My favorite Wallflower novel, Evie and St. Vincent.
A fan favorite among the series, this is classic Kleypas at her best. The plot is constantly weaving in and out both in the fore and background while the characters both equally grow and discover their feelings. The evolution of their relationship is a slow blossom, but is undeniable once it happens. By far, Devil in Winter ranks in my top three for all the hundreds of historicals I've read.
Evangeline Jenner, the daughter of a gaming club owner, is by far the shyest wallflower. So much so that she stutters and trips over her words when she's nervous. But that part of her personality easily fools people into thinking that she's just a rug you can walk all over. But she's not. Determined to get away from her family who's basically forcing her hand into marriage with her cousin because of her inheritance, Evie flees to Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent and proposes an arrangement.
Fresh from the incident in which St. Vincent kidnapped Lillian Bowman and still sporting a black eye from his childhood friend, Westcliff, St. Vincent is out of options. He's a penniless peer whose only worth is his title. But it's not the title that Evie wants. It's protection of having a husband. So when the shy wallflower with the flaming red hair shows up at his home offering immediately marriage, St. Vincent agrees and off they go to Gretna Green.
The terms of the marriage are clear: sex will occur only once to solidify the marriage and never again. St. Vincent can have use of Evie's money but Evie will retain a certain amount of freedom. It is an obvious marriage of convenience. Or is it?
When the 'one night sex' blows St. Vincent's mind, he's determined to have Evie in his bed again. And again. When Evie sees the softer side of St. Vincent early on, such as him cradling her in the carriage while they make the long journey to Scotland to get married, she's hesitant to write him off as the unrepentant rake. As they return to London, Evie wants to take care of her dying father. St. Vincent stays at the gaming club with her and his urge to reform and spruce up the club is an unsettling feeling for him. He's never worked a day in his life but suddenly he's up to his elbows in account books and other matters.
As tensions flair along with emotions, St. Vincent strikes a deal of his own with Evie. He'll remain celibate for a period of three months with a promise of being monogamous with the stipulation that when he succeeds, Evie will be in his bed whenever he wants in the future. Evie agrees.
I really cannot begin to describe how Devil in Winter is truly Kleypas at her best. It's as if all the stars aligned for the plot to run smoothly, the characterizations to be perfect, and the emotions to peek at just the right time. Whatever it is, it's perfect.
The characters of Evie and St. Vincent both grow equally, though St. Vincent does most of it. Evie learns to assert herself as well as trusting St. Vincent to take care of her both physically and emotionally. St. Vincent discovers the experience in letting someone not only into his life but his heart and the rewards of doing so. There are very few characters who can start as low as St. Vincent and end up as the hero that readers will willingly cheer for.
The evolution of their relationship is well done. It's gradual, with little hints along the way. Even when Sebastian's promise of celibacy and monogamy is given, it's evident that he hasn't truly fallen in love yet. Or at least, not fully. But when the final plot twist shows its hand, that's when most of St. Vincent's growth occurs.
Truly, the book is well thought out and plotted accordingly. The conversation is paired nicely and the characters never seem out of place. Personally, Evie and St. Vincent are my favorite Kleypas couple and I was sorry to see the story end.
5 out of 5: It's a definite and big 5 out of 5. Great read, cannot recommend enough. If you only chose to read one of the wallflowers, this is the one to choose!