It took me forever to get this book because there were no fewer than twenty-six people ahead of me on the hold list at the library. I've eagerly awaited it for months...and I'm disappointed. Marrying Winterborne is not Kleypas' finest work, and there's basically one reason for this: it's not really a romance in the sense we typically think of. The actual romance took place in the previous book, Cold-Hearted Rake, and wraps up very early in this book, leaving a typical romance subplot (family drama) to carry the rest of the book on its own. But the thing is... I'm not sure how else to really do it for this particular one.
Here's the problem. Our hero, Rhys Winterborne, ended Cold-Hearted Rake as a real ass. Like, a real bastard. And then he's pretty manipulative in the beginning of this volume, too, which means that, once he and Helen actually reconcile, he can't put a single toe out of the line before straying dangerously in the territory of "might not be redeemable in the readers' eyes." But since this reconciliation takes place so early, Rhys actually ends up staying off the page for far more of the book than Kleypas' heroes typically do, mainly only appearing so he and Helen can have sex and so he can rant about his arch nemesis, something Vance. The rest of the time, Helen pines, deals with the twins (Pandora and Cassandra, who are awesome. I want their books to be written, STAT.) and finds out a Secret about herself that could jeopardize everything she wants! GASP!
...except it can't, because plainly she and Rhys can't really have a falling out of over this Secret, because, uhm, they already had a falling out, and Rhys blowing up at Helen over something that's so clearly not her fault really would push him into the Land of Irredeemable Heroes. (This is totally a real place.) I am all for suspension of disbelief in books, and Kleypas really usually does well in this area, but I just could not find it in me to believe that real conflict was going to arise from this. And part of the problem is because Helen is just so...so...blah. She's all sweetness and light and despite apparently liking shocking people (which she doesn't actually seem to other than one moment) there's really not all that much to her. She's thought of by her family and friends as a delicate wallflower who hangs out in the background, and she's exactly that, and doesn't really have any hidden qualities that elevate her to the status of "interesting main character." Wallflowers totally can be interesting main characters, and Kleypas has done it before. I just don't think she's done it here. There are just so many other interesting characters (Pandora, Cassandra, West, Severin! and even Charity/Carys) flitting about that making Helen the star is difficult, and I don't think it was really successful.
I have really high hopes for the rest of this series, because now Kleypas has burned through the two boring heroines and should have the more interesting ones coming up. The next book, Devil in Spring, is going to tie in her Wallflowers series to this one, which is great, because that was my favorite series of hers. But this particular installment wasn't a strong one, and it's not one I anticipate going back to time and time again to read the juicy bits. (Come on, you do it too.)
2 stars out of 5.