The Ravenels #6 – Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas
The Ravenels #6 – Chasing Cassandra
By Lisa Kleypas
Published by Avon Books (2020)
The only remaining Ravenel who was yet to marry, Cassandra, finally met her match in this final instalment of Lisa Kleypas’ Ravenels series. The six-volume series were wrapped-up beautifully, but I still can’t help feeling a bit of melancholy: having formed an attachment to the whole family, I had hoped their stories would never end ❤😭.
As it turned out, Pandora and Gabriel’s wedding ceremony in Devil In Spring served as the prelude to the love story of yet another couple: apart from Phoebe and West Ravenel, Cassandra and Tom Severin also had their beginnings at the same wedding. The first chapter of both Devil’s Daughter and Chasing Cassandra had narrated scenes from Pandora and Gabriel’s wedding, from the viewpoint of the respective couples.
Tom Severin had attended Pandora and Gabriel’s wedding despite not being invited by any of the family. He himself was not quite sure why he should go to the wedding; he only knew that he had felt like a lost person searching for something he could not identify, and had absently attended the gathering.
Tom had then thought about marriage, thinking that marriage might be the answer to his unknown wanting. As he was acquainted to Devon Ravenel and his brother West, Tom had contemplated to ask for the hands of one of Devon’s wards: but since two out of the three Ravenel sisters were already married, that leave only Cassandra for Tom to consider. And Tom was totally smitten from the very first moment he saw Cassandra.
“Haven’t you ever liked someone or something right away, without knowing exactly why, but feeling sure you would discover the reasons later?” – Tom Severin, page 22.
However, Tom’s passage to winning Cassandra’s hand was not a walk in the park. Cassandra’s guardian Devon was wary about the match, convinced that romantic Cassandra would never be happy with a man as mercurial as Tom. For Devon, the most important thing for him was to have Cassandra happily married, not merely married off to any man who came her way. Devon was adamant to ensure Cassandra got her own happily ever after as her two sisters did.
Although Tom claimed he was attracted to Cassandra, people acquainted to him saw him as a man incapable of an affectionate, loving relationship. Tom was always distant and impersonal, and had been known to avoid emotional attachments to anything. Thus, he was obviously not a suitable husband candidate for Cassandra.
On Cassandra’s part, she did felt an electrifying attraction towards Tom: he was attractive in his own way, intelligent and had the unique ability of remembering everything. But as did everyone else, Cassandra was also dubious about Tom’s ability to love. Much as she liked Tom, she didn’t know what to feel for a detached man like him. And she was determined to marry for love. Even if the love would only grow later into the marriage, Cassandra would still consider that suitor – as long as the man is someone who is able to love.
True love never seemed to happen to someone who was looking for it. Love was a prankster, preferring to sneak up on people who were busy doing other things. – page 25
***WARNING!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!!***
Many months after Cassandra’s first meeting with Tom, she had tried to humour some well-bred gentlemen she met at balls and soirees, hoping that she might find love among them – yet she could not bring her heart to feel the same attraction she had felt towards Tom Severin.
One suitor that had constantly courted Cassandra was the young and handsome Lord Lambert. He was usually quite a gentleman with her, but one day he suddenly displayed aggressiveness to the point of sexually assaulting her. Cassandra immediately ended all communications with Lord Lambert, effectively rejecting him as potential suitor.
In a very short period, gossip had spread within the ton, saying Cassandra was a promiscuous lady who tempted men with her beauty, and then gave him sexual liberties before finally rejecting him. The slanderous gossip had been spread by no other than Lord Lambert himself. But the ultimate act of character assassination was when an anonymous writer had sent an article to the London Chronicle, labelling Cassandra as a lady who played with men’s hearts.
Consequently, society began to reprimand Cassandra based on the gossip. Her reputation, as well as the Ravenels’ own reputation, had been tarnished. Some people had even begun to withdraw their invitations for Cassandra to attend any social events.
The Lord Trenear, Devon, enlisted the help of Ethan Ransom to help search for Lord Lambert, who had gone into hiding after managing to demolish Cassandra’s image. The Lady Trenear, Kathleen, sought the support of some society matrons she was acquainted with to help neutralize the damage on Cassandra. Other family members also lend their support to Cassandra. However, according to the rules of society, the only way for Cassandra to redeem her reputation was by marrying a respectable man.
Not long after the gossip spread, Tom came to Ravenel House to reveal who was the anonymous writer in the London Chronicle. Prior to that, Gabriel, the Lord St Vincent, had tried to pry information from the paper but he had been unsuccessful. Tom managed to do so because he had gone the extra mile for that piece of crucial information: Tom had gone a step ahead by buying over the whole London Chronicle business before approaching the chief editor with threats that he would be fired if he did not provide the name of the anonymous writer to him.
Consequentially, the chief editor of the London Chronicle revealed the name of the anonymous writer: it was the Marquis of Ripon, Lord Lambert’s father. The Marquis of Ripon, a widower, had previously set his sights on Cassandra as well – and now that Lord Lambert had disappeared, Ripon was determined to take the opportunity to replace his son’s place. He deliberately wanted to ruin Cassandra’s reputation as thoroughly as possible so that she will not have any other options but to accept his proposition. Unfortunately for him, Tom Severin had uncovered his ploy. And even more unfortunate for Ripon, Tom wanted to marry Cassandra, too.
Following the incident, Tom immediately proposed marriage to Cassandra. She was still doubtful, until he suggested that they both write a contract – expectations of the marriage, as well as what they will agree to give and take – in order to find common ground before agreeing to marry. The suggestion appealed to Cassandra, and she was happy with the idea. Furthermore, Tom had proven that he was willing to go to any lengths for her sake, including taking over a whole newspaper business.
Devon, who had previously rejected Tom’s proposal to marry Cassandra, eventually conceded. Based on his experience, the best way to assess Tom’s character was during a business negotiation. So Devon thought it would be good for Cassandra to really get to know Tom while dealing the contract with him. If Cassandra still wanted to marry Tom by the end of their contract negotiation, Devon would consent to the match.
Ultimately, by the end of the negotiation, Cassandra was satisfied and thought it was a good start to a marriage. At least, Tom had shown his willingness to take into consideration her points of view as well. Cassandra and Tom were finally wedded in a chapel at the Ravenels’ ancestral home in Hampshire.
Following their marriage, Cassandra was willing to be patient with Tom while he sorted out his feelings, with the hopes that one day, he would acknowledge and understand love. One strategy that she had tried was by suggesting Tom to read the novel Around The World In Eighty Days. She had asked Tom to look for what the main character of the novel, Phileas Fogg, had learned after his journey of eighty days. Naturally, Tom was only able to grasp the practical and scientific parts of the novel and failed to comprehend any other messages in it. But Cassandra was still patient and hopeful.
In fact, before marrying Cassandra, Tom had already proven - quite unconsciously - that he was able to care for somebody else. Tom had employed a homeless orphan called Bazzle – initially to do some cleaning at his office, but later taken into Tom’s household to do odd jobs. When Cassandra pointed out that he was caring for Bazzle, Tom had waved it away, claiming that what he did was for his own selfish reasons.
After Cassandra moved in as lady of the house, she had insisted that they both raise Bazzle as their own – as she believed every child has the right to be loved, protected and educated. And the suggestion had effectively provoked Tom, for it brought back distant memories that he did not wish to remember again.
Tom had actually cared for Bazzle after he found similarities between Bazzle and himself as a little boy. Decades ago, Tom’s father had abandoned the family and Tom – as the only male in the family – had to be a child worker and fend for himself in a world full of predators. Tom was taken in by the Paxton family later, and he had worked and lived with the family – and he had loved the Paxtons, until he realized that the family had never felt the same way about him or considered him one of the family. The Paxtons severed their ties with Tom after he dared to try courting one of the daughters of the family. The pain of the rejection, and most importantly the realization that his love for the family had never been reciprocated – had made him averse to any feelings of love.
Now that Cassandra had understood what had turned Tom into what he is, she really felt sorry for him. But at the same time, she insisted that Bazzle be given a chance to be part of their family, to be raised as their own child, rather than remaining as an employee where he will go through the bitter experience Tom had already gone through. As Tom had hated what the Paxtons had done to him, he should not become like them by treating Bazzle the same way the Paxtons treated him. Eventually Tom relented and agreed to raise Bazzle as his own.
Having already cared deeply for both Cassandra and Bazzle, it didn’t take long before Tom finally realized that what he had felt for them all these while was really love. And then only it dawned on him that Cassandra had been hoping that he would learn to love just as Phileas Fogg had when he found love while journeying around the world in 80 days.
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