Thursday, November 23, 2017

Review: Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens

Stephanie Laurens is one of the biggest names in historical romance, having been prolific for years. She's an "auto-buy" author for many romance fans with at least nine series so far. By far the longest of her series are the Cynster books about the Bar Cynster family. Arguably (there is a prequel written long after the original novel of the bunch) the first book in that series, published way back in 1998, is Devil's Bride about the 6th Duke of St. Ives and his chosen bride.

Sylvester, known to all and sundry as Devil, is the 6th Duke, head of this large and intimidating family. Honoria Prudence Anstruther-Wetherby is a finishing governess on her way to her latest post when, in advance of a coming storm, she stumbles across a young man who has been shot and is bleeding out. No shrinking violet, Honoria tries to stem the tide of blood but cannot do anything else for him until a dark, imposing man on horseback arrives and helps her get the injured man to a woodsman's cottage. The two spend the night in the cottage with the dying man, thoroughly compromising Honoria. In the morning, she learns that her companion throughout the night was Devil Cynster and the dead man, his young cousin Tolly. Devil is determined to marry the lovely governess but she has no intention of marrying him, coming as she does from a family that is his own family's equal. She dreams of traveling the world, seeing Egypt, and remaining free of any marital or maternal ties. But Devil is used to getting what he wants. She stays at his family home throughout the ensuing funeral, meeting and being seamlessly folded into the Cynster family so skillfully she cannot object mostly because she wants to find who murdered Tolly almost as much as the rest of the Cynster men. None of the other women know that he was murdered and Devil doesn't want Honoria anywhere close to the quiet investigation he and the others are conducting so, of course, she inserts herself as often as possible.

Devil is an autocratic and arrogant character. He never doubts that Honoria will eventually cave to his wishes and marry him. And in fact he generally does have the upper hand and plays her so that she has no choice but to fall in with what he wants. But if he is strong-willed and single-minded, so is she, and she fights for the information she wants from him even as she gives ground in other ways. The narration moves back and forth from Honoria to Devil so that the reader sees each move in this game from both perspectives. The sex scenes between these two not quite combatants, not quite lovers are incredibly steamy and if Devil's restraint in the bedroom, waiting for Honoria to agree to marriage, is a little unrealistic, the unfulfilled, or perhaps more accurately unconsummated, desire arcing between them does heighten the sexual tension as the story goes on. As this is the introduction to the Cynster clan, there is an enormous character list in this book and none of the secondary characters are all that well differentiated from the others, with the notable exception of the Dowager Duchess. Laurens introduces each of the family members with a light hand, perhaps in anticipation of them having their own books in the series, which they eventually do. The murderer is never in question in the book, requiring little in the way of uncovering plot lines for the reader. (The characters, on the other hand, are frustratingly blind to the truth right in front of them.) Without much of a mystery, the second half of the book is chock full of extended sex scenes, Devil demanding Honoria agree to what they clearly both want, and her silence on the matter, followed by more hot, sexy times, renewed demands, and more silence (repeat at will). There's a certain something about the book which makes it definitely feel of its time, perhaps the very alpha male hero or maybe the heroine who gives up long cherished dreams without a backwards glance once her hormones fire up, but I am willing to try another Cynster novel the next time I get the urge to read an historical romance and see how I like the rest of the family.

1 comment:

  1. I read the Eliza Cynster novel (can't remember the title exactly) and I enjoyed it. Thank you for this post!!


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