The Ravenels #3 – Devil In Spring by Lisa Kleypas
The Ravenels #3 – Devil In Spring
By Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon Books (2017)
Although the first chapter mentioned the year 1876, I still had a nagging feeling that it was supposed to be 1877. Either that, or the timeline in Cold-Hearted Rake was supposed to start in year 1874 (not 1875 as stated). Because Pandora Ravenel’s love story did not began until Helen Winterborne gave birth to a son, over a year after her wedding.
The Ravenels were now far more prosperous following the discovery of hematite ore on their estate lands in Hampshire. As a result, Devon Ravenel, the Earl of Trenear was now able to splurge some money for his two unmarried cousins, the twins Pandora and Cassandra, to prepare them for the London Season.
Pandora was actually not interested in getting married – and she never bothered to be the well-behaved lady that men sought after when searching for a wife. She was unconventional and impulsive, with a feisty spirit and a restless mind. Furthermore, she was already halfway through creating her own board games and developing them into a long-term business to support herself.
As stipulated by the laws during the Victorian era, a woman not only had to forfeit all her properties to her husband when she marries, but apparently she herself becomes a man’s property. And Pandora had no intention ever to let her husband gain all the profits from her business, much less to be ‘owned’ by someone. She did not like the feeling of owning nothing at all.
In brief, Pandora would seem to be never meant for marriage at all.
Pandora joined in the London Season to keep company with her twin sister Cassandra. Cassandra was marriage-minded and was looking forward to meeting a potential suitor, as opposed to Pandora. Cassandra was invited to dance by a lot of gentlemen, whereas Pandora refused to dance even though a few men did ask her to dance.
Pandora’s refusal to dance was due to her balancing problem. She had suffered a ruptured eardrum when her late father had boxed her ear when she was little, and the consequences had affected her to this day: Pandora found it hard to balance her body when moving very fast such as in a dance, and she could not get her bearing whenever it was dark.
And so she ended up a perpetual (albeit quite willing) wallflower. One night, while at a ball, a friend had asked Pandora’s favour to search for her earring, which the former had lost while having a scandalous rendezvous with a man at a secluded area of the house. Pandora, having nothing to do, had obliged – but soon found herself in a very difficult and weird situation.
The earring had flung to the back of a settee, and Pandora could not reach for it unless she had to go through the settee. The settee had a carved wooden backrest and the impulsive Pandora had lodged herself through the opening of the backrest carvings in order to reach for the earring. As a result, she found herself stuck at the settee, with her ball gown threatening to rip.
Not long after, Pandora was discovered by a gentleman who had then helped her out of the settee without tearing her dress. Unfortunately, they were soon found out by the ball organizer, Lord Chaworth, who insisted that the gentleman had compromised Pandora. No matter how much Pandora tried to explain the real situation to Lord Chaworth, he would hear none of it.
The ‘unfortunate’ gentleman had been Gabriel, Lord St Vincent, the first son of Sebastian, now the Duke of Kingston. When Gabriel saw how Lord Chaworth had apparently taken delight in finding him in such a compromising position, Gabriel suspected that Lord Chaworth must have had an old grudge against his father the Duke. The Duke of Kingston had been a notorious rake during his bachelor years, and Gabriel had been branded with the same label just because he physically resembled his father, and he had inherited his father’s former title. But Gabriel was no notorious rake – his only fault was inheriting his father’s exact looks. Thus Gabriel’s suspicions that Lord Chaworth’s determination to trap him was an act of settling an old score with the Duke.
And now, Lord Chaworth was being (smugly) adamant that Gabriel had compromised Pandora and must take responsibility over it: Gabriel and Pandora now had to marry, when marriage was actually the very last thing on both their minds!!!
“Men are like chocolate bonbons. The ones with the most attractive outsides have the worst fillings.” – Pandora Ravenel, page 213
***WARNING!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!!***
It was not just Pandora who was reluctant about marriage. Gabriel himself had come to the ball not with the intention of finding a wife candidate, but rather to merely watch a fireworks display prepared by Lord Chaworth. Instead, he ended his night with a marriage prospect.
Gabriel then went to meet Devon to discuss the marriage that inevitably had to take place, but the Lord Trenear was very considerate regarding the matter. He was against any forced marriage, and was willing to give more time for all parties to consider their options. Gabriel was worried that the Ravenels would become a pariah if they did not submit to society’s expectations (by agreeing to the marriage), but at the same time he himself was anxious about having to marry so suddenly.
Pandora had had the same apprehension as Gabriel: she was aware of the repercussions against her family if words ever spread about her so-called ‘compromised virtue’, which could include ruining Cassandra’s marriage prospects. But she was also very concerned about having to marry someone, knowing that she could lose her freedom – and not to mention she was not well-versed on the duties of a lady of the house.
Gabriel’s parents, the Duke and Duchess of Kingston, obviously welcomed the fact that at least their son was caught with Pandora instead of his mistress. Gabriel had kept a mistress – who was a married woman – and the Duke and Duchess had been very open about their opposition towards the matter.
Now that Gabriel was caught in a scandal with Pandora, the Duke had suggested they extend an invitation to the Ravenels to spend a week at their family home in Sussex so both of them could get acquainted before deciding anything on the matter.
Devon also thought it was a great idea to let Pandora and Gabriel get to know each other first. Moreover, the opportunity to spend a week in Sussex was most welcome for the Ravenel family to escape from nosy people who kept dogging them to know what happened between Pandora and Gabriel. And so, the Ravenels had travelled all the way to Sussex to meet with the Challons, who could possibly be their future in-laws by the end of the week.
It did not take long before Gabriel decided that he does want to marry Pandora after all. Ever since the fated night at the ball, Gabriel had somewhat felt a strange attraction towards Pandora. Pandora was so different and memorable, and she stood out among the rest of the ladies and she had seemed like an exciting prospect indeed for Gabriel.
Gabriel had no qualms about having Pandora as his wife, but it took some time – and several charming strategies on Gabriel’s part – before Pandora finally made her decision.
In marriage, there had to be give and take – and Pandora had realized that, too. Although she would technically lose her freedom once she marry Gabriel, he had been willing to allow her to continue developing her business, and to find an alternative where all profits to the business would remain rightfully hers. Gabriel had accepted her the way she was: he even taught Pandora a slower version of waltz where she was able to dance to without having to worry about her balancing. Gabriel had also assured that he would get rid of his mistress (whom he had totally forgotten after meeting Pandora anyway) before he and Pandora got married.
“There’s very little in life that doesn’t require a compromise of one kind or another. No matter what you choose, it won’t be perfect.” – Kathleen, Lady Trenear, page 199
“Wouldn’t it be dull if ever after was always happy, with no difficulties or problems to solve? Ever-after is far more interesting than that.” – Kathleen, Lady Trenear, page 200
Gabriel had offered Pandora a married life where he would not smother her too much, and it seemed not right to just downright reject him. In fact, Pandora did not really know what had finally made her decide to agree to marry Gabriel in the end.
“Marriage is far too important a matter to be decided with reason.” – Phoebe, quoting her late husband Henry, page 127
Pandora and Gabriel eventually married about two weeks after the Ravenels’ sojourn in Sussex. Their new lives were basically blissful – Gabriel had consented for Pandora to pursue her business, but at the same time he hired a bodyguard named Drago to keep Pandora safe. Initially the step had seemed unnecessary in Pandora’s eyes, until she inadvertently stepped into danger while she was looking for a printer for her board game.
While at a printing company in a dangerous part of town, Pandora had stumbled across a shifty side-business the printing company seemed to be involved in. Pandora had accidentally walked in while the printer, a Mrs O’Cairre, was discussing some underhanded business with an unidentified man. The man intimidated Pandora, and she had quickly left the premise and found Drago to describe her encounter. Drago went snooping around the printing company and confirmed that the company was apparently involved in some very deadly dealings: alongside innocent printing businesses, they also produced explosives.
Pandora ceased any further visits to O’Cairre Print Works, but so soon she understood the extent of danger she had inadvertently stepped into following the encounter with the suspicious man. Mrs O’Cairre had approached Pandora one night while the latter was having an outing at the theatre, and had attempted to murder Pandora with a stabbing. Luckily, Drago was nearby and had managed to prevent Mrs O’Cairre from inflicting a lethal injury on Pandora.
With the help of Ethan Ransom from Scotland Yard, Mrs O’Cairre was caught and detained. O’Cairre and her late husband were members of an Irish anarchists group which aimed to overthrow the government. The man whom Pandora had seen with Mrs O’Cairre at the print works was apparently the one giving orders: he had instructed Mrs O’Cairre to kill Pandora after the latter had seen him, afraid that Pandora might expose him to the authorities.
Mrs O’Cairre had refused to reveal who was the man collaborating with her. But not long after, Mrs O’Cairre was found dead and her cause of death was announced as suicide. Ethan Ransom’s personal investigation revealed that the man who had been ordering Mrs O’Cairre regarding the explosives was someone from the Home Office himself, thus the obvious reason why the corrupted police force seemed to have swept the matter under the carpet.
Afterwards Ethan left the police force to pursue the case himself. He was led to believe that the suspect from the Home Office would strike at an upcoming event which will be attended by the Prince of Wales. Ethan had sought Pandora’s assistance to attend the reception to identify the suspect if he was there. Pandora and Gabriel had to agree, as they were aware that as long as the man was still free, he would always pose a threat against Pandora’s safety.
At the night of the reception, Pandora saw the man and pointed him out for Ethan to mark. Ethan knew him as Mr Nash Prescott, an Under Secretary at the Home Office. While Ethan followed the man, Pandora and Drago had discovered that the man had lined up explosives under the floor of the building. Luckily, Gabriel found the detonator and disarmed it before the bombs could explode.
Ethan joined them not long after, revealing that Prescott had committed suicide by taking poison before Ethan had any chance to confront him. With the deaths of both Mrs O’Cairre and Prescott – both of whom had viewed Pandora as a threat against their plans – Ethan believed that Pandora was now safe.
Although Ethan would continue to pursue the case, he would not require Pandora’s involvement any longer. It was his game now. The sinister plot – as well as the people behind it – would apparently be handled and revealed when Ethan Ransom got his own story in the next Ravenels series, Hello Stranger...