All About Love

All About Passion

Captain Jack's Woman

Devil's Bride

Four in Hand

The Lady Chosen

On a Wild Night

The Perfect Lover

The Promise in a Kiss

A Rake's Vow

A Rogue's Proposal

Scandal's Bride

A Secret Love

Secrets of a Perfect Night

The Ideal Bride by Stephanie Laurens
(Wm. Morrow, $22.95, R) ISBN 0-06-050573-7
The Cynster books are Laurensí series about a family of rakes. There have been 10 previous stories, moving down the family tree into nieces and nephews of the original group. The Ideal Bride is the tale of one of the in-laws, Michael Anstruther-Wetherby. While the Cynsters make an appearance and help in the resolution, this is Michaelís story.

Michael is a diplomat and politician. He has been offered opportunity to rise into the ranks of an ambassador, but it is strongly suggested that he marry before that happens. He sets his sights on an eighteen-year-old who he feels he can mold into the perfect wife and hostess. But Elizabeth has fallen for a young aide to a previous Ambassador. With the help of her Aunt Caroline Sutcliffe, she hopes to convince Michael she is not the perfect choice for him.

Caroline Sutcliffe is the widow of a well-respected Ambassador. It is her husbandís aide that Elizabeth has fallen for and they seem well-suited. So Caro agrees to the deception. She and Michael knew each other when they were children, as they grew up not far from each other. But Michaelís parents were killed and he moved away. He is now the representative in Parliament from the district. He needs a strong hostess and partner that will be an asset to him in diplomatic circles. While he seeks Elizabeth, he actually discovers Caro.

He quickly realizes that Elizabeth is young, naÔve and not at all suitable. Caro, on the other hand, is smart, intuitive, knowledgeable and extremely desirable. He finds himself thinking of her all the time, enjoying her company and relishing the minutes they can find together. But there is a problem. Caro has unequivocally stated she will not marry again. Michael accepts the challenge.

This story is a nice and relatively lively romance, with potent scenes of seduction. There are secrets that I hesitate to reveal. And there are two intensely likable characters learning to love each other. Michael is compassionate and the consummate diplomat even in the bedroom. He wants to ensure all are satisfied and he is good at it. He is an Alpha male for sure, but his humor and his ability to see himself as he is keeps him from taking himself too seriously. Caro is a wonderful heroine. She knows herself and is confident in all areas but one. Yet, she is a quick study and never resorts to feeling sorry for herself.

The drawback is that there is no meat to the story in which they find themselves. Beyond Michael trying to convince Caro they suit and he trying to find out her reasons for not marrying, while she tries to convince herself she is holding firm, the plot is thin. But, here it is. It appears someone is trying to kill Caro. The obvious answer is that there is something in her husbandís life that someone thinks she knows. But it is a relatively uninteresting hunt for the answer. They scour diaries and letters, but we are left just to read about that. There are several curves thrown in, none of which really caught my interest, and yet, it is one of these curves that ends up being the reason for the threats. By the time the truth is revealed, it seemed superfluous.

If this was a $6.99 paperback, I would have gone with a 4 heart recommendation, as while long, the story was basically enjoyable and the strength of the characters carry the story to a satisfying conclusion. But the story seems to have been drawn out in order to justify the $22.95 price tag. And that is not something I can easily recommend.

This is a solid Cynster story. But The Ideal Bride is priced as an ideal story and that - it is not. Wait for the paperback or borrow from the library and enjoy it.

--Shirley Lyons

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