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Devil Takes A Bride by Gaelen Foley
(Ballantine, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-8041-1975-9
***
Foley has written another tale in her series on the Knight family. Devil Takes A Bride highlights the young woman who was the ward of the Duke and the companion to Jacinda in Lady of Desire.

Elizabeth Carlisle is the daughter of a land agent, who grew up in the household of a duke as his ward. This puts her on the fringe of society, so when the duke’s sister marries, Lizzie finds herself a job as a companion to an elderly Viscountess. Augusta Strathmore is in her eighties and beginning to show signs of decline, just barely. Yet she misses her only nephew, Devlin. To top it off, Devlin seems to be spending all of his Aunt’s money in the ways of a wastrel – clothing, gambling, etc. So Lizzie sends a note hinting that Augusta is dying. She hopes Devlin will come and then she plans to blast him for his no-good ways. But when she meets him, she finds herself attracted to him, instead.

Devlin, however, isn’t your average young rogue. He is the only survivor of his family and he is seeking revenge. It seems that years ago his parents and sister died in a suspicious fire at a roadside inn on their way to get him from school. He is trying to discover the men he thinks set the fire and plans to destroy them. He has shut off most of his emotions, except when it comes to his aunt. He fears, of course, that losing anyone he loves will hurt too much. He, too, is attracted to Lizzie. Augusta sees this and adds a codicil to her will that the two must marry to inherit her fortune, a fortune Devlin is planning to use to exact his revenge.

The story revolves around his quest and their love. Trails of inquiry lead to a group of men who are members of the Horse and Chariot Club, a group known for their gambling, horseracing and generally obnoxious debauchery. While they know who Devlin (called Devil) is, he fools them into thinking he is one of their kind. To get into the club one has to meet three criteria: live a life of dissipation, give the group a gift and deflower an abducted virgin. How Devil gets out of the third one is left for the reader to explore. Needless to say, while the group thinks Devil is one of them, he is clearly not.

Foley has written a generally engaging tale of tragedy and loneliness, love and almost losing love, and a series of adventures that keep the pace from slowing. Yet, there is much here that seems out of sorts. Upon Augusta’s death, Lizzie turns to teaching at the exclusive girl’s school she went to as a girl. Yet she is welcomed at balls with her friend Jacinda. Devlin is mixed up with this group of men who have a horrid reputation, yet he is not shunned by the ton. He has a freed slave as his valet, and no one seems to find this unusual in 1818. There are other things too. The package seems too neatly tied up at times.

The side plots are too numerous to detail, but they involve several things from the fire and Lizzie’s baggage from a past romance, among others. Many of the characters from the other Knight family stories make appearances. The sexual scenes are hot and explicit, both with the club members and between Lizzie and Devil. Lizzie is an innocent but is a very quick learner and no blushing miss – another thing that didn’t quite ring true for the times.

The incongruities in the story stand out as I write this review. Yet when reading the story, I was engaged and found the love story satisfying. Details are abundant and this made the story seem long, at times. I was tempted to skim some pages full of descriptions of places and scenes.

Devil Takes a Bride is romance with some mystery and heartache thrown in for measure alongside a huge dose of many other ingredients. While a good story on the one hand, it doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny.

--Shirley Lyons


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