Lisa Kleypas has always been at the very top of my list of authors in the historical romance genre. She was one of the first authors I read in the genre as a teenager, and to this day, I still name Dreaming of You as my favorite historical romance. Derek Craven is KING. However, Devil in Disguise came so close to taking the top spot on my list, I was in shock. As someone who will likely never be able to have children, it is always difficult to read a romance where having children is a key part of the plot. Must have those blood-related children to carry on the family name! And most of the time, I can still enjoy the book, because I understand that it was a common reason for marriage back then and still is today. That's what made Devil in Disguise so special to me - the heroine is barren and the hero handles the situation so well, I was in tears. I posted a video all about it on my Instagram, because it was such a special moment for me. Derek Craven may need to share his crown, because there's another king occupying my heart, and his name is Keir MacRae.
After a year and a half of marriage, Lady Merritt Sterling found herself a widow and in charge of her husband's shipping firm. Three years later and she has become a well-respected businesswoman who is unafraid to flout convention and stand firm in the face of overwhelming odds. She knows she can handle an irate Keir MacRae when he comes bursting into her office, angry that some of his whiskey had been destroyed while being unloaded at the docks. It's not his temper that surprises her but rather his looks and the way her heart pounds in his presence. She calms him, works out a solution, and impresses him far more than any man ever could. Keir is immediately enchanted by this woman who can command a roomful of men, but he knows that their worlds are too different to ever come together in a permanent way. But Merritt is a "wee bully" and she will get her way, even if only for one night. When tragedy strikes and her happiness cut short, it's her stubbornness that leads to events that will change forever the course of their fate. After all, when soulmates meet, separation is impossible.
I'll start with Merritt, who is a wonderfully inspiring heroine, who did her father and mother proud for being bold, brave and ambitious. She is a Westcliff at heart, after all, and it is only expected that she will be successful in all that she does. Her marriage was short and she was diagnosed with uterine fibroids, unable to give her husband the child he wanted, and she fears that no man will want her for that reason. However, she can't help but fall in love with Keir soon after they meet. Which is why I call them soulmates, because the insta-love was coupled by this instant connection they had with each other on a soul-deep level. You could feel it while reading, they were meant for each other. Keir was amazing, from his respect for Merritt and her work to his opinions on having children. He has no problem with adoption, having been adopted himself, and he teaches Merritt that her value lies in her wonderful heart, not her barren womb. I loved that about him, as well that he was a hardworking man who made sure his men were taken care of and business was done properly. He was responsible, hardworking, great with kids, and a genuinely kind person to everyone he met. I really couldn't ask for a better hero, for myself or for Merritt.
What is also amazing about this book is that we get to see a lot of two couples from the original Wallflower series - Lillian & Marcus and Evie & Sebastian. They played a large role in the latter half of the book, and I really enjoyed reading more about them, seeing their interactions now that they are older. Their scenes with Merritt and Keir were wonderful as well, I was so excited to see them still the same endearing characters they were when they were younger. Evie, in particular, made me so proud, and I love her even more after this book. I can't say why without giving big things. Just know that she gets ten times better, which I didn't think was possible, since she was already amazing.
This book not only is on my Favorite Books of 2021 list, but it takes the top spot and will probably stay there all year. I am not exaggerating - I loved this book so much and even now, I am tearing up, days after reading it. Get your hands on this book as soon as possible, and then come back to me so we can cry happy tears together.
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**