Gretchen’s Pick: Devil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens
This book, like any good Shakespearean play starts with a murder, and ends in a marriage. Honoria, our feisty heroine is riding along a road and find a young man who has been shot. She stops the first rider she sees, who happens to be our hero, Sylvester “Devil” Cynster, Duke of St. Ives. Unbeknownst to Honoria the dying boy is Devil’s younger cousin, Tolly. There is a storm (because fate is involved here people!) and Devil and Honoria spend a night in a cottage. He decides that they have to marry (he believes in fate), she is not so inclined (she wants to “ride a camel in the shadow of the pyramids”). However because this is Regency England she goes along with meeting his moma (The Dowager is one the best characters in this book), and eventually, after some sexy times, they wed. As it turns out, someone is after Devil’s title (his heir is not in fact his younger brother, who is actually called Scandal), and the villain shot Tolly to cover up his plans. With the addition of all the Cynster cousins (6 in total — can you tell that it’s gonna be a series?), Devil and Honoria work together to find out who threatens them and killed Devil’s cousin.
Tara’s Pick: The Naked Duke by Sally MacKenzie
Set in Regency England, Miss Sarah Hamilton travels from Philadelphia to England to live with her relatives at the wish of her dead father. On her first night in the neighborhood inn, she unknowlingly ends up in the room of James, the Duke of Alvord. She falls asleep alone, and wakes in the morning to a naked duke and a hall full of witnesses. James knows they need to marry to save her reputation, but Sarah is not so sure she’s willing to marry the notorious Duke. She’s heard nothing but scandalizing gossip when it comes to his outrageous and rakish nighttime activities. James knows his crazy cousin will stop at nothing to gain the dukedom for himself, so he must woo Sarah before anything happens to him… or her!
Dynamic Between Characters:
Gretchen(Devil’s Bride): The way these two characters interact is amazeballs! Without the other character they would be way to extreme for my taste, but together they manage to balance out their extreme natures. Devil is the pinnacle of an alpha male, and Honoria is basically the most stubborn version of Elizabeth Bennet out there. However as they learn to trust each other (or he grudgingly tries, and she forces him by doing her own investigations into Tolly’s death) and work together, both turn into characters you are happy to have known. Honoria becomes the type of strong female that you would want to hang out with in a crisis, and Devil is the take-charge type of guy that will bend to his partner that can be so damn appealing. Oh and the sexy times in this book! Honestly, sit in front of a fan when you read this one.
Tara(The Naked Duke): I loved how these two characters fit together! Sara is an extremely naive woman with the plebeian desire to love the man she marries, and James refuses to sleep around with women just because he’s a duke and therefore could. James hands down immediately knows Sarah is the woman for him, and spends the book convincing and proving that Sarah would be happy with him. The dynamic of Sarah pulling away and then drawing close to James again and again really captures how someone as sheltered as she is would struggle with trying to understand her own feelings and trusting his. Unfortunately, I did struggle with the believability of a virginal man knowing how to immediately give a woman mind-blowing pleasure.
Gretchen(Devil’s Bride): I will freely admit that this is my favorite Romance trope, and I’m about to give away the ending a bit, so read on at your own risk! So having a relative that is jealous of the Duke (it’s always seems to be a duke) was great. In this case it turns out to be the one cousin that doesn’t get along with the rest of the group (because it’s not hard to figure out here people!), and unsurprisingly is the heir to the Dukedom. He isn’t so happy about Honoria and Devil getting married and losing that spot and his time table gets moved up, which adds a great dimension to the story. I think that Charles is a great villain. He is almost totally crazy-pants with his jealousy, but he is comes off as a sane, intelligent and concerned. I appreciate that he is a strong secondary character in the book, and he isn’t just flat out given away as the villain. You get enough hints to figure it out on your own, but it is still good reading.
Tara(The Naked Duke): So, cousin is certifiably crazypants. But there’s no proof that he’s been trying to kill James for the Alvord dukedom, even though it’s common knowledge among friends and family that his crazypants cousin is trying to kill him. James has managed to escape a few murder attempts and the whole romantic situation between James and Sarah is solidified because his aunt barges into his room to make sure he’s not dead and finds them naked (it’s not a spoiler when it happens in the first chapter, right?). So crazypants cousin is 100% determined to kill James to gain the dukedom, and goes so far as to threaten Sarah, as well as blackmail a shady character into kidnapping and raping her. From first to last, there is absolutely no question that he is batshit crazy. I wish he had had a bit more dimension – blatant in his motives is an understatement. Also, apparently it’s a common trope that the villain is also in a gay relationship with his valet? I’ve never come across that before, but Gretchen tells me it’s fairly common. With the amount of historical romance novels I’ve read, I’m honestly shocked I haven’t come across this before.
Gretchen(Devil’s Bride): When we first meet Devil it is Honoria’s perspective, and so we don’t know his name, or title. When she finds out it is a great moment. He just looks at her and thinks ‘Ok, that’s my future wife’ and decides that he should bring her home to his mother and that’s that. Her struggle with that is hilarious, but getting to know the Dowager Duchess of St. Ives is icing on the cake for that section of the book. She wants her son married so badly that even though she seems like she is on Honoria’s side, you know she isn’t. Later when her brother shows up and Devil convinces him to side with him, you get another great moment. Having Honoria realize that basically everyone thinks she should marry Devil is just fun.
Tara(The Naked Duke): Okay, so I stayed up waaaaay too late reading this because I just couldn’t put it down. I like to be asleep by 10 pm because I’m an 80 year old lady at heart, but I stayed up until 1 am reading this book. That’s how great the writing is in this book! It was fast paced, engaging, and the climax(es, lol) made sense. I loved how James was handsy but not too pushy, they both really enjoyed their interludes (wink, wink), and even though there are cheesy moments it was super engaging. I loved that crazypants cousin spread such crazy rumors about James that the entire ton thought he was the most jaded rake who had ever even glanced at a woman (or ten!) and the rumors Sarah hears during parties were just hilarious. I also really liked that they communicate! Problems/worries/fear? Talk about them! Loved it. While this is not my favorite trope, I understand why Gretchen loves it and I would absolutely read anything by Sally MacKenzie again.
Because of the interesting plot, and strong characters
What is your choice?