This book is the conclusion of a new "Cynster Sisters" trilogy within the "Bar Cynster" series, and is the final part of a three volume story set in 1829 which features three sisters, Heather, Eliza and Angelica Cynster. It is essential to read these three books in the correct sequence, which is
1) "Viscount Breckenridge To The Rescue" (Heather)
2) "In Pursuit Of Eliza Cynster" and
3) This book, "The capture of the Earl of Glencrae" (Angelica)
Spoiler alert - it is difficult to describe these books without "spoilers" which give away plot detail. I have avoided any serious spoilers for "The capture of the Earl of Glencrae" in this review - anyone who has read the first two books and the back of this one will be aware of most of the details given. However, it is not possible to explain say anything much about the setting of this final book in the trilogy without giving away, at least by inference, significant spoilers for the previous volumes and particularly the second book. Indeed, the very existence of this third book is something of a spoiler for the second one!
So if you have not yet read the first two novels in this trilogy I would advise you to stop reading here and follow the links above to the first two books.
Heather, Eliza, and Angelica Cynster, the heroines of the three books of this trilogy are the daughters of Lord Martin and Lady Celia Cynster, who are the uncle and aunt of "That Devil Cynster," (Sylvester, 6th Duke of St Ives and hero of "Devil's Bride (Bar Cynster)). Our heroines are also the younger sisters of Rupert Cynster (a.k.a. Gabriel, A Secret Love (Bar Cynster)) and Alasdair (a.k.a. Lucifer, All About Love (Bar Cynster)).
The trilogy began at an unidentified castle in the highlands of Scotland, where a mortal enemy of the Cynster family plots revenge against them for something which happened a generation before and which she has allowed to totally warp her life. This being the final book in the trilogy we finally discover in this volume who the lady is, what injury the Cynsters have supposedly done her, and just how sick in the head she is. To this last point the answer is that the villainess is very sick in the head indeed, and as a consequence there is a near-pornographic scene in this story which seriously pushes the envelope for the genre, in which the characters have to go to extreme lengths to fool her.
As readers of the previous books will be aware, the villainess has found a way to blackmail her son, an honorable man who has no wish to harm the Cynsters, into taking part in her schemes by threatening to beggar not just him but every member of his clan, people he is responsible for. She has stolen from his safe a valuable item without which he and all his people will lose their land and homes, and as the price for its' return she demands that her son kidnaps one of the Cynster daughters and brings her to Scotland, destroying the girl's reputation in the process.
When Heather was kidnapped in the first book of the trilogy the Cynster family became aware of the threat but at that stage it wasn't quite clear to them or the reader whether the target could be any unmarried Cynster girl or specifically one of the three daughters of Martin and Celia Cynster. In this book it becomes clear that it is the latter.
The villainess's son - who in the first two books was known to the reader and to the Cynster family mainly as "The Laird" - has been trying to find a way to get his mother to hand back the stolen item without actually harming one of the Cynster girls. In the first two books he employed kidnappers, under strict instructions that the young ladies were to come to no harm, to snatch first Heather and then Eliza Cynster. But both girls escaped with the help of the heroes of their respective books, and found in the process that those gentlemen were their personal "heroes" e.g. the men they want to spend their lives with.
At the start of the second book, after Heather's kidnapping, Eliza and Angelica were under close guard: particularly against any Scottish noblemen. Scrope, the villain who "the laird" employed, had to pull off a daring and brilliant trick to snatch Eliza.
But towards the end of that book both Eliza and her hero, Jeremy Carling, saw "the Laird" fall off a cliff. They are convinced that he could not possibly have survived the fall.
At the start of this third book in the trilogy, because the Cynsters know that "the Laird" is dead, they are allowing the third sister, 21 year old Angelica, to attend balls and functions without being guarded within an inch of her life. Angelica has always believed that she will know her future husband the moment she sets eyes on him. At a soiree hosted by Lady Cavendish, she sees a very handsome man with a proud and distinguished air, and is instantly convinced that he is the man she wants. She inquires after his identity and a mutual friend tells her that he is Dominic, Viscount Debenham, and speaks highly of him.
An English Viscount whose identity and integrity are rapidly confirmed and who is very much alive cannot possibly have any connection to a dead Scottish laird, so Angelica brazenly arranges to have herself introduced to Viscount Debenham. And thus begins a most unusual adventure ...
If like many readers you have difficulty suspending disbelief for the sake of enjoying a book when something unlikely or out of character for the period happens, you should probably leave this entire trilogy alone. I had huge difficulty believing that any real-life woman would make some of the decisions which Angelica makes during this book. I had similar difficulty believing that her family would ever forgive and forget some of the things which they do decide to forgive and forget.
Despite doublig in size over seventy years because of the creation of new peerages during the reigns of George III and IV, the historical House of Lords only had about three hundred members in 1829. Given this, I found it very unlikely that an active member of that house, e.g. Devil Cynster, would not already have known or very rapidly have been able to discover certain critical information about a fellow peer of the realm of which the Cynster family remain unaware for days in this book, even after they have started actively investigating the individual concerned. It would not have been left until an elderly aunt thinks to suggest that they look him up up in a newfangled book called Burke's Peerage and Baronetage.
Well-brought up young ladies of the ton, as high society was called in the early nineteenth century, did not generally behave like the heroines of this book and most of Stephanie Laurens' other recent books. In particular they rarely abandoned their virginity as readily as these heroines do, not least because a young Georgian maiden who enthusiastically jumped into the hero's bed would not have a reliable means of avoiding pregnancy. Fortunately in these works of fiction the pregnancy never seems to arrive before the wedding.
Finally, like her sister in the previous volume, Angelica disguises herself as a young man at one point in the story. Which presents the author with an instant dilemma: the choice between making the disguise effective or providing an opportunity to draw the attention of the hero, because you can't have both.
If you are trying to disguise an attractive woman as a young man, and want the disguise to actually fool anyone, you have to go for relatively loose garments, particularly around the bust, hips, and thighs. An attractive woman has curves at the hips which we men are biologically programmed to notice, and in tight trousers those curves will draw the attention of any straight man with normal eyesight like a magnet.
The problem for a romance writer if the heroine is disguised as a man, is that the author usually wants the hero to notice those curves but for the the disguise to work on everyone else. This dilemma has been rather an issue in some of Stephanie Laurens previous books such as "Captain Jack's Woman" in which the heroine was unrealistically successful at disguising herself as a teenage boy, given the hero's reaction to her shape in riding breeches.
In the book immediately preceding this one, Miss Laurens managed a reasonable compromise between the effectiveness of the heroine's disguise and the hero's reaction to her in that disguise, by having him notice Eliza Cynster's "subtle curves" largely concealed under the skirts of her jacket. But in "The capture of the Earl of Glencrae" the impact of her sister Angelica in snugly fitting corduroy trousers on the hero of the book is about as subtle as a sledgehammer - he thinks she looks like, quote "An angel from one of his more salacious dreams."
If her shape wearing these clothes has that effect on the hero, the disguise isn't going to fool many other men, is it?
But however unlikely I found their behaviour, I liked the main characters in this book, the ongoing romantic tension building between them, and the fact that a lot of the story is told with dry wit and humour which was more than a little amusing.
Overall: so many aspects of this book are ridiculously implausible that it should have been a complete turkey, but I actually found myself enjoying it. If you like the other recent Stephanie Laurens novels, you will probably like this.
The Bar Cynster books are usually described as Regency novels and they did begin at that period, but stricly speaking this is a Georgian romance rather than a Regency one, as it is set in the last year when "Prinny" was King in his own right as George IV. This romance in the "Bar Cynster" series is numbered 18 in the table and family tree which appear at the front of the book, but if you count the prequel, (The Promise in a Kiss (Bar Cynster)) and the "Barnaby Adair" adventure "Where the Heart Leads" this is actually the twentieth Cynster novel.
The Cynster series to date consists of
1) Devil's Bride (Bar Cynster) (Devil and Honoria)
2) A Rake's Vow: Cynster Family Series, Book 2 (Cynster Novels) (Vane and Patience)
3) Scandal's Bride (Richard/Scandal and Catriona)
4) A Rogue's proposal (Harry/Demon and Felicity)
5) A Secret Love (Rupert/Gabriel and Alathea)
6) All about Love (Alistair/Lucifer and Phyllida)
7) All About Passion (Bar Cynster) (Lord Chillingworth gets Rachel for Leah)
8) On a wild night (Amanda Cynster and Martin)
9) On a wicked dawn (Amelia Cynster and Luc)
10) The Perfect Lover (Simon Cynster and Porchia)
11) The Ideal Bride (Martin and Caro)
12) The Truth about love (Gerrard and Jacqueline)
13) What price love? (Dillon and Priscilla)
14) The Touch of Innocence (Charlie and Sarah)
15) Temptation and Surrender (Jonas Tallent and Emily)
16) Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue (of Heather Cynster)
17) In pursuit of Eliza Cynster (Eliza)
18) This book, "The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae" (Angelica)
As mentioned above there is also a prequel "The Promise in a Kiss" which tells the story of the romance between Devil Cynster's father and mother, and the Barbaby Adair story, "Where the heart leads" which tells the romance between Barnaby and Porchia Cynster's sister Penelope Ashford.