A Perfect 10
Wallflowers Series, Book 3

Avon Books
ISBN: 0-06-056251-X
March 2006
Historical Romance

London, England - 1843

Evangeline Jenner, one of four shy, stammering wallflowers of London society, has gathered up all her bravery and gone -- alone and at night -- to see Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent at his London house.  Her father is dying; her mother's family, whom she lives with, refuses to let her see him, and she is sure they mean to marry her to her cousin, and then kill her afterward.  Her father owns Jenner's, the only gambling establishment of any renown in London , and her dowry and inheritance is a powerful lure for them.  Lord St. Vincent is desperately in need of money, and marrying him appears to kill two birds with one stone.  She gets her freedom, will be able to care for her father in his last days, and Sebastian will get her money.  How can he refuse?

Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent certainly can't refuse.  His father is disgustingly healthy and spending the family fortune as fast as he can.  Money is at the top of his problems...well, almost.  He has just lost the friendship of his one true friend, Marcus, Lord Westcliff.  Marcus beat Sebastian up after he tried to kidnap and marry his betrothed, Lillian Bowman.  It was just for her inheritance; Sebastian didn't really mean her any harm, but unfortunately Marcus didn't think that way. Sebastian is surprised by Evie's plan, but right now he is agreeable to anything.  So, off they go to Gretna Green .

Sebastian was introduced in a previous Wallflowers book, and is the epitome of a devil-may-care, selfish English gentleman, caring only for himself and how many women he can successfully bed.   Oh, and keeping money in his pocket any way he can, and marrying an heiress seems to be the only way to financial security.  But as soon as he meets Evie his personality changes before our eyes.  The trip to Gretna Green over two days shows the reader his true colors.  When Evie and Sebastian decide they need to consummate the marriage to ensure her relatives can't annul it, Sebastian experiences feelings he's never felt before.  When they return to London , Evie's father quickly dies, and Sebastian, never a man to dirty his hands in commerce, and certainly never even thinking of doing so, does something remarkable.  He takes an interest in the running of the gambling club and stopping the downward turn it's taking.  But evil men are involved; someone wants Evie dead, and Sebastian does something nobody, even his former friend Lord Westcliff, could ever believe he would do. The change in personality in Sebastian turns him from a selfish, thoughtless man to a man worthy of love. There is also Evie's emergence from her shell; before she was shy and stammered, bossed around by her family and often ill-treated. When she gathers up all her courage to propose to Sebastian, she begins her personal journey into confident womanhood and becomes the dynamic, loving woman that Sebastian needs.

Lisa Kleypas clearly shows in DEVIL IN WINTER why I consider her one of the premiere historical romance writers today. Her deft handling of the story and characters is so seamless and perfect that it's as though the story is happening before our eyes.  Every situation rings true to life, and her ability to draw chuckles as well as tears is incomparable.  There is also her sly way of bringing in characters from previous books that forces you to go back and reread their stories that makes me laugh (and read) every time.

Secondary characters fill the pages with their cleverness, emotion, and importance to the story.  We don't even notice they are secondary, they are as important to the story as Evie and Sebastian.  Evie's father and his death let us know how anxious she is for someone to love her.  Lord Westcliff and his wife Lillian play a huge part in Sebastian's recovery from his feelings of damaging their longstanding friendship.   Cam is a half-gypsy man of extraordinary ability who helps run Jenner's. There is also a villain, but most important is the pillar of love that grows between Sebastian and Evie, the rakehell and the Wallflower.

DEVIL IN WINTER follows the other books in the series, IT HAPPENED ONE AUTUMN and SECRETS OF A SUMMER NIGHT.  DEVIL IN WINTER has its own fabulous story that did not rely on the others, but as always, when you miss a Lisa Kleypas book you miss an extraordinary reading experience.  SCANDAL IN SPRING is the final tale in the Wallflower Series and features Daisy, Lillian's sister.  Personally, I believe DEVIL IN WINTER has exceeded the perfection of the previous two books, and what else can I do but award it our Perfect 10?  Run out and get DEVIL IN WINTER; it's fabulous!

Carolyn Crisher