The Ravenels #2 – Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas
The Ravenels #2 – Marrying Winterborne
By Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon Books (2016)
As I expected, Marrying Winterborne is so painfully sweet that it aches my heart thinking about it. One feeling that resonates throughout this novel is “hiraeth”... a Welsh phrase that both Rhys Winterborne and Helen Ravenel used when describing their feeling of melancholy longing for one another, and a feeling that neither had felt whenever they were together.
“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.” – Rhys Winterborne, page 47
Marrying Winterborne continued where Cold-Hearted Rake had ended. It was about a week after Kathleen had broken Helen’s betrothal to Rhys, thinking that it was what Helen had wanted. Instead, the broken engagement had left both Helen and Rhys shaken and devastated.
Helen knew Rhys’ pride must have been shattered following the debacle, and he must have thought that she had rejected him. Helen was determined to clear the misunderstanding with the hopes of mending the relationship, so she had approached Rhys one day, unaccompanied – to explain her side of the story. The fact that she had been distressed over his kiss was because she was too shy and nervous about it, and Kathleen had misinterpreted her reaction as repulsion, thus Kathleen’s hasty decision to break-off Helen’s engagement to Rhys (please refer to the scenes in Cold-Hearted Rake).
Deep inside her heart, Helen really wanted Rhys so much. It all began when she had cared for Rhys while he was recovering after a train accident. Rhys had literally craved for her company then, and she had felt so needed that she ended up wanting to be with him, too. Throughout her life, Helen had never felt wanted by anyone – her parents had abandoned her, as did her older brother Theo, and she was used to feeling unimportant and unwanted. So when Rhys apparently had enjoyed her company and requested for her to be by his side while he recuperated, Helen could not help feeling attracted towards him. Additionally, the reserved yet ruthless Rhys had fascinated Helen and made her want to discover more about him.
On Rhys’ part, he had wanted Helen as much too. Prior to meeting Helen, Rhys had always felt some kind of inadequacy, as if he had missed out something in his life. When he was bedridden by the train accident and Helen had come to his side to comfort and care for him, Rhys realized that it had been one of the most blissful moments in his life – and he had yearned to have Helen with him ever since.
After confirming that both of them still wanted one another, Helen made it clear that she intended for their engagement to be renewed as well – but Rhys was doubtful if they will have any chance at that again. Apparently when Rhys had taunted Kathleen after the latter came to see him to break his engagement to Helen, Devon was so angry that he had withdrawn his consent for Rhys to court Helen altogether. Devon had then planned to find another match for Helen when the next London Season commenced (refer to Cold-Hearted Rake).
Elopement was also not an option, since it will only reflect on Rhys as if he had kidnapped and forced Helen into marriage with him (not to mention prolonging Devon’s resentment for Rhys). Helen was dejected, until Rhys offered a wily alternative for her: there was only one way to ensure nobody object to their marriage, and that was by letting him bed her. By allowing him to compromise her virtue, society would expect him to do the honourable thing by asking her hand in marriage.
Agreeing to that ultimatum was a hard thing for Helen, as it was equivalent to risking her own future. Rhys had given her two choices at the moment, whether to leave him and start anew with another potential suitor, or let him take her then and be bound to his honour to offer for her hand.
“Marriage was always a risk. One never knew what kind of husband a man might turn into.” – page 27
Helen eventually agreed to submit herself to Rhys Winterborne, feeling certain that it was a decision she would never regret.
“If she married Mr. Winterborne, she might come to regret it. But not nearly as much as she would regret it if she didn’t take the chance.” – page 29
After the deed was done, Rhys approached Devon, firstly to apologize over what he had said to Kathleen (in which she had also asked for his forgiveness in her high-handed manner of interfering in his relationship with Helen). But when Rhys informed him that Helen had been defiled and must marry him, Devon had thrashed Rhys in fury before he grudgingly conceded the situation as fait accompli. Devon then set a condition for his consent: Rhys had to agree to marry Helen in five months’ time (when Rhys had actually hoped to marry Helen as soon as possible).
After the grudges between Rhys, Devon and Kathleen were settled, all seemed to go well in Rhys’ and Helen’s second-time betrothal. Until Helen discovered that someone from her past could cause her to lose Rhys forever...
***WARNING!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!!***
While trying to get to know more about each other, Helen and Rhys had shared bits and pieces about themselves from time to time. But one secret that Helen has yet to share with Rhys was the fact that she was not a true Ravenel: Helen was not sired by Edmund, the late Earl of Trenear (Theo’s, Pandora’s and Cassandra’s father) but rather, she was the result of the late Lady Trenear’s affair with another man, named Albion Vance.
Helen had never met her real father – who never cared a thing about her – and had been raised in almost complete abandonment as she was rejected by both Edmund and her mother Jane, the Lady Trenear. After getting betrothed to Rhys, Helen decided to just forget about her sorrowful past and hope for a new, happier life with Rhys. But soon she discovered that the one person Rhys had hated with all his life was none other than Albion Vance himself.
Rhys had harboured a deep hatred towards Vance after Rhys’ best friend Ioan had to suffer as a repercussion of Vance’s despicable action. All his life, Rhys had treated Ioan like a brother. Ioan had married a woman named Peggy, but their marriage did not last long. Albion Vance, who was an old lecher, had seduced Peggy until she was pregnant with his child. Ioan loved Peggy so much that he had assured her that he would care for the child like his own. However, Peggy had a difficult birth and died in labour. Ioan had been so heartbroken that he had committed suicide not long after Peggy’s death. Rhys had then vowed not to have anything to do with Albion Vance – not even a business deal – following Ioan’s death about four years ago.
The knowledge that Rhys hated Vance – her father – so much had made Helen afraid of what the consequences might be if he knew that she was descended from Vance himself. Helen had thought it was best to be honest and truthful to Rhys, but she got the cold feet every time and could not bring herself to reveal her background just yet. However, it did not take long before two incidences eventually pushed Helen to a dead end with apparently no other choices.
Firstly, when news of her engagement to Rhys begun to spread among the society, Albion Vance – who had never given a damn about Helen – suddenly arrived at Helen’s doorstep with a wicked intention. Vance had ordered Helen to secure a sum of money from Rhys, to be handed over to him afterwards. Helen must get the money from Rhys - under whatever pretext she could muster - or else Vance would approach Rhys himself and reveal the truth about Helen’s bloodline. Vance knew that Helen must have been very afraid that the secret would be exposed, and so he found it exciting to blackmail Helen and get to extort money from Rhys, too. And it was clear that that would not be the last time: Vance was keen to blackmail Helen for as long as she is married to Rhys.
Secondly was the fact that the baby whom Peggy had given birth four years ago, had miraculously survived. Despite the mother’s death in childbirth, the baby had survived and was now a four year old girl. The girl had been thoughtlessly named Charity after she was given away by Peggy’s family to an orphanage. No one wanted the girl, but Helen did, now that she had known about the girl’s existence. Charity was her half-sister after all, and after she had gone through a lonely childhood, unloved by those who were supposed to love her, Helen did not want the same fate for Charity. Helen was determined to collect the girl from the orphanage and raise the girl by her side.
With the help of her good friend Dr Garrett Gibson, who worked at the pharmacy in Winterborne’s department store, Helen succeeded in discharging Charity from the orphanage. She brought the girl home, much to the shock of the household.
And with that, Helen was convinced that she would lose Rhys Winterborne for good. Although she had yet to discuss her predicament with Rhys, there was just no way she could find a happy ending with him in that situation: she was sired by Vance, and now Vance wanted to use her to pry money from Rhys, and Charity’s existence would only feed gossip-mongers. Charity had an uncanny resemblance to Helen, and she knew if people saw her with Charity, people would say she was Helen’s bastard child. Such gossip would further degrade Rhys, who was already at a social disadvantage for being born a commoner and a Welsh, too.
The very next day following her adoption of Charity, Helen learnt that Vance was on the way to her home to collect Charity from her. Vance was determined that Helen must marry Rhys – for he wanted to extort money from Rhys, not to mention delighting in how Rhys unknowingly married the bastard child of the man whom he was supposed to hate with his life. As Charity was seen an obstacle to Helen and Rhys’ relationship, Vance was intent about removing her from Helen’s life. Helen suspected that Vance would want to harm Charity, or kill her altogether – and so she made a decision which would certainly alter the course of her life forever.
Helen immediately removed herself and Charity from her home, hell-bent on escaping to a faraway place – far from Vance – and sadly, from Rhys, too. She decided to escape to France with Charity, where she would seclude herself and discontinue all correspondence with everyone. She planned to send a letter to Rhys later to break off their engagement and explain all her actions. As painful as she was to take the decision – particularly regarding her relationship with Rhys – Helen believed she must brave through it as there were no other apparent alternative. For Helen, Rhys would probably survive without her, in comparison to four-year old Charity, who really had no place to go.
While Helen and Charity were at the station waiting for the train to depart London, they were detained by a man known as Ransom. Helen was despaired and afraid of who might have paid Ransom to hold her at the station before she managed to depart.
To her eternal shock, Helen found herself face-to-face with Rhys himself, who demanded an explanation of the circumstances. Rhys had originally hired Ransom to follow Vance, whom he suspected was involved in some fishy business dealings that might affect himself. But when Ransom returned to him with reports that Vance had approached Helen – twice – and Helen had failed to mention it to him about it, Rhys found it necessary to make Ransom keep an eye on Helen, as well.
Tearfully, Helen confessed her darkest secrets to Rhys, convinced that every word of truth she relayed would bring her farther and farther from Rhys. Nevertheless, Rhys’ reaction to the news was unexpected: he was outraged, but not because of the things that Helen could not alter (such as her bloodline). Rather, Rhys was infuriated because Helen was leaving him and thinking that he could survive without her, too.
In truth, Rhys was so in love with Helen that he did not care anything but only to have her by his side forever. Whether Helen was sired by the hateful Vance himself, or that she wanted to keep Charity – Rhys had no qualms about accepting those situations, as long as Helen was his. In fact, when Helen had planned to leave him for good, Rhys had just understood the feeling of agony that Ioan had felt over Peggy's death that brought him to commit suicide.
Initially, Helen had been a bit hesitant about continuing her relationship with Rhys because she was afraid her pedigree and Charity’s existence would degrade him in the eyes of the society. But Rhys assured Helen that in his life, he had wanted nothing more than to have her in his life. Society gossips would never hurt him, as he was a common-born man who lived world’s apart from high society. In his world of commoners, no one actually give a damn about such petty gossips. Only the high society were very keen about gossiping on other people. And Rhys was not interested to join in the ranks of the highest level of society as his own background had already made it almost impossible to break through anyway.
“You’re all mine. Every hair on your head. Every part of you was made to be loved by me.” – Rhys Winterborne, page 363
Eventually, Helen aborted her plans to leave the country. She was now contented to marry Rhys and start anew with him. Helen and Rhys finally resorted to elopement not long after the fiasco, realizing that they could not stand another moment being apart from one another. Meanwhile, Charity also got a happy ending for herself when Rhys welcomed her into the family and renamed her Carys Winterborne.
As for Albion Vance, he had no choice but to distance himself from the Winterbornes after Rhys had fiercely threatened to take action against him if he ever disturb the family again...
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