by Stephanie Laurens

July 2000
ISBN: 0-380-80570-7
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

Lady Alathea Morwellan had no idea that her childhood playmates would grow up to become two of the Ton's most sought-after bachelors - Gabriel and Lucifer Cynster! Just the nicknames alone told Alathea all she needed to know about them, but when she finds herself in a tricky financial situation, she knows that Gabriel is the only one who can truly help. The problem is, however, they haven't been able to get along together since their early teens - any conversation between them customarily ends in an argument! What's an intelligent and enterprising lady to do when her entire family's future is at stake? Simple, just invent an alter ego guaranteed to appeal to Gabriel Cynster and lure him into rendering the aid she so desperately needs! Her ruse is all too successful and she not only receives Gabriel's financial assistance, but his sensual interest as well.

Stephanie Laurens demonstrates her boundless writing skills in this book, delicately and perfectly positioning the relationship between Gabriel and the real Alathea as a counterpoint to the one that develops between Gabriel and his mystery Countess. The eventual revelations alter Gabriel's world and shake his convictions to their foundation! By then he has realized that he, too, has become a victim to the Cynster curse - he has found the woman to whom he will eventually surrender his heart and soul! The married Cynster men accept their fate willingly - those who have yet to succumb face this possibility with terror in their warrior hearts! Yet at the root of the Cynsters lies an enormously strong sense of family and commitment - it is this core value that gives these stories their depth and passion. Protecting that which is theirs comes naturally to the Cynsters and Gabriel is no exception. With help from Gerrard Debbington (his sister married Vane Cynster in A RAKE'S VOW) Gabriel lays a trap for villains and also his Countess! [Many novels rely upon the art of disguise as an essential plot element; today, with our thousand-watt light bulbs and fluorescent street lamps, this might seem a tad unbelievable. However, the next time your power fails, try lighting just one candle at night in a room with the curtains closed to keep out the cold and see how little illumination there actually is!]

Will Gabriel's plans for revelation and seduction succeed? Stephanie Laurens boldly takes her readers deep into Gabriel's heart as he struggles to realign his emotions! We share his confusion and terror when his plans go awry and Althea finds herself in dire peril. A recurring character, the Earl of Chillingworth, lends his invaluable assistance once again - as an "honorary Cynster" one wonders what fate might have in store for him? You won't be able to wait to see what lies ahead for the one remaining Cynster - Lucifer's destiny is shortly to catch up with him! If you love Regencies, romances, and first-class writing, get these Cynster stories on your shelves immediately! You won't regret it.

Reviewed in July 2001 by Celia.

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