ago and I found it had a very good first half, agonizingly well written, but the second half was super annoying and I basically forced myself to finish it (because: AAA recommended). I just get impatient with so many misunderstandings/I-love-you-but-wont-tell-you plots. They take my enjoyment out of reading the book. But like another commenter said: People like what they like and it’s clearly a favorite of many.