Grab your bonnets, gloves and reticules all you Regency fans - you're in for a rollicking phaeton ride with Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens. The first in her series of stories about the Cynster family, this book introduces the head (and possibly the heart) of the Cynsters, Sylvester Sebastian Cynster, sixth Duke of St. Ives. Known as That Devil Cynster to many, and simply Devil to his family and friends, the Duke rides casually into a thunderstorm only to meet a dying cousin and Miss Honoria Anstruther-Wetherby who is trying desperately to save his life. Devil accepts his fate immediately, knowing that Honoria will be his Duchess with an arrogant certainty. Honoria, however, has other ideas. She wishes to explore her freedom, travel, visit Africa, and generally behave in what seems to Devil an utterly reprehensible way.
The interaction between these two characters is completely absorbing. They are both headstrong, stubborn, yet confined by their places in society - Devil has the advantage of sensual abilities that Honoria can only begin to guess at and he uses these skills at every opportunity in an attempt to seduce Honoria to his side and his life.
The fireworks produced by these two should serve as an example to every writer, Regency or otherwise, of how strong personalities can be written to interact so naturally it is as if we are in the room with them listening to their arguments and finally their surrender to each other. At no time do any of the characters step out of their roles, either within the story or within their world; Laurens has remained faithful to the time period throughout. Also introduced are the other members of the "Bar Cynster", a group of six, headed by Devil, who have well-earned reputations for being sought-after lovers, intelligent friends, and generally all-around Corinthians.
The strong family attachment that characterizes the Cynsters is emphasized and helps Devil lure his bride to his arms and his bed. But they must both go through adjustments and battle villainy before their adventure is completed. After all, there is a murder to be solved, a Duke has to learn how to trust his wife, and a proper young lady must find out that to get love one must be willing to give love. This is truly a can't-put-it-down story for any lover of Regency tales - Devil and Honoria will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned.
The Cynster books can be read singly, or as a series; I would recommend the latter if you'd like to feel yourself becoming a member of this remarkable family. Luckily, there are five more members of the Bar Cynster and - maybe - a tale of another gentleman who plays an important role in many Cynster adventures.