Marrying_WinterborneI continue my rediscovery of the new, possibly-better Kleypas with her second in the Revenel series, Marrying Winterborne. We met hero Rhys Winterborne and heroine Lady Helen Ravenel in the first book, Cold-Hearted Rake. Though Rhys was laid up injured for most of that encounter, it definitely established a connection between the genteel, gentle, ethereal Lady Helen and the rough-and-tumble, self-made-man hero. When the present volume opens, Rhys and Helen’s engagement has been severed: Helen was shocked by his punishing kisses and reacted to hurt his sensitive working-man’s pride. But she arrives at his department store, unattended, to convince him to reestablish their engagement-of-convenience, $$$ for her family and an illustrious, blue-blood name for him. Except neither of those “facts” are valid any longer: Lady Helen’s family has stumbled on a financial boon and Helen’s name had nothing on Rhys’s desire for her, which, like Kleypas heroes of long memory, borders on the pathological. To fill in the pub’s version, here’s the back-cover blurb:

Savage ambition has brought common-born Rhys Winterborne vast wealth and success. In business and beyond, Rhys gets exactly what he wants. And from the moment he meets the shy, aristocratic Lady Helen Ravenel, he is determined to possess her. If he must take her virtue to ensure she marries him, so much the better… Helen has had little contact with the glittering, cynical world of London society. Yet Rhys’s determined seduction awakens an intense mutual passion. Helen’s gentle upbringing belies a stubborn conviction that only she can tame her unruly husband. As Rhys’s enemies conspire against them, Helen must trust him with her darkest secret. The risks are unthinkable… the reward, a lifetime of incomparable bliss.

Hmmm, Rhys doesn’t “take” Helen’s “virtue”, she rather uses her virtue to win and keep him. No enemies conspire against Rhys, but they definitely conspire against Helen. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that Kleypas kept the hero-to-the-heroine’s rescue nicely balanced with a once-shy, developping-a-spine heroine’s ability to take care of herself.

The best part of Kleypas’s romance was the banter between Helen and Rhys (Rhys gets maudlin in places, but he more than makes up for it with wit in others; Helen is perfection in demeanor and quick-witted in repartee). One of my favourite exchanges is an “exchange” between Rhys’s mercantile understanding of the world and Helen’s aesthetic one. It occurs as they argue over the massive, heavy, exorbitantly expensive engagement ring he gave her, never allowing her the opportunity to choose for herself. Once they reestablish their engagement, she asks him to exchange it for one more to her liking. Her choice of a semi-precious moonstone disconcerts Rhys; they playfully argue:

Rhys couldn’t fathom why she was so pleased to have exchanged a diamond for a moonstone. All he understood was that she needed to be protected from her own naiveté. “Helen,” he said gruffly, “when you have the upper hand, you must not give it away so easily.”

She gave him a questioning glance.

“You just exchanged a costly ring for one that is only a fraction of its value,” he explained. “It’s a bad bargain, it is. You should demand something to make up the difference. A necklace, or a tiara.”

“I don’t need a tiara.”

“You need to ask for a concession,” he persisted, “to bring the ledger back into balance.”

“There’s no ledger in a marriage.”

“There’s always a ledger,” he told her.

Rhys’s view of the world, cynical, based on a trade of value for value, a ledger-balance, tit-for-tat ethos is upended by Helen’s flat out view of the world on the basis of forthright love. I adored that about her and Kleypas’s heroines in general.

My pleasure in Helen and Rhys centred on their verbal exchanges, but there were other bits I didn’t enjoy as much. There were about a hundred and twenty-seven love scenes: I was okay with the first one, but after that, it seemed to be filler for the fact there wasn’t much to keep these two apart. When the heroine is honest and open about her feelings and the hero is smitten and adoring, well, what ARE you going to do for another 200 pages? Melodrama, that’s what. Kleypas resorts to contrivance and it left me cold … but then, she goes for the high drama and adventure and intersperses it with good doses of humour from the secondary characters (and introduces a most intriguing one too) and I was sucked right back into the story. Not perfect, far from it, but Kleypas writes such unabashed ROMANCE that I can’t help but love and laud her for it. With Miss Austen, we’re going to avert our blushing faces and agree Marrying Winterborne offers “real comfort,” Emma.

14 thoughts on “MINI-REVIEW: Lisa Kleypas’s MARRYING WINTERBORNE (Ravenels #2)

  1. I read this one too long ago to remember a lot of specifics but your review brought back the reasons I recall both liking and disliking it. The point about too many love scenes is something that I find a lot with more recent romances, especially historical ones: so much tension goes out of the story if these are too soon and then too often. I think that’s something Loretta Chase handles really well in her pacing – by the time her couple is together, we are more than ready for it!


    1. I totally agree about the love scenes. A recent and new discovery (rare these days) romance writer who does the same in contemporary romance is Cara Bastone: the love scenes, though prolonged, occur in novel’s last quarter. It works much better and the characters and their relationship are well-developped by the time the narrative arrives at them. Balogh does this better too, like Chase.

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  2. Filler text annoys me. So many great romances are diminished by the insistence they meet a certain word count. As for the story, I read it many years ago, liked it but felt underwhelmed by it. I think you have identified all the reasons here.


    1. *whispers* I miss loving to read romance …* Honestly, most romance underwhelms me these days. I hope it’s temporary and we’re about to be launched into a new golden age, but I’m not holding my breath.

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  3. This series has been a bit hit and miss for me but I really enjoyed this one. I’m married to a Welshman, so I might have been a bit biased towards Rhys. I totally agree with you about the love scenes and I recently read Devil in Disguise, the latest book in the series, which I found disappointing for various reasons, including the insta lust/love scenario and the first sex scene – all 15 excruciating pages of it. I’m not sure whether it’s getting old but I find less is more these days and enjoy authors like Mimi Matthews, Lucinda Brant and Stella Riley who can write wonderful romances without the obligatory sex scenes.


    1. Well, we’re getting old together then because, for the most part, I find more than one or two SHORT intimacy scenes are all you need to allow that aspect of a relationship to develop. Unless there’s a really good thematic reason to establish a sex scene early, like Balogh’s Secret Pearl, then it’s also important to think about when. Cara Bastone, though excessive in her last romance, always leaves the sex scenes to the last quarter of the novel, ensuring that the emotional foundation is established. Which is why Balogh’s Secret Pearl “works,” because she shocks us into a seemingly uncompromising premise and then works her way to where we can believe in the HEA. Writers must take the love scene(s) into account as furthering/developping character and theme, otherwise, they’re gratuitous.

      I’m a diehard Kleypas fan, so I’ll always read her and I adore Matthews and hope her Berkley migration doesn’t stamp out her originality. Whatever you’re reading, hoping it’s a keeper!

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      1. I’m reading To Marry an English Lord, a non fiction book, at the moment. It’s about the American heiresses who came over to the UK and married cash-strapped members of the British aristocracy. Afterwards, I’ll be reading Mimi Matthews’ Gentleman Jim.

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        1. Sounds lovely, I’m sure there are plenty of romance with that very trope. My mind is a sieve and I can’t think of any, of course. *eyeroll*

          I LOVED Gentleman Jim, I hope you do too!

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          1. It’s a fascinating book and my only complaint is the layout because the main body of the text is surrounded by a lot of very interesting additional information which tends to be distracting. I am ignoring them at the moment and will go back and read them later.

            The only book that springs to mind which uses that trope is How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Laura Lee Guhrke. The title makes it sound rather trite but it’s a tender, poignant and romantic second-chance love story and well worth reading.

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            1. I hear you. This is why I’m a fan of end-notes, rather than foot, or marginalia. I have a great huge copy of collect Arthur Conan Doyle with marginalia and I can’t read it!

              I’ve read one Guhrke and it was terrific, very early one.

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