A Welsh grocer’s son has built a retail empire in London, but an infatuation with the daughter of an earl threatens his self-control.
When the protagonists of a romance novel cement their engagement within the first three chapters, readers can look forward to hundreds of pages of obstacles and miscommunications before the knot is tied. The second book in Kleypas' The Ravenels series (Cold-Hearted Rake, 2015) is no different, with dark secrets, troublesome relatives, and misadventures keeping Lady Helen Ravenel and Rhys Winterborne apart. But Kleypas has taken a tired trope and made it irresistible, with glittering prose and characters the reader longs to befriend. When the clumsy Welsh tycoon kisses his fiancee for the first time, she takes to her bed with a migraine. Her concerned family tells Rhys the engagement must be broken off. But Lady Helen refuses to let him go, courting scandal by coming to see him in the offices above his department store. Rhys observes her shabby clothing and assumes she’s rekindling their engagement because her family needs money, but Helen convinces him that though her family had become impoverished, the recent discovery of minerals on their estate has fixed their financial problems. He seizes the chance to compromise her virtue so her family won’t be able to prevent the match, and Lady Helen undertakes to convince her family that she really does want to marry him. As the novel progresses, layers of social polish are stripped away to reveal that both Rhys and Helen have been painfully lonely their entire lives, and they must give up other loyalties in order to be true to each other. The novel’s parade of complicated characters is set against a compelling backdrop of Victorian England, with all the fashion and technological changes of the era.
Kleypas is a masterful writer, and her latest offering will be welcomed by fans old and new.