This book is the conclusion of the latest trilogy in the "Bar Cynster" series, a story in three volumes set in 1829 which features three sisters, Heather, Eliza and Angelica Cynster. It is essential to read these three books in the correct sequence, which is
1) "Viscount Breckenridge To The Rescue
2) "In Pursuit Of Eliza Cynster
3) This book, "The capture of the Earl of Glencrae" (Angelica.)
The main story arc linking these three books finishes in this one, but two more novels, linked to this trilogy by a special necklace, are due to be published in 2013. During "Viscount Breckenridge to the rescue" her aunt Catriona gives Heather Cynster a necklace, known as "the Lady's Jewel." We were told that this necklace will help each lady who wears it find her "hero" e.g. the love of her life, and that it will pass in sequence from Heather Cynster to her sisters Eliza and then Angelica, and then to their cousins Henrietta and Mary. During this trilogy each of the sisters in turn wears the jewel during her own book. In the epilogue of this novel Angelica passes it to Henrietta. Henrietta and her sister Mary will have their turn wearing this necklace in the following novels due to come out next year (2013):
4) "And Then She Fell: Number 4 in series (Cynster Sisters)
5) "The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh: Number 5 in series (Cynster Sisters)
Spoiler alert - it is challenging to describe these books without including "spoilers" which give away too much plot detail. I think I have avoided any significant spoilers for "The capture of the Earl of Glencrae" in this review, but it is exceptionally difficult to say anything substantial about the plot of this final book in the trilogy without at least hinting at a couple of major spoilers for the previous books, particularly the second one. So if you have not yet read the first two novels in this trilogy I would advise you to stop reading here and follow the links above to the first two books instead.
Heather, Eliza, and Angelica Cynster, the heroines of the three books of this trilogy are the daughters of Lord Martin and Lady Celia Cynster, who are the uncle and aunt of "That Devil Cynster," (Sylvester, 6th Duke of St Ives and hero of "Devil's Bride (Bar Cynster)
). Our heroines are therefore the younger sisters of Rupert Cynster (a.k.a. Gabriel, from A Secret Love (Bar Cynster)
) and Alasdair (a.k.a. Lucifer, from All About Love (Bar Cynster)
The trilogy began at an unidentified castle in the highlands of Scotland, where a mortal enemy of the Cynster family plots revenge against them. She blames them for something which began a generation before and which she has allowed to totally warp her life. This being the final book in the trilogy we finally discover in this volume who the lady is, what is the supposed injury which causes her to hate the Cynsters, and just how sick in the head she is. And believe me, the villainess of this trilogy is very sick, with the result that one scene in this book depicting the lengths to which the characters have to go to fool her really pushes the envelope for the genre.
She has found a way to blackmail her son, an honorable man who has no wish to harm the Cynsters, into taking part in her schemes by threatening to beggar not just him but every member of his clan, people he is responsible for. She has stolen from his safe a valuable item without which he and all his people will lose their land and homes, and as the price for its' return she demands that her son kidnaps one of the daughters of Lord Martin and Lady Celia Cynster, and brings her to Scotland, destroying the girl's reputation in the process, so that she can have her revenge.
Her son, who in the first two books was known to the reader and to the Cynster family by an alias or mostly just as "The Laird," has been trying to find a way to get his mother to hand back the item without actually harming one of the Cynster girls. In the first two books he employed kidnappers, under very strict instructions that the young ladies were not to be hurt in any way, to snatch first Heather and then Eliza Cynster. But in both cases his plans went wrong, and both girls found in the persons of the heroes of their respective books their own "heroes" e.g. the men they want to spend their lives with.
At the start of the second book, after Heather's kidnapping, Eliza and Angelica were under close guard: particularly against any Scottish noblemen. Scrope, the villain who "the laird" employed, had to pull off a daring and brilliant trick to snatch Eliza.
But towards the end of that book both Eliza and her hero, Jeremy Carling, saw "the Laird" fall off a cliff. They are convinced that he could not possibly have survived that fall.
So at the start of this third book in the trilogy, because the Cynsters know that "the Laird" is dead, they are allowing the third sister, 21 year old Angelica, to attend balls and functions without being guarded within an inch of her life. Angelica has always believed that she will know her future husband the moment she sets eyes on him. At a soiree hosted by Lady Cavendish, she sees a very handsome man with a proud and distinguished air, and is instantly convinced that he is the man she wants. She inquires after his identity and a mutual friend tells her that he is Dominic, Viscount Debenham, and speaks highly of him.
An English Viscount whose identity is rapidly confirmed, is reputed to be a man of high integrity and who is very much alive, cannot possibly have any connection to a dead Scottish laird who kidnaps young ladies, so Angelica brazenly arranges to have herself introduced to Viscount Debenham. Which turns out to be the start of a remarkable adventure ...
If like many readers you have difficulty suspending disbelief for the sake of enjoying a book when something unlikely or out of character for the period happens, you should probably leave this entire trilogy alone. Certainly I had huge difficulty believing that any real-life woman would make some of the decisions which Angelica makes during this book. I had similar difficulty believing that she or her family would be able to forgive some of the things they do forgive.
Even after nearly doubling in size over seventy years due to the creation of new peerages during the reigns of George III and Gearge IV, the historical House of Lords only had about 300 members in 1829. Consequently I found it unlikely that an active member of that house, e.g. Devil Cynster, would not already have known or very rapidly been able to discover certain absolutely basic information about a fellow-member of the House of Lords, of which the Cynster family remain unaware for days in this book, even when actively searching for information about the individual concerned. Or that it would have been left for an elderly aunt to suggest after days of fruitless investigation that they look him up in a newfangled book called Burke's Peerage.
Well-brought up young ladies of the ton, as high society was called in the early nineteenth century, did not generally behave the way the heroines of this series and most of Stephanie Laurens' other recent books do. In particular they rarely abandoned their virginity before marriage as readily as these heroines do, not least because an unmarried young lady who enthusiastically jumped into the hero's bed would have no reliable means of avoiding pregnancy.
Finally, like her sister in the previous volume, Angelica disguises herself as a young man at one point in the story. Which presents the author with an instant dilemma: the choice between making the disguise effective or providing an opportunity to draw the attention of the hero, because you can't have both.
If you are trying to disguise an attractive woman as a young man, and want the disguise to actually fool anyone, you have to go for relatively loose garments, particularly around the bust, hips, and thighs. An attractive woman has curves at the hips which we men are biologically programmed to notice, and in tight trousers those curves will draw the attention of any straight man with normal eyesight.
The problem for a romance writer if the heroine is disguised as a man, is that the author usually wants the hero to notice those curves but for the the disguise to work on everyone else. In the previous book the author managed a reasonable compromise by having the hero notice Eliza Cynster's "subtle curves" but added that this was despite the fact that those curves were largely concealed under the skirts of her jacket. But in this volume the impact of her sister Angelica in male attire on the hero of the book is about as subtle as a sledgehammer - he thinks she looks like, quote "An angel from one of his more salacious dreams."
If her shape wearing these clothes has that effect on the hero, the disguise isn't going to be very effective in fooling many other people, is it?
But having said all that I liked the main characters in this book, the ongoing romantic tension building between them, and the fact that much of the story is told with a great deal of dry wit and humour which was more than a little amusing. Read more ›