Are you looking for a tough hero and a strong but reserved heroine? Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas has both, and it’s wonderful!
[Some Spoilers; Mature Audiences]
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lisa Kleypas is my go-to when it comes to historical romance, and I was so excited to read Marrying Winterborne. I love stories where the hero comes from nothing and makes a great life for himself, and even more when the heroine chooses love over money.
This one carried a little bit of both of those and a bit of scheming, too.
Rhys Winterborne is the son of a grocer who built his father’s business into an empire. He owns the biggest retail store in England and is ridiculously wealthy. We meet him in the first book in The Ravenels, Cold Hearted Rake, but it’s not necessary to read that to understand Marrying Winterborne. Ms. Kleypas does a wonderful job of filling in the blanks when they come up.
Rhys is very precise and knows exactly what he wants. More than anything, he wants to be accepted by the aristocracy. Lady Helen Ravenel is the key for that to happen.
Lady Helen is unlike her siblings in that she doesn’t have a temper. In fact, she’s very level headed. When her guardian breaks off her engagement to Rhys, Helen decides she must do whatever it takes to secure his hand again—even if it means her ruination.
When a secret from Helen’s past threatens to tear them apart, she must decide if she will stay with the man she loves or fight for someone who is completely helpless.
I liked this novel a lot.
Helen and Rhys are great characters, but the set up felt so unrealistic for the time period. After her initial “ruining”, they don’t marry right away. In fact, she insists that they wait until after she’s out of mourning, which is five months away.
In that time, Rhys visits her at her family’s estate in the country where they spend many nights together again, and no one really makes a fuss about it. I would have liked very much to see them marry immediately then work through their issues together as a married couple instead of it being so easy for Helen to make decisions about their relationship without talking to Rhys about it.
I wish there had been more interaction between Rhys and Helen and had they been married, I think I would have found their love story more compelling. The first book in the series and this one seem to be leading up to something else, and these were just boxes to tick in front of that one.
That’s not to say that they’re completely without their moments.
I love how Rhys is so considerate of Helen. He reads books on orchids because he knows she grows and cares for them. He buys her a piano because he know she loves to play. He even builds a greenhouse on the roof of his home in the city so that Helen can keep her orchids there.
He’s a genuinely lovely man. Even if he says he doesn’t speak well, he sure lays down some good speeches.
“If you were, how would you propose?”
He thought for a moment. “I would begin by teaching you a Welsh word. Hiraeth. There’s no equivalent in English.”
“Hiraeth,” she repeated, trying to pronounce it with a tapped R, as he had.
“Aye. It’s a longing for something that was lost, or never existed. You feel it for a person or a place, or a time in your life…it’s a sadness of the soul. Hiraeth calls to a Welshman even when he’s closest to happiness, reminding him that he’s incomplete.”
Her brow knit with confusion. “Do you feel that way?”
“Since the day I was born.” He looked down into her small, lovely face. “But not when I’m with you. That’s why I want to marry you.”
And Helen is a solid character, too. She’s so loyal to her family and her convictions. In her heart, she knows that if she marries someone in society, they’ll keep her in the country and treat her like glass. She won’t be her own person, but whatever her husband molds her into. Her decision to marry Rhys comes from the desire to shatter that future. She begins to learn Welsh for him so that she can both understand him when he’s muttering but also to learn about something so integral to who he is.
Together, they make a really wonderful team, and the passion is totally there.
“Was I too rough with you, cariad?”
“No.” Helen stretched luxuriously over him. “Was I too rough with you?”
He chucked and relaxed. “Aye, did you not hear me begging for mercy?”
There’s so much playful banter that you’ll be smiling and even laughing out loud at some parts of the story. The Ravenels are a quirky lot and fun to read about.
If there had been more time between Rhys and Helen than focusing on side characters whose books will be coming up soon, I’d have loved this one. In fact, if you’re familiar with The Wallflowers series by Lisa Kleypas, you’ll be excited to know that the next book, Devil in Spring features Sebastian and Evie’s son, Gabriel and Helen’s little sister, Pandora.