Published by Avon Genres: Historical Romance
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Also in this series: Cold-Hearted Rake, Marrying Winterborne, Devil in Spring, Hello Stranger, Devil's Daughter, Chasing Cassandra
New York Times bestseller Lisa Kleypas returns with an enthralling and steaming romance between a widowed lady and a Scot on the run—who may have connections to one of London's most noble families.
“The devil never tries to make people do the wrong thing by scaring them. He does it by tempting them.”
Lady Merritt Sterling, a strong-willed young widow who’s running her late husband’s shipping company, knows London society is dying to catch her in a scandal. So far, she’s been too smart to provide them with one. But then she meets Keir MacRae, a rough-and-rugged Scottish whisky distiller, and all her sensible plans vanish like smoke. They couldn’t be more different, but their attraction is powerful, raw and irresistible.
From the moment Keir MacRae arrives in London, he has two goals. One: don’t fall in love with the dazzling Lady Merritt Sterling. Two: avoid being killed.
So far, neither of those is going well.
Keir doesn’t know why someone wants him dead until fate reveals his secret connection to one of England’s most powerful families. His world is thrown into upheaval, and the only one he trusts is Merritt.
Their passion blazes with an intensity Merritt has never known before, making her long for the one thing she can’t have from Keir MacRae: forever. As danger draws closer, she’ll do whatever it takes to save the man she loves... even knowing he might be the devil in disguise.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
A headstrong Lady and a hard-headed Scot
I loved Devil in Disguise so much that I read it twice in three months! Lady Merritt Spencer and Keir MacRae are perfect together despite the apparent mesalliance. She may be an English duke’s daughter and he a Scots whiskey distiller, but they share an understanding of and tenderness toward one another that far outweighs any accident of birth, class, or nationality. Their romance is [chef’s kiss]: Heartfelt, passionate, and tender, it made my heart melt. And the presence of so many well-loved characters from previous books was the icing on the cake.
Those include characters from both the Ravenels and Wallflowers series. Merritt’s parents are Lillian and Marcus, Lord Westcliff (It Happened One Autumn.) As you might have guessed, given the book’s title, there is also a connection to the third Wallflowers book, The Devil in Winter. Sebastian, now Duke of Kingston, and his wife and Evie appear in this book, with Sebastian playing a signficant though secondary role. We also see Sebastian and Evie’s daughter Pheobe, now Pheobe Ravenel (Devil’s Daughter), and we meet Merritt’s younger brother, Luke Marsden. Ethan Ransome and his wife, Dr. Greer (Garson) Gibson (Hello Stranger) play minor but important parts in the story. But the real focus, of course, is on Merritt and Keir.
It’s no suprise that the American-born, rebellious, active Lillian has raised a strong daughter who is both independent in her opinions and comfortable with people of any class. Merritt is compassionate, kind, and insightful, but also firm and tenacious, even stubborn. The years she has spent running her late husband’s shipping business have given her an insight into the concerns of both business owners and their workers, which may also make it easier for her to relate to Keir.
Keir is a hard-headed Scot, determined to make his father’s distillery succeed not only for his own sake, but that of his workers. Under his initially gruff exterior, he is protective, honorable, and capable of deep affection. He resists the attraction between himself and Merritt out of respect for her and care for her reputation, knowing a liason between them could only result in scandal.
That attraction is almost instantaneous and extremely strong on both sides. It quickly develops into an emotional attachment, despite the obvious barriers of their respective backgrounds. While some readers may label it “insta-love,” I think Kleypas does an excellent job of showing how what starts out as physical attraction can become something much deeper in a short period of time. Their physical exchanges are both steamy and meltingly tender right from the first toe-curling kiss; their conversations and actions clearly demonstrate their growing feelings for each other. I was charmed by how Keir calls her “Merry”, which says so much about what she means to him. I love how he refers to her affectionately as a “wee bully” on account of her bossiness, and the care he shows her in every touch. And I appreciate how Merritt instinctively understands how Keir would or will feel in certain situations, and tries to protect him emotionally as well as physically.
But their path to happiness is far from smooth. Beyond the dangers to Merritt’s reputation, there are a series of attempts on Keir’s life, and he has no idea by whom, let alone why. One such attempt comes perilously close to succeeding, precipitating a series of events that both propels and derails Merritt and Keir’s relationship for a time. They must resolve that threat if they are to have any kind of future together.
Despite the mystery, Devil in Disguise is far more of a romance than romantic suspense, and just about perfect. Besides Keir and Merritt, there are some marvelous scenes and interchanges with other characters. There’s a wonderful scene between former antagonists Sebastian and Lillian that had me literally cheering. Merritt’s relationship with her brother Luke is charming; I hope he gets his own book someday. I would have liked a little more about Keir’s struggles over his identity and inheritance, but other than that, I loved everything about it.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Seasons 2021: Spring