by Stephanie Laurens

October 1998
ISBN: 0-380-79457-8
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

Vane Cynster, cousin to Devil Cynster, Duke of St. Ives, and second only to Devil in the Cynster male hierarchy, has vowed to escape the marriage trap! Hah! As we Stephanie Laurens fans know, Vane's fate is waiting out there for him and he too will succumb to the Cynster "curse" - a Cynster wife will rule her husband by virtue of their love! The Cynster motto is "To Have and To Hold", but Vane doesn't have, and certainly doesn't intend holding, until he runs into Patience Debbington! Every instinct he possesses springs to attention (along with a few other organs!!) when he surprises Patience bending over a flowerbed at dusk in his Godmother's garden. Lady Minnie Bellamy, thrilled with her godson's impromptu visit, immediately solicits his help with a problem of theft within the house, thus giving Vane the perfect excuse to stay at Bellamy House and pursue his primary goal - seducing Patience! Minnie has assembled a motley assortment of permanent house-guests (not unusual at that time when poorer relatives considered themselves fortunate to be offered a home with a more well-to-do connection) and Vane immediately senses undercurrents of tension between the guests. Patience's younger brother Gerald is most often the target of criticism - he's young, intelligent, and a perfect scapegoat! Sorting out what exactly is going on gives Vane quite a challenge and before he knows it, he is up to his neck in the intrigues of Bellamy house. What he is not up to his neck in is Patience, however, and he has a great deal of trouble realizing that he actually wants more than just an affair.

Patience is a charming character! She is quite firm in her opinions, especially when it comes to a known rake like Vane Cynster!! It takes Vane quite a bit of effort to finally convince Patience that he is not a rake, and even more to encourage her to look upon him as man. Unfortunately, by that time, Vane has realized that he wants Patience in his life permanently - so he tries to behave in a correct and circumspect fashion. However, Patience has become quite sensually aroused by his touches and kisses and decides an affair would be in order. The way the lovers switch roles in this passionate hunt is absolutely delightful - who will surrender first? Their quest for a thief takes them to London where Devil Cynster and his duchess, Honoria, make a welcome appearance. Before these two can settle affairs between them, they must face some serious challenges together; Patience has to learn that the past need not be repeated in the future, and Vane finds out that the more love you give away the more you get back! The Cynster curse takes another victim who goes happily to his fate with a beaming smile!

Reviewed in June 2001 by Celia.

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