Mar 7 2011 12:00pm

The Best of Stephanie Laurens’ Cynsters

Stephanie Laurens’ Devil’s BrideI was fairly new to romance when Stephanie Laurens'  Devil's Bride  came out in 1998. It was a revelation to me. Until then, most of my reading had been traditional Regencies with very little overt sexual escapades. But here was Stephanie Laurens writing love scenes that went on for pages and pages—lordy, did those men have stamina!

But aside from the in-your-face sensuality of these books, what really grabbed my attention and appreciation was the fact that these heroes wanted marriage and the heroines didn't. It was such a refreshing change from the “I won't marry because [insert your favorite excuse: my mama was a slut, my daddy was mean to me, I don't believe in love, my first wife was a ho, I can't trust anybody, I am a rock, I am an island] hero. In the vast majority of romances, it is the woman who is pining away for the man, the one who has to wait until her one true love has been dope-slapped (hopefully, literally) into realizing he's in love with her. It was so refreshing to have those roles reversed; something that was rarely done before Laurens and her Cynsters.

A Rake’s Vow by Stephanie LaurensThere were six original Cynster cousins, all with silly nicknames. Most of those six books worked for me and were memorable.

Devil's Bride (1998): The one that started it all. Devil and Honoria get caught in a compromising situation and he is quite happy to get married, but she wants to go and explore Africa. It takes Devil a long time—and a lot of sex—to convince Honoria to marry him. It's a dirty job, but . . .

A Rake's Vow (1998): My clearest memory of this book is a kiss that lasted for three pages. I remember being very impressed by that feat.

Scandal's Bride (1999): Scandal was the Everready Energizer Bunny of Sex. He kept going, and going, and going everywhere. There was even a time he and Catriona did it on the back of a horse. At a full gallop, if you'll pardon the expression.

A Rogue's Proposal (1999): This was a very horsey book, and I'm not a horsey person, so it's not a favorite. Additionally, the heroine's nickname was “Flick” and I kept mentally calling her “My friend Flicka.”

A Secret Love (2000): My favorite one, after Devil's Bride. Gabriel and Alathea's story has that whole childhood-friends-falling-in-love thing going for it, which I love. But Gabriel also makes the most romantic gesture of any Cynster: he sends a come-out posy to Alathea (who was unable to have her come out years ago when she should have) with the note, “You have my heart—don't break it.” Awww . . .

All About Love (2001): Lucifer is a champion swordsman and I have a distinct memory of him cutting away Phyllida's clothes with his sword. Then he uses his other sword, and . . .

After these six books were finished, Laurens moved on to Cynster friends and in-laws and friends of friends and friends of in-laws—I think she's up to 16 now—and it all got to be a bit silly. And, after six books, the formula was well and truly established and had gotten to be a bit, well, formulaic; they had almost become parodies of themselves, and I stopped reading them. In fact, I wrote a Cynster parody for the (now defunct) All About Romance Purple Prose Parody Contest.

I still pick up a Stephanie Laurens novel from time to time. Sometimes I just want to read about an alpha male who is relentless in his pursuit of his mate and made to jump through hoops in order to get her to commit—even though she is in thrall to his sexual expertise. There's a comfort in knowing what you're going to get from a reading experience. But, I will always fondly remember the excitement and newness of those first Cynster novels.

Cheryl Sneed reviews for

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Amber McMichael
1. buriedbybooks
I loved the original Bar Cynster series. My favorite is A Secret Love. I love everything about that book. The only one I didn't like was Scandal's Bride, and that was because of the woo-woo elements that just didn't fit with the tone of the rest of the series.

I still read Stephanie Laurens (although I wasn't a fan of her Black Cobra Quartet). And even though she has a trademark phrase— "Her lungs seized"— I think she does a fine job with having strong men meet and fall for incredibly strong women.
Janet W
2. Janet W
@BuriedbyBooks, what you said! My 2nd favourite is A Secret Love. Oh, when he's tacking through the ballroom on the scent of that perfume. So good! But Devil will be forever my fave because he broke the mold. Loved him, Honoria, and everything about their story. Yeah, it gets a bit old but I'm never going to stop re-reading the first 6 or grabbing her prior-to the Cynsters Regencies.
Louise Partain
3. Louise321
@Janet W Same here. Devil's Bride and A Secret Love 1 & 2. But by the time I got through the Bastion Club series, it was like doing one armed push-ups to read through the bedroom scenes. Fresh is fresh and stale is, well, stale. I actually liked a few of the Cobra series because there was some sustained adventure in them, but, yeah, you know they're going to end up in bed for pages and pages and pages. I guess I am just a glutton for punishment, because I just keep reading them, pages, and pages, and pages, and . . . .
Janet W
4. BevL(QB)
I have repeatedly said that Devil's Bride is closer to perfection than any other Romance book I've ever read. I've re-read it at least once a year-- more when I need a concentrated dose of HEA.

However I haven't read it in the past couple of years. Nope, once the audio book was re-released to consumers, I realized that, thanks to Simon Prebble's narrartion, I never wanted to read this book again since my Midwestern brain can't possibly bring the story (and Devil himself) to life the way Prebble can.

BTW, I DO agree that it's the original 6 books that contain all the magic of Laurens writing. Although that's not to say I didn't also enjoy some of the later books (the twins' stories come to mind), but some of them were, well not exactly black sheep in the Cynster family, so let's call them the grey sheep of the family.
Myretta Robens
5. Myretta
I loved the first six as well, and will admit to re-reading Devil's Bride periodically. In fact, it may be time for a re-read. I would also place A Secret Love in the number two spot. There is, however, a definite Stephanie Laurens flavor to all these and I love how Cheryl's parody at affectionately nails it.
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