Desert Isle Keeper
Devil's Bride (#32 on our Top 100 Romances List)
An AAR Top 100 Romance
originally published on April 18, 1998
I haven’t read a really good European historical romance in a while and had heard some good things about Stephanie Laurens’ new book Devil’s Bride. I had read her earlier book, Captain Jack’s Woman and thought it was pretty good. I had heard such good things about Devil’s Bride that I was afraid it would not live up to expectations. I found it at the grocery store, got home, started to read and was hooked from the start.
Devil’s Bride is set in the Regency period and features one of the strongest, most self-assured heroines I have ever encountered. Honoria Anstruther-Wetherby is no sheltered little miss. She is twenty-four, strong-willed, self-sufficient and a lady of independent means. She works as a finishing governess; training young girls to make a good come-out while she waits till she is a little older and can fulfill her dream of going to Africa and exploring.
While Honoria is out driving in the woods, she comes across the body of a badly wounded young man. Her horse is spooked by thunder and runs away leaving her with the young man who is unconscious. Shortly after, a stranger on a horse rides up and identifies the wounded man as his cousin, Tolly. Honoria and the stranger take the wounded man to a near-by cottage since it has started to rain. The strange man discovers Honoria’s identity and tells her they will have to marry. Tolly dies in the night and the next morning, Honoria finds out that the stranger is Sylvester Cynster, Duke of St. Ives who is known as Devil. To Devil’s surprise, Honoria does not want to marry him. She has her own money, she doesn’t want to marry anyone, she cares nothing for Society, and she wants to go to Africa. Devil is determined that she will marry him. Honoria has to move in with Devil’s mother until her brother can come and get her. But, to her chagrin, when her brother does come, he thinks she should marry Devil! Honoria is forced into close proximity to Devil and his five Cynster cousins, as they work to solve the mystery behind Tolly’s death.
Honoria helps the Cynster clan while they investigate Tolly’s murder and she and Devil grow closer and closer until she decides that marriage would not be such a bad thing. By this time, however, Devil turns the tables on her and makes her pursue him, which is just one of the many ways in which the author uses humor to round out the story (another, more obvious clever bit of writing is in the nicknames of the Cynster clan).
The attraction between Honoria and Devil is strong and the love scenes in this book are stunning. I have heard complaints that writers are beginning to cut their love scenes short. Ms. Laurens is not guilty of that. The love scenes here are many pages long and extremely sensuous. Honoria and Devil are not just involved for sex alone. They are attracted to each other, they love each other, and they like each other before they become lovers.
There was just so much I liked about this book. Devil Cynster was a rake – but he was intelligent, honorable, and totally devoted to his family. Honoria was every bit his match – strong, brave, and independent. Their marriage takes place mid-way through the book and Ms. Laurens does an excellent job showing how two such strong-willed characters learn to live together. The mystery behind Tolly’s murder was intriguing, but did not overshadow the relationship between Devil and Honoria. The Cynster cousins were a likable bunch of roguish guys, and Ms. Laurens has plans to write about each of them. I can hardly wait!