Top critical review
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Very mixed feelings about this one
on 8 March 2003
Confession: I have never read any of Stephanie Laurens' Bar Cynster series. I liked a couple of her other regency romances and decided to give this series a try. The Promise in a Kiss was written last, but is a prequel to all the other books, so it seemed to make sense to read it first. And that would have been okay, except that Laurens has a family tree right at the very start of the book. From that I learned two things which made this a doomed romance from the start.
One, Sebastian, the Duke of St Ives, has an affair resulting in an illegitimate child while he's married to Helena. So how can I believe in Helena and Sebastian's love affair after discovering that? I can see why people who have read the entire series also have a problem taking this book seriously.
Second, the family tree shows Sebastian as dead. Now this, I expect, applies to the later books in the Cynster series - but still, even before I've *read* his story, I know that Sebastian dies within about 30 years of the end of his book, leaving his Helena a widow.
It's difficult to get facts like these out of your mind when reading a romance novel, let me tell you!
Anyway, the book itself. Laurens is no Balogh or Beverley, my favourites of this genre, and she does tend to go overboard on the intimacy/sensuality in a manner which simply isn't right for the period, but it's done tastefully. Sebastian and Helena met for the first time when she was seventeen and he stole a kiss. They meet again six years later and know each other instantly. Helena thinks that Sebastian is a confirmed bachelor and enlists his help in finding a suitable husband; he knows that she's going to be his wife and he uses every trick he knows to persuade her...