This is the middle romance in the latest "Bar Cynster" trilogy, following on from "Viscount Breckenridge To The Rescue
and which is followed in turn by The Capture Of The Earl Of Glencrae
(about to be published at the time of writing this review.)
Although the eponymous heroine of this book and her rescuer Jeremy Carling face some of the same challenges as her sister Heather Cynster and Viscount Breckenridge did in the previous volume, this definately isn't a carbon copy of that book. Because, just for once, Stephanie Laurens has created a rather different heroine and hero who react to one another in much more individual ways than the almost identikit heroes and heroines of most of the other "Bar Cynster" and "Bastion Club" novels.
This is not yet another novel in which the main story dynamic is a battle royal between a strong-minded heroine who is determined only to marry for love, which has to be openly declared to win her hand, and an almost equally strong-minded hero who wants to marry her and actually does love her but is most unwilling to admit the fact even to himself, let alone to her.
Indeed, at one point of the novel I had the distinct impression that Stephanie Laurens was poking fun at herself and the many other regency romance authors who are forever using that plot. The heroine and hero nearly lose their tempers with various relatives and friends (all heroes or heroines of previous Cynster or Bastion Club novels) who have completely failed to grasp what sort of relationship the hero and heroine of this book have.
As Royce Varisey, Duke of Wolverstone (known in the Bastion Club books by his alias Dalziel) says when the hero and heroine finally set the other characters right on this point, "I didn't see that coming, though in retrospect I should have."
In terms of the series as a whole, this novel is numbered 17 in the table and family tree which appear at the front of the book. If you count the prequel, (The Promise in a Kiss (Bar Cynster)
) and the "Barnaby Adair" adventure "Temptation and Surrender," this is actually the nineteenth Cynster novel.
The heroine of this story, Elizabeth Marguerite Cynster, (known as Eliza) is the second daughter of Martin Cynster (Devil Cynster's youngest uncle). Unlike all the other Cynster females she is the quiet, and bookish, isn't a horse fanatic, and enjoys ladylike pursuits such as embroidery and music. Like her sister Heather, she is desperate to find her hero. Also like her sister in the previous book, and I'm not giving away anything which isn't clear from the back cover of the book, our heroine is kidnapped early in this story and a large part of the novel deals with the heroic efforts of the hero to rescue her and of hero and heroine to escape.
The hero is Jeremy Carling, who we first met as a much younger man in the first Bastion Club novel "The Lady Chosen: Bastion Club Series: Book 1
" - he is a handsome but reclusive and unworldly scholar who is the brother of Leonora Carling, the heroine of that book.
Both the first two books in this trilogy start with prologues in Scotland, particularly at an unidentified castle in the highlands, where an arch-enemy of the Cynster family is plotting vengeance against them. She blackmails her own son into kidnapping one of the Cynster daughters - it appears at this stage that any unmarried adult female from the family will do - and bringing the girl to the castle so that she can have her revenge.
Her son, the Laird of the castle and estate, is torn between strong disapproval of what his mother wants him to do, and what he sees as his duty, because she is threatening to harm not just him but all the people he is responsible for. He tries to live up to the family motto, which is "Honour above all" and is desperately casting around for a way of persuading or tricking his mother into rescinding her threat so that his entire clan are not made homeless paupers, without actually harming an innocent girl.
Without wishing to give too much away, this sets up a conflict between the principles of the man who is hiring kidnappers: he wants to make sure that one of the girls is delivered to him, but he is adamant that he doesn't want her harmed. Trying to meet both these objectives is a problem for the kidnappers, but unfortunately this does not mean that our hero and heroine are in no danger ...
I liked the main characters and the ongoing romantic tension building between them, all the more because it was more than a little different from the author's other recent books.
There are several extraordinary anachronisms in the book, given that it is set in 1829. I raised an eyebrow when characters in this novel pretend to be carrying out a safety inspection on behalf of Edinburgh town council, which seemed at first far too modern a trick. But on reflection, given the specific background context of this trick in the story, it would have been entirely possible that the story they tell would have been believed. And a plus point because, although Edinburgh has a city council today, the local authority was indeed called Edinburgh Town Council in 1829.
No such benefit of the doubt can be given to the claim that characters in the book had worked for "the Scottish Assembly." No such body existed in 1829 - the Parliament of Scotland was abolished under the Act of Union in 1707 and the present Scottish Parliament was not recreated until the Scotland Act 1998.
Even more anachronistic was the suggestion that in Edinburgh in Spring 1829 the characters could step round the corner to the local police station and seek the assistance of the constables.
The first modern police force, the Metropolitan Police, came into being on 29th September 1829 - four months to the day after the epilogue of this book. There had been a local law enforcement body in Edinburgh, known as the Edinburgh Town Guard, between 1682 and 1817, but this had been disbanded in the latter year and Edinburgh City Police had not yet been established at the time of this book.
Having said this, a lot of the period detail is better than that.
The Bar Cynster books are usually described as Regency novels and they did begin at that period, but stricly speaking this is a Georgian romance rather than a Regency one, as it is set in the last year when "Prinny" was King in his own right as George IV.
The Cynster series to date consists of
1) Devil's Bride (Bar Cynster)
(Devil and Honoria)
2) A Rake's Vow: Cynster Family Series, Book 2 (Cynster Novels)
(Vane and Patience)
3) Scandal's Bride (Richard/Scandal and Catriona)
4) A Rogue's proposal (Harry/Demon and Felicity)
5) A Secret Love (Rupert/Gabriel and Alathea)
6) All about Love (Alistair/Lucifer and Phyllida)
7) All About Passion (Bar Cynster)
(Lord Chillingworth gets Rachel for Leah)
8) On a wild night (Amanda Cynster and Martin)
9) On a wicked dawn (Amelia Cynster and Luc)
10) The Perfect Lover (Simon and Porchia)
11) The Ideal Bride (Martin and Caro)
12) The Truth about love (Gerrard and Jacqueline)
13) What price love? (Dillon and Priscilla)
14) The Touch of Innocence (Charlie and Sarah)
15) Temptation and Surrender (Jonas Tallent and Emily)
16) Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue (of Heather Cynster)
17) This book, "In pursuit of Eliza Cynster" (Eliza)
18) The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae (Angelica, forthcoming in 2012)
As mentioned above there is also a prequel "The Promise in a Kiss" which tells the story of the romance between Devil Cynster's father and mother, and the Barbaby Adair story, "Where the heart leads" which tells the romance between Barnaby and Porchia Cynster's sister Penelope Ashford.