The Untamed Bride
With a prelude that feels like something from a 19th century adventure novel, I got hooked into The Untamed Bride from the very beginning. This book, first in The Black Cobra Quartet, starts off very strong and, were it not for the sometimes kitschy detour into Cynster-land, it would have been a keeper. Even so, I enjoyed reading this story and will definitely be following the series.
The book opens with a group of five British officers in Calcutta receiving orders to eliminate the threat posed by the Black Cobra cult that has terrorized Indian villagers and attacked convoys. Directed to identify, capture, and bring the Black Cobra himself to justice, the five begin to investigate. After several months, they have suspicions of who is behind the cult’s activity and put themselves in considerable danger to secure proof. These circumstances very plausibly require the men to separate in order to deliver proof of the Black Cobra’s identity to England.
The story proper opens after the officers have dispersed on their mission to deliver their evidence to England. Our hero, Colonel Derek Delborough, safely reaches England, though not without some uneasy moments. Given that the Black Cobra has connections in England, he still must travel some distance and face danger to get his cargo to the appointed person.
These circumstances do not mix well with his other mission: His aunts have requested that Del escort a neighboring landowner’s daughter home from Southhampton. When Del arrives at his inn intent on finding a way to inform Miss Duncannon that he cannot be her escort, he finds the mysterious lady already awaiting him there. Their first meeting is actually rather fun. Del obviously expected a meek young lady barely out of the schoolroom, and the somewhat older, very self-possessed woman who meets him throws him ever so slightly off balance.
Though Del has every intention of telling Deliah Duncannon that she won’t be traveling with him, she will have none of it. Not surprisingly, the slightly imperious Deliah and her servants end up in Del’s traveling party, and she eventually gets drawn into the danger surrounding Del and pulled into his mission. The attraction between these two is quite powerful, but the story is unusual in that readers will get quite far through the story before the two ever admit any feelings or act on them. I’ve read a lot of “I fell in love and decided you would be mine within 5 minutes/10 pages” stories, so the slower (but quite intense) burn of this one made for a refreshing change. The relationship takes place over about a week, but so much happens in the text that the courtship really doesn’t feel as rushed as perhaps it would have otherwise.
Del is a strong, somewhat alpha but likeable hero and Deliah is a wonderful heroine. Her strength is not shown with curl-tossing or rudeness, but rather a quiet assurance. When she sets her mind, she quite simply will not be moved. There is a touch of imperiousness to her as well as intelligence and I found her a mature and very worthy heroine. She and Del make a good team.
The story moves along well for most of the book. Del, Deliah, and their companions all make for pleasant company; the adventure plot more than held my interest; and, as the relationship between Del and Deliah gathered steam, the romance certainly kept me turning pages as well. Then they got to Devil Cynster’s house. Devil himself was not bad at all in this story, but his house was packed to the gills with Cynsters, their wives, and a veritable herd of Cynster spawn. The adventure and main relationship continued to build and I wanted to read more about them, but, unfortunately, both are sidetracked by several scenes showing the imperiousness of Cynster men, the indulgent attitude of their various wives, etc. It all seemed designed to warm the reader’s heart, but instead just came off as calculated – and very cheesy. My eyes rolled so hard I thought I would blind myself.
A note on the Cynsters: You do not need to have read the Cynster novels in order to follow this new series, but it is set in the same world as the Cynsters and the Bastion Club so if you already know this world, some secondary characters will be familiar. Even with the book’s flaws, the mysterious hunt for the Black Cobra underlying this story and which will continue all through the series intrigued me, and I did enjoy the primary romance, which ventured away from the very familiar super-alpha rake who must possess feisty heroine plots I associate with this author. The hero annoyed me a bit at the end by doing something stupid that I felt was manipulative of Deliah, but I still enjoyed this book much more than the average book and would definitely read it again.