Synopsis from Goodreads: Welcome to the wonderful world of the Cynsters! When I embarked on the stories of the Cynster clan, I knew they fascinated me, but I had no idea how much they would appeal to readers. This volume contains the books that first introduced readers to the glittering, glamorous, passionate, and sometimes dangerous lives of the Cynster cousins and their ducal dynasty. In Devil's Bride, the head of the dynasty, Devil Cynster, 6th Duke of St. Ives, is caught in a compromising position with a governess. He astonishingly offers marriage, but Honoria Anstruther-Wetherby has no interest. Devil is convinced, yet someone is not so enthused, and accidents start to occur. Can Devil convince Honoria that marrying him will be a more exciting adventure than anything she's dreamed? And if he succeeds, will they both survive? In A Rake's Vow, Vane Cynster, Devil's cousin and closest friend, determined to avoid Cupid's dart, takes refuge at his godmother's country house, where fate throws Patience Debbington literally into his arms. Vane is impressed; Patience is not. But as both become embroiled in a mystery involving ghosts, thefts, and ultimately attempted murder, Patience learns that she can place her trust in this rake's vow, because it's one that comes from the heart
Stats for my copy: Hardback, Rhapsody, 2004..
How acquired: Through Book Mooch.
My thoughts: I recently joined a group on Facebook, the Old School Romance Book Club, where at the end of each month a poll is put up and members vote on which book everyone will read the following month. The book for November was DEVIL'S BRIDE. I had to hunt down a copy, and wound up with this omnibus that also contains A RAKE'S VOW.
In DEVIL'S BRIDE, Honoria is a governess. One day while caught in a storm driving back from an excursion into town, she comes across a man lying in the road. While she's investigating his condition, a crack of thunder frightens her horse and he takes off, leaving her stranded with the unconscious man. And then Devil comes riding along and happens upon them. They take refuge in a nearby cottage. The young man, Tolly, who is Devil's cousin, dies. Devil and Honoria pass the night together in the cottage, sleeping in chairs before the fire. Only to be discovered by another of Devil's cousin in the morning, and Honoria's employer. A scandal in the making.
Devil offers Honoria marriage as a way for her to save face, which her brother and countless others are in favor of. But she has no intention of marrying. She wants to travel to Africa. So she repeatedly tells Devil thanks but no thanks.
I struggled to get into the story. I liked Devil well enough, but Honoria often irritated me. Devil and his cousins set out to discover who murdered Tolly and why, and Honoria was determined to be part of the investigation, while Devil was determined that she not be. I was conflicted in my feelings. I get that Honoria was a strong female character who was unwilling to settle into the conventional life of a woman of that time. And yet I often wanted to tell her to just let the the Bar Cynster, as the cousins were known, worry about the murder mystery. Which dragged out and was uninteresting.
I think a lot of my problem was that the author's writing style just didn't appeal to me. It's very effusive and flowery, with lots of long sentences, broken up with lots of commas. It was a little repetitive at times, with paragraphs dragging out in many more words than necessary to convey a thought. And the sex scenes have to to be some of the longest I've ever read. They aren't graphic, yet they are explicit.
Towards the end though I did get quite caught up in the action and was happy with how it all turned out.
In A RAKE'S VOW, which takes place several months later, Vane, one of Devil's cousins, is traveling when he gets caught in a thunderstorm near his godmother's home, so he stops in, planning to just stay the night and then be on his way. Right off the bat he meets Patience, his godmother's niece, and of course he is immediately intrigued with her. And then his godmother, Minnie, tells him that there have been a number of thefts in the household, small, usually insignificant items stolen, and there has been a mysterious being roaming around in the nearby ruins of an old abbey at night, who the household are all referring to as a Spectre. Minnie presses Vane to stay and help sort things out, and so he finds himself settling in with the rest of her house guests to investigate and figure out who is the thief and/or the Spectre.
I liked Patience much more than I did Honoria. She, too, has no plans to marry, especially not an “elegant gentleman” such as her father was, and such as Vane is. Her mother was desperately in love with her father, who did not return her affection, and Patience is determined to not let herself fall into the same type of marriage that made her mother miserable. Vane has no desire to marry either. He's a rake. Who needs a wife when you can have a mistress? And he quickly sets his sights on Patience. I also liked Vane, very much. And Minnie, and Patience's brother. And the mystery was much more interesting, and the writing didn't bother me as much as in the first book. I liked A RAKE'S VOW considerably more than DEVIL'S BRIDE. Enough that I want to get the next book and continue with the series.