Synopses & Reviews
Late June, 1825
Eyeworth Manor, near Fritham in the New Forest, Hampshire
"Wife, wife, wife, wife.
Michael Anstruther-Wetherby swore beneath his breath. That refrain had plagued him for the last twenty-four hours. When he'd driven away from Amelia Cynster's wedding breakfast, it had run to the rhythm of his curricle's wheels; now it was playing to the steady clop of his bay gelding's hooves.
Lips setting, he wheeled Atlas out of the stableyard and set out along the drive circling his home.
If he hadn't gone to Cambridgeshire to attend Amelia's wedding, he'd already be one step closer to being an affianced man. But the wedding had been one event he hadn't even thought of missing; aside from the fact that his sister Honoria, Duchess of St. Ives, had been the hostess, the wedding had been a family gathering and he valued family ties.
Familial links had helped him immeasurably in recent years, first in gaining his position as Member of Parliament for this district, and subsequently in forging his path upward through the ranks, yet that wasn't the wellspring of his appreciation; family had always meant a great deal to him.
Rounding his house, a sturdy, three-storied manor house built of gray stone, his gaze went -- as it always did when he passed this way -- to the monument that stood on the verge halfway between the house and the gates. Set against the dark-leaved shrubs filling the gaps beneath the tall trees, the simple stone had stood for fourteen years; it marked the spot where his family -- his parents and younger brother and sister racing home in a curricle in the teeth of a storm -- had been killed by a falling tree. He and Honoria had witnessedthe accident from the schoolroom windows high above.
Perhaps it was simply human nature to value highly something one had lost.
Left shocked, grieving, and adrift, he and Honoria had still had each other, but with him barely nineteen and her sixteen, they'd had to part. They'd never lost touch -- they were, even now, close -- but Honoria had since met Devil Cynster; she now had a family of her own.
Slowing Atlas as he approached the stone, Michael was acutely aware that he did not. His life was full to bursting, his schedule perennially crammed; it was only in moments like this that the lack shone so clearly, and loneliness jabbed.
He paused, studying the stone, then, jaw setting, faced forward and flicked the reins. Atlas picked up his pace; passing through the gates, Michael held him to a steady canter along the narrow lane.
The nightmarish sound of horses screaming slowly faded. Today he was determined to take the first step toward establishing a family of his own.
"Wife, wife, wife, wife.
The countryside closed around him, embraced him in its lush green arms, welcomed him into the woods and forests that to him were the essence of home. Sunlight flickered, glimmered through shifting leaves. Birds called and twittered; beyond the rustle of the canopies, there was no other sound to punctuate the clop of Atlas's hooves. Narrow and winding, the lane led nowhere but to the Manor, joining a wider road that led south to Lyndhurst. Not far from that junction, another lane wended east to the village of Bramshaw, and Bramshaw House, his destination.
He'd decided on his course some months ago, but once again government concerns had demanded his attention and he'd letmatters slide ... when he'd realized, he'd pulled himself up short, sat down, and laid out a schedule. Despite the distraction of Amelia's wedding, he'd stuck rigidly to his self-imposed timetable and left the wedding breakfast in good time to drive down here. To his necessary destiny.
Leaving Somersham in midafternoon, he'd stopped with a friend at Basingstoke overnight. He hadn't mentioned his reason for heading home, yet it had weighed -- preyed -- on his mind. He'd set out early and arrived home midmorning; it was now two o'clock, and he was determined to delay no longer. The die would be cast, the matter, if not finished with, then at least begun -- halfway arranged.
A constituency matter?
You might say that.
Amelia's question, his answer, perfectly true in its way. To a sitting Member, one who'd reached the age of thirty-three unwed and been informed he was being considered for advancement into the ministry, marriage was definitely a "constituency matter."
He accepted he had to marry -- indeed, he'd always assumed he would someday. How else was he to establish the family he craved? Yet the years had rolled by and he'd become caught up in his developing career through that and his close links with the Cynsters and the haut ton, increasingly cognizant of the breadth of experience the state of marriage encompassed, he'd become less and less inclined to pursue it.
Now, however, his time had come. When Parliament had risen for the summer, he'd been left in no doubt that the Prime Minister expected him to return in autumn with a wife on his arm, thereby enabling him to be considered in the cabinet reshuffle widely tipped to occur at that time. Since April, he'd beenactively seeking his ideal bride. The peace of the countryside wrapped him about; the wife, wife, wife refrain remained, but its tone grew less compulsive the closer he got to his goal.
It had been easy to define the qualities and attributes he required in his bride -- passable beauty, loyalty, supportive abilities such as hostessly talents, and some degree of intelligence lightened with a touch of humor. Finding such a paragon proved another matter; after spending hours in the ballrooms, he'd concluded he'd be wiser to seek a bride with some understanding of a politician's life -- even better, a successful politician's life ...
"Laurens's newest romantic offering, set in early 19th-century London, possesses two of her trademarks coolly confident characters and plentiful and graphic sex scenes but it lacks the fire and feisty humor of her earlier works (All About Passion, etc.). Once readers encounter Laurens's protagonists, it's clear why. A self-possessed young widow, Caro Sutcliffe, whose late husband was an ambassador, and a calculating political player, Michael Anstruther-Wetherby, are adept at diplomacy; they know who to align themselves with, how to manage the people around them and what to say in every situation. Unlike the protagonists in Laurens's previous novels, Caro and Michael hardly ever lose control of their emotions, which makes them seem more like marionettes than people. When Michael sets his sights on marrying Caro's 19-year-old niece, Elizabeth, who's actually in love with somebody else, Caro intervenes not by confronting him but by attending a number of social gatherings and instructing Elizabeth to behave in ways unbefitting a politician's wife. Caro's plan works, but she soon finds that she's become the object of Michael's pursuit. Laurens stuffs the story with sex scenes, but her second-by-second analyses of every kiss and caress brings new meaning to the word tedious. Her overblown metaphors also detract from the sensuality of these scenes ('she was dimly aware when he reached his own limit and release caught him, racked him, then the storm rolled on and he lay beside her on that golden shore'). A well-executed mystery subplot involving attempts on Caro's life lends some zest to this offering, but not enough to satisfy fans of Laurens's popular Cynster novels. (Mar.) Forecast: Laurens's hardcovers haven't been received as well as her paperbacks, but this should still sell like gangbusters. 200,000 first printing." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The "New York Times" bestselling author of the Cynster novels is back with another romantic, surefire tale of the beloved series. When Devil Cynster's brother-in-law--Michael Anstruther-Wetherby--decides to seek a wife, the search leads him not to the young lady he thought was suitable, but to her aunt, Caroline.
New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens has created some of romance's most unforgettable novels. Now she has created her most provocative love story -- and amazing hero -- to date. This is the book that dares to ask the question: Who is this man's ideal bride?
Michael Anstruther-Wetherby is a rising member of Parliament -- a man destined for power. Aristocratic, elegant, and effortlessly charming, he is just arrogant enough to capture the interest of the ladies of the ton. And with his connections to the wealthy and influential Cynster family -- his sister is married to Devil Cynster, the Duke of St. Ives -- his future appears assured.
Except that Michael lacks the single most important element of success: a wife.
Political pressure sends him searching for his ideal bride, a gently bred, malleable young lady, preferably one with a political background. Michael discovers such a paragon but finds a formidable obstacle in his path -- the young lady's beautiful, strong-minded aunt -- Caroline Sutcliffe.
One of London's foremost diplomatic hostesses, Caro has style and status but, having lived through an unhappy political marriage, wants nothing of the sort for her niece, who has already lost her heart to another.
So Caro and the younger woman hatch a plot -- Caro will demonstrate why an inexperienced young lady is not the bride for Michael. She succeeds in convincing him that what he really needs is a lady of experience by his side.
And the perfect candidate is right under his nose -- Caro herself. Then it is Michael's turn to be persuasive, a task that requires every ounce of his seductive charm as he tempts and tantalizes Caro, seeking to convince her that becoming his bride will bring her all her heart desires . . . and more.
But then a series of mysterious, and dangerous, accidents befall Caro -- an assailant has stepped in with their own idea for Caro's future -- one that could involve murder. Before Caro can become Michael's ideal bride, they must race to uncover the unknown's identity before all hope of what they long for, and wish for, is destroyed.
The "New York Times" bestselling author continues her beloved Cynster series. When the dashing, politically driven Michael Anstruther-Wetherby, seeks a wife, he sets his sights on an ideal candidate. But Michael soon finds himself enchanted by her strong-willed young aunt instead. Original.
About the Author
#1 New York Times
bestselling author Stephanie Laurens began writing romances as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career when her first novel was accepted for publication, and with entirely becoming alacrity, she gave up writing about facts in favor of writing fiction.
Laurens's novels are set in the time period of the British Regency, and her settings range from Scotland to India. Laurens has published fifty-one works of historical romance, including thirty New York Times bestsellers. All her works are continuously available in print and digital formats in English worldwide, and have been translated into many other languages. An international bestseller, among other accolades Laurens has received the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA® Award for Best Romance Novella 2008, for The Fall of Rogue Gerrard.
Her continuing novels featuring the Cynster family are widely regarded as classics of the genre. Other series include the Bastion Club novels and the Black Cobra Quartet. For information on upcoming releases and updates on novels yet to come, visit Stephanie's website.