What Price Love?
I used to really enjoy Stephanie Laurens’ series about the Cynster family. The first book, Devil’s Bride is still one of my favorites. But as oddly named Cynster followed oddly named Cynster, I lost interest in the family. Most Cynster books follow this formula: He’s a rake, she’s feisty, they meet, they have multiple bouts of hot sex, then marry and live happily ever after. When I saw What Price Love? in my review package, I thumbed through it and checked out the chart on the end pages. Evidently Laurens has married off all the Cynsters since the hero of this book is only a friend of Demon Cynster and his wife. I guess we can call this a Cynster by proxy novel.
Lord Russell Dalloway is the heir to the Earl of Kentland. The earl wants his son to be a responsible landowner and has pushed him hard to learn estate management. Russ wants none of that – he is horse mad and wants to breed and race thoroughbreds. He and his brother Albert plan that Albert will do the managing and Russ will go on with his horses, but their father puts his foot down. Russ will be the manager, and that’s that. So Russ runs away.
Russ’s twin sister Priscilla is worried about him and takes off to find him. She traces him to Lord Cromarty’s estate, where the trail disappears. There may be a clue to Russ’s whereabouts in a couple of books – the Breeding Register and the Jockey Club’s Stud Book. Dillon Caxton, the protégé of Demon Cynster, has control of the books and he’s not about to let Priss see them. Dillon was once under a cloud of suspicion himself and slowly rebuilt his reputation. But Priss is blindingly beautiful, and Dillon (although not a Cynster) is a rake, and they try to seduce each other. Then they stumble onto a plot to fix some major races and danger is afoot.
I rather enjoyed the horseracing part of the plot, and I’m not normally a big fan of horses. But the plot was lively and interesting and I found myself skipping lots of sex scenes to get back to it. Unfortunately, the purple prose takes up a lot of space and I felt like my hands were mauve after I put the book down. There’s a lot of purple prose in this book – a lot of it. Also, both Priss and Dillon are so blindingly, heart stopping beautiful that they weren’t a bit life-like. They never seemed to have a hair out of place or a wrinkle in their clothes, and even if they did get rumpled, they still looked better than anyone else around them. It’s a wonder they didn’t glow in the dark.
Fans of larger than life characters and fans of the Cynster novels will eat this one up, but it didn’t tempt me back into the fold. I’ve lost my patience with too purple prose and impossibly beautiful characters. I want a bit of realism, I want my characters to sweat and not be so perfect. But as popular as the Cynsters are, I’m sure we will be seeing more of them. Maybe we’ll be seeing the second generation – luckily the Cynsters all have sizable families.