Sebastian Cynster knows time is running out. If he doesn't choose a wife soon, his female relatives will line up to assist him. Yet the current debutantes do not appeal. Where is he to find the right lady to be his marchioness? Then Drake Varisey, eldest son of the Duke of Wolverstone, asks for Sebastian's aid.
Having assumed his father's mantle in protecting queen and country, Drake must go to Ireland in pursuit of a dangerous plot. But he's received an urgent missive from Lord Ennis, an Irish peer-Ennis has heard something Drake needs to know. Ennis insists Drake attends an upcoming house party at Ennis's Kent estate so Ennis can reveal his information face-to-face.
Sebastian has assisted Drake before and, long ago, had a liaison with Lady Ennis. Drake insists Sebastian is just the man to be Drake's surrogate at the house party-the guests will imagine all manner of possibilities and be blind to Sebastian's true purpose.
Unsurprisingly, Sebastian is reluctant, but Drake's need is real. With only more debutantes on his horizon, Sebastian allows himself to be persuaded.
His first task is to inveigle Antonia Rawlings, a lady he has known all her life, to include him as her escort to the house party. Although he's seen little of Antonia in recent years, Sebastian is confident of gaining her support.
Eldest daughter of the Earl of Chillingworth, Antonia has abandoned the search for a husband and plans to use the week of the house party to decide what to do with her life. There has to be some purpose, some role, she can claim for her own.
Consequently, on hearing Sebastian's request and an explanation of what lies behind it, she seizes on the call to action. Suppressing her senses' idiotic reaction to Sebastian's nearness, she agrees to be his partner-in-intrigue.
But while joining the house party proves easy, the gathering is thrown into chaos when Lord Ennis is murdered-just before he was to speak with Sebastian. Worse, Ennis's last words, gasped to Sebastian, are: Gunpowder. Here.
Gunpowder? And here, where?
With a killer continuing to stalk the halls, side by side, Sebastian and Antonia search for answers and, all the while, the childhood connection that had always existed between them strengthens and blooms...into something so much more.
First volume in a trilogy. A historical romance with gothic overtones layered over a continuing intrigue. A full length novel of 99,000 words.
Praise for the works of Stephanie Laurens
"Stephanie Laurens' heroines are marvelous tributes to Georgette Heyer: feisty and strong." Cathy Kelly
"Stephanie Laurens never fails to entertain and charm her readers with vibrant plots, snappy dialogue, and unforgettable characters." Historical Romance Reviews.
"Stephanie Laurens plays into readers' fantasies like a master and claims their hearts time and again." Romantic Times Magazine
About the Author
Stephanie Laurens, a #1 New York Times bestselling author, began writing as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career when her novels about the masterful Cynster cousins captivated readers, making her one of the romance world's most beloved and popular authors. She subsequently introduced the equally unforgettable members of the Bastion Club, as well as several other series. Currently living outside Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and two cats, she has been writing historical romance novels in her signature "Errol Flynn meets Jane Austen" style for more than twenty years.
Matthew Brenher, originally from London, now lives in Los Angeles. His theatrical background includes performances in no fewer than twenty Shakespearean productions, including Macbeth, Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, As You Like It, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo in Romeo & Juliet, and the title role in Henry V. In Los Angeles, he played Claudius in Hamlet, Cassio in Othello, Antony in Antony & Cleopatra, Antipholous of Syracuse in Comedy of Errors, and Orsino in Twelfth Night. Other theater includes: Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, Trigorin in The Seagull, Alistair in Shaw's The Millionairess, Jerry in Pinter's Betrayal, the title role in Dracula, and George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, for which he was awarded best performance by a lead actor/drama by Stage Scene LA 2009-2010. He's performed in new plays, most recently in A Bitter Fruit for Palestine, Vulcan in Love's Mistress at the famous Globe theater in London, and Petko in an acclaimed production of The Mapletree Game. On television, he played "Mad" Marcus for six months in the now defunct British soap Brookside. Other television includes: Rules of Engagement, Bodyguards, The Blind Date, Starhunter, The Grid, Eastenders, and Nostradamus. Films include Execution, A Midsummer Nights Dream, Stay Shy, and The Boy Who would Be King. He works in commercials and industrials and is an accomplished voice-over artist.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Excellent story as usual from Stephanie Laurens.
Stephanie Laurens has begun another exciting trilogy featuring the Cynsters. We'll see all three of Devil Cynster's children marry as well as Wolverstone's oldest and Gyles Rawlings oldest. What didn't I love: 1. Sebastian just didn't feel 'real' to me. He grew up in the Cynster family that is absolutely filled with strong, intelligent, willful women and he has the wonderful example of his father, fathers cousins and uncle to see how to treat them. Yet -- Sebastian has no clue??? Sorry -- couldn't buy that part, yet it is pretty much the central theme. 2. I know that the book isn't about Devil and Honoria, but I would have liked to see them make a cameo appearance and get a better view of the family dynamics. At least we got to have a short visit with Gyles and Franchesca. I assume we'll get Devil and Honoria in the next book. 3. I also thought that the book was too short and I didn't really get to know Sebastian or Antonia. 4. It wasn't as suspenseful (read that dangerous) as I would have thought. Compare it to the recent Adventurers books and how suspenseful they were and this one just doesn't measure up. What did I love That this entire series solves one mystery - like the recent Adventurers series. So, each book in the trilogy will provide a new couple with an HEA while solving a portion of the mystery.
I enjoyed this book very much, I have been waiting for Sebastian's story since his birth. My only comment is that this book was so much like Simon & Portia's story in A Perfect Lover.
I love Stephanie Laurens, she is the author that brought me into the romance genre. I loved Scandal's Twin's books but OH MY GOODNESS this book was just bad. Too much "reining in and caging his demons", too much inner monologue, to much treading water. I felt like there was no movement in this book what so ever. Hopefully this was a "bridge" book into the second generation, that the rest of the books have more dialogue, more movement and a better pace. I don't remember being able to put any of her previous books down to go to bed, I HAD to finish them. This book I had no problem putting away and no inclination to pick back up, I kept reading hoping it would get better, she got the benefit of the doubt because of my love of her previous work, which got me through this book but barely.