“Honoria drew back only long enough to wrap her arms around his neck. She clung to him, to the vibrant life enshrined in their kiss. His arms locked about her, his chest hard against her breasts, his heartbeat a heavy, repetitive thud reverberating through her. Her defensive tension shifted, transmuted; she pressed herself to him. She answered his kiss and desire rose, not in passionate frenzy, but as a swelling presence impossible to deny. Like rivers unleashed, it welled from them both, merging to a torrent, carrying all thoughts, all conscious will before it, impelling, compelling, not with need but with the need to give.”
I’m a comfort re-reader. And during the last fourteen months, I’ve found myself returning again and again to old favourites: Three Fates by Nora Roberts, The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, and A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas. And when no words feel right and when I can’t lose myself in someone else’s life and love, I turn to Stephanie Laurens. Laurens is an Australian writer who created the Cynster Family- a dynasty of broody alpha males and the women who love and tame them, set in Regency England. At last check, there are over 60 books in the Cynster world, which began publishing in 1998.
So, this past month, in need of something to read and not finding anything that could hold my attention for more than 40 pages, I decided to start at the very beginning of Laurens’ dynasty with the first Cynster book: Devil’s Bride.
Sylvester Cynster, better known as Devil, The 6th Duke of St. Ives, the powerful head of the Cynster family since his father passed, is everything a man should be: handsome, wealthy, powerful and sinful in bed. When Devil runs across Honoria Wetherby moments after his cousin is shot and dying, Devil is thrust into an uncompromising position. He decides he must marry Honoria and avenge his cousin’s murder. The only problem? Honoria doesn’t want to marry. She wants to be an explorer, travel the world, and see incredible sights like the pyramids in Egypt. The novel is classic Stephanie Laurens: a virgin heroine and stoic hero whose only weakness is love and an intriguing mystery that ties them together.
Devil’s Bride is fast-paced and an exhilarating romp. While the book works hard to set up the family history and offer world-building for the rest of the series and can drag a bit in sections because of it (which began as a six-book series of the Cynster men), it still delivers on a beautiful relationship between Devil and Honoria. The love scenes are steamy and overly detailed, which is Lauren’s signature (please read the quote to see what I mean). While Devil isn’t my favourite Cynster man (cough Lucifer cough), I do love Honoria’s character arc: she’s bold and fearless and determined to live her life as she plans. Devil, I frankly find to be a little annoying in his warlord, head of the house, I am man style. However, the HEA is very satisfying because, of course, as with all of the Cynster books, love always forces the hand.
While this book was published over 20 years ago, it is still a comforting and entertaining read. This is a 1990’s style romance novel and is more traditional than popular historical romances of today’s writers like Evie Dunmore and Martha Waters. For the most part, though, Laurens does write feisty and strong female characters. If you haven’t read a lot of Regency romances and have been intrigued with the period thanks to the Bridgerton series on Netflix, I do recommend you dive into Stephanie Laurens.