I've heard about the "polarizing" event in the previous book that caused so many people to hate Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent. I also agree with what others are saying; that despite all the other characters in the book telling the readers, repeatedly, what a villain he is, he sure doesn't walk the walk (apart from that one incident). If I'm going to suck it up and read a book about a rake and a virgin, then by God, I want a man who is in desperate need of reformation. That's one of the reasons I liked Elizabeth Hoyt's DUKE OF SIN so much. Valentine Napier played every single jerk card in his hand.
Our story kicks off with Evangeline Jenner demanding an audience with notorious rake, St. Vincent. She has an offer he can't refuse. Her father is on his deathbed, and plans to leave her all the money from his gaming den, Jenner's. Knowing this, her greedy relations have been keeping her prisoner, starving and beating her, and refusing to let her visit him. Their plan is to force her to marry her cousin so that her inheritance will be in his control, and then, Evie suspects that their plan is to arrange her death in some way so that they can spend the money freely.
The only way to escape this fate is by elopement. She proposes a marriage of convenience. In exchange for her money, St. Vincent will grant her freedom - freedom from her relatives, freedom to visit her father, freedom to live with the protection of his title. Obviously - it's not a love match.
Lisa Kleypas can be hit or miss with me. I like her writing style a lot - it's very clean and spare, she really has a sense for how much description to give and how to balance dialogue and narrative. The problems are her characters. Sometimes her "strong" heroines are just plain bitchy, and sometimes her "sweet" heroines are just spineless doormats that people use for sh*t-sticking practice. Also, her alpha heroes are sometimes just Grade-A jerks who make me hate them. Irredeemably so.
Evie was an okay heroine. Nothing too special. She's a stammering virgin - literally - who ends up redeeming a rake with her meekness and her humility and her innocence. *cue eye roll here* Been there, done that, gotten the t-shirt, honey. What else you got? She has a couple more vertebrae than other heroines cast in her mold, and I did like that she at least tried to stick up for herself and for the most part, spoke her mind when it counted. Evie won't be topping any of my favorites lists by any means, but she isn't on my sh*t list, either. Let's just say that she's...inoffensive.
My feelings about St. Vincent are a little more complicated. I don't really like that he's hanging out in alpha limbo. He's a bit too...courtly to be straight up gamma/alpha, but he's way too rapey and chauvinistic for me to accept him as a "nice" hero. His constant bragging about his prowess definitely garnered an eye-roll or two from me. That said, he had some great lines. Sexy lines. He's the perfect example of a character who you might find sexually attractive but would make a sh*tty boyfriend.
On that note, the romance is pretty slow-burn, although the sex happens early on in the story (instead of that magical 3/4s point that so many books insist on adhering to). Towards the end, I found it hilarious, the lengths that St. Vincent would go to deny his attraction to Evie. They bickered too much, though, and when their arguments started getting redundant, I began to eye the page count.
Also, what's with Kleypas and her fondness for attempted murder subplots? >_>
DEVIL IN WINTER is a decent romance. It kind of reminded me of The Gamblers duology (which is appropriate in more ways than one, because she makes reference to Craven's in here, which made me happy). In particular, DEVIL reminded me of DREAMING OF YOU, because St. Vincent is like a "well-bred" version of Derek Craven - and both of them are just as stubborn as mules when it comes to dragging their heels about admitting their feelings. Nothing will surpass the love I feel for THEN CAME YOU, though: Alex, Lord Wolverton is the OG of Lisa Kleypas love interests. #SorryNotSorry
3.5 out of 5 stars.