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An honorary Cynster, but for once not a carbon-copy hero
on 1 September 2003
Gyles Rawlins, the Earl of Chillingworth, was a minor character in several of the earlier Cynster books. Now that the Bar Cynster members are all married off, Laurens turns her attention to other characters in their environs, and her first - and very welcome - choice is Chillingworth. Of course, this development was trailed very clearly when, at the end of All About Love, the Duke of St Ives declares Chillingworth to be an honorary Cynster. He’s determined not to go the same way as his friends, however, when it comes to matters of the heart.
So, yes, it’s another hero who is determined not to fall in love. But Chillingworth seems to mean it; he has decided to contract an arranged marriage with a suitable female, and preferably the sort who will be indistinguishable from the wallpaper in his various homes. If she happens to come with strategically-important land, such as the segment which was cut out of his own lands some years ago, so much the better. Such as his distant cousin, Francesca Rawlins.
Francesca, he believes, is quiet and dull; the kind of woman he can marry, bed and then leave safely buried in the country while he carries on with his normal lifestyle. What Chillingworth doesn’t know is that the young woman he saw wasn’t Francesca but her cousin Frannie (why Laurens felt the need to give the two women such similar names is beyond me. It certainly wasn’t necessary for the plot).
Anyway, Chillingworth and Francesca marry, and are very attracted to each other - this is not the kind of marriage Chillingworth was looking for, however! He’s determined not to fall in love, and so his behaviour towards Francesca is very odd; he keeps sending her mixed signals. He’s warm and passionate in bed, and yet very distant elsewhere. She, on the other hand, is finding her new husband more and more irrestible. But if he doesn’t want her, is there any hope of happiness?
My sneaking liking for Chillingworth in the earlier books was confirmed in All About Passion, and I also liked Francesca very much. This is quite a bit better than a number of the other books in the Cynster series, largely because it’s *not* a carbon copy of the other books. It’s still similar, but at least this time I didn’t feel as if I was reading exactly the same book yet again. This could have been a very enjoyable and interesting study of an arranged marriage which turned out to be something other than what Chillingworth had intended. But, as usual, Laurens had to bolt a dramatic plot onto it, in this case murder attempts. The villain, as ever, was predictable, and in this case it was a particularly offensive use of stereotypes. I wish this book had been purely about the relationship; if it had been, I would have rated it more highly.