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on September 5, 2000
This is the only book in the Cynaster series I have had the opportunity to read. I am definitely looking forward to reading the others. This is the most interesting book I have read in a very long time. I know romance novels tend to be similar in nature, but Laurens creates a different perpective. The book kept me laughing from beginning to end. I could not lay it down.
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on April 9, 2001
There's nothing like discovering a new author you love and settling in to read the backlist. Stephanie Laurens is my new favorite, and I am having a great time reading all the Bar Cynster novels. These are the best Regency romances I've read in years. Don't worry about reading them in order. Other Cynsters make enough of an appearance to whet your appetite for more but not so much as to reveal the plots of the books you haven't read.
"A Secret Love" is the fifth in the series, and it is Gabriel's story. Althea Morwellan, Gabriel's childhood friend, is in dire financial straights and deperately needs his help. For a variety of reasons, she doesn't want to come right out and ask for his assistance; instead, she creates "the Countess", a mysterious figure deliberately designed to entice Gabriel. Now this next part requires a certain suspension of disbelief. Gabriel and the Countess, aka Althea, have some very steamy encounters, but Gabriel doesn't figure out that the two are one and the same. I, too, didn't buy it, but if you're willing to believe that Regency England was awash with gorgeous, sensitive, masculine, sexy men, you can probably live with this plot device. It leads to a very sweet story about two people finding love where they least expected it. Because of their shared history, there's a certain depth to Gabriel and Althea's romance that is quite appealing. Additonally, the story benefited from the fact that the characters were full-grown adults (32 and 33 years old) and approximately the same age. I really get tired of spunky, independent 18 year old virgins and jaded older males. All in all, this is a great regency romance and you'll have a great time reading it!
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on May 14, 2003
I find it amusing that most of the readers including the Amazon.com review call the female protagonist Althea as opposed to Alathea her real name. I guess this mistake indicates how carelessly people read the book and what pulp it truly is.
Having said that, it is good for its genre. I agree with another reviewer who is also relieved that the lead characters are adults (29 & 30) another correction - guess no one is really paying that much attention to the details of this book. I also find it amusing that Alathea is really so imbecilic and continues to have sex with 'Gabriel' and not think about the possibility of scandal through pregnancy. She refuses to marry him after his proposal but somehow you don't get the impression that she is going to stop sleeping with him having already done so many times.
It was one of Laurens' more mature books and I like that. I liked the Alathea's psychosis - she is older, taller and does not think of herself as particularly attractive. She seems a more well-rounded individual than most of Lauren's female lead characters.
Rupert/Gabriel falls into the Alpha-male/hero role and so is not as interesting a character. We are told that he has difficulty in trusting but we don't know why but at least we are spared from the usual line that he is a 'tortured soul'.
I think the sensuality rating is a bit harsh - this is not one of Laurens' truly raunchy reads - it is really quite tame when compared to The Promise In a Kiss or On A Wicked Dawn.
Enjoy it - it's great pulp fiction but careful not to overdose on Laurens as most of her books seem to have the same plotlines.
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on July 4, 2000
I read this book the same day I received it! Stephanie Laurens continuing story of the Bar Cynster is fantastic.
In Book 5 of the Cynster series Stephanie Laurens introduces us to Rupert Cynster also known as Gabriel. A committed rake with a strong distaste for financial fraud, Gabriel is enticed into helping the mysterious woman who is known only as the Countess protect her family's future.
What Gabriel discovers, along with evidence of fraud is a woman whose strength and vulnerabilty cause him to reconsider his views on love and marriage.
The heroine, is a strong female lead who challenges the hero every step of the way. What Gabriel doesn't know is that his mysterious Countess is his childhood playmate and neighbor Alathea Morwellan.
As the plot to defraud her family of all their money is gradually exposed, so too is the love that has always existed between these two.
While I love all the Cynster novels, this one is probably the strongest Ms Laurens has written since Devil's Bride. The byplay between the male & female leads is strong - filled with emotion and humor. Also, Chillingworth is back as both nemesis and ally, this time treading too close for Gabriel's peace of mind. It is an absolute must read for fans of Stephanie Laurens and the Cynsters.
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on December 28, 2000
Stephanie Laurens is a pretty reliable author for me, and Gabriel and Alathea's story is a good solid addition to the Cynster series. As far as romance heroes go, the Cynsters are the stuff the dreams are made of: strong, reliable, they do not hate women, they believe in marriage and family and aren't ashamed of what they are. (And let's not forget sexy.)
The heroine Alathea needs someone to investigate a suspicious business investment that threatens to ruin her family's economy. Gabriel Cynster is just the man for the job. They've known each other for a long time but their relationship is somewhat strained. Alathea doesn't want to reveal her family's financial difficulties to Gabriel so she makes up a secret identity and goes to him in disguise. They have a sensuous love affair and Gabriel determines to marry her. THEN he figures out who this mysterious woman really is.
A Secret Love didn't work quite as well as Devil's Bride or Vane and Patience's story because I just couldn't buy the way Alathea's disguise fooled Gabriel for so long. This man is an intelligent, sensitive, perceptive Cynster male, for heaven's sake, not some half-blind ninnyhammer. Even if the the greatest makeup artists of Hollywood can produce wonders usually nothing can disguise a person's voice and demeanor so much that she becomes fully unrecognizable.
Despite this plotting problem, A Secret Love was an enjoyable read and I'm already waiting in line for Lucifer's story.
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on July 5, 2000
Gabriel Cynster is approached for help by a mysterious, veiled, widowed countess: her late husband has potentially signed the earldom away. Despite the veils, Gabriel is intrigued by the countess. She stirs his Cynster blood and he plans to discover her identity and make her his own. As he investigates the mysterious company who can bankrupt his countess, he is also scanning the ton parties to see if his love is there. The countess must be careful in dealing with Gabriel: tell him enough to get him to help her and her family without telling him enough that he will know the family's name. There are secrets she can't reveal to Gabriel, including their shared past. These two strong individuals continue Stephanie Laurens tradition of a strong hero and an equally strong heroine. If you are a Stephanie Laurens follower, you will not be disappointed in "A Secret Love." Gabriel and his countess fascinate you and keep you turning the pages. The depth of their characters, their family ties, and their very believable actions will keep you reading through the night. I couldn't put it down, I had to know what happened next. Stephanie, keep writing these great books.
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on July 25, 2002
I was first introduced to Stephanie Laurens when I read On a Wild Night and couldn't put it down. In the front of that book is a family tree with a list of the of Cynster books. So I ordered the whole set and loved them all but Gabriel's story was the most touching. Thea is an old friend of the family that was the playmates of Gabriel and Lucifer. She gives up her debut into the ton to save her family and 11 years later must do so again. But instead of asking Gabriel for help she dons a disguise so Gabriel won't know its her. She thinks that they despise each other because of the feelings they both experience when they are together but as the Countess she can explore her feelings for Gabriel. So Gabriel agrees to helpthe Countess find out information on the East African Company her father promises the family fortune to. Gabriel is bound and determined to marry his countess if he can figure out who she is. Once he relizes its Thea he is angry and hurt because she didn't trust him to help her without the disguise. Thea is very level headed with her explaination and Gabriel continues to help her. As the book reaches its climax Gabriel is bound and determined to stake his claim on Thea (so she never has to again wear those ugly spinster caps he hates), but she is good friends with Gabriel's mother so she knows all of the Cynster tricks about how they declare themselves. So Gabriel must come up with another way. His way is so romantic he makes your heart melt. I love the Cynster family and Gabriel is the most lovable because he and Thea always loved each other and didn't know it.
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on July 4, 2000
In 1820, the promissory note shook Alathea Morwellan to the bone. Apparently, her business-dumb father, the Earl of Meredith agreed to remit an amount worth more than his earldom for a percentage of the profits garnered by the Central East Africa Gold Company. Having been the brains behind the success of the earldom for the past eleven years, Alathea refuses to idly await disaster on something that smells of fraud.

Alathea decides to wear a veil to hide her identity and obtain help from someone she can trust to remain discreet in case he learns who she is. She turns to her childhood foe Gabriel Cynster, who has a reputation of assisting ladies in trouble for a price. Gabriel charges her with a kiss every time he assists her. As he works to uncover the identity of the con artist(s), Gabriel and Alathea find their kisses turning more passionate each time. Love begins to blossom, even as he tries to uncover the identity of the woman he now plans to marry.

A SECRET LOVE is an entertaining Regency romance that will thrill sub-genre fans due to its competent and ardent lead protagonists. The extended families of the two stars magnify the story line by providing depth to plot and to the protagonists. Stephanie Laurens' fifth Cynster tale is another triumph in a series that shows why the era is so cherished by readers.

Harriet Klausner
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on August 22, 2000
...I liked this story the best in the Cynaster series so far, even edging out Devil's Bride (although just barely). The complexities of the relationship and how Alathea and Gabriel work through them are extraordinary. Where Devil's Bride was a great story, A Secret Love digs deeper into the characters and makes you think about what makes a relationship work. I was very wary in the beginning of this story thinking, "Oh no, another OLD MAID/VIRGIN story, can't we think of anything original?" Man, was I in for a surprise.
Alathea and Rupert/Gabriel are long times friends. They, along with Lucifer (Gabriel's brother), grew up together in the same neighborhood and share a long history. This is a key factor in keeping this story fresh. Alathea and Gabriel clash at every opportunity as adults, starting when they turned 13 and 14. They saw each other as brother and sister and as very good friends. It never occurred to either one of them that there could ever be more to their relationship than that, and that they were clashing because they were attracted to one another. (Besides, circumstances take Alathea away on her first year "out" and they see each other infrequently.) Gabriel is definitely a Cynaster male and has had (more than) his share of sexual experience at the present time in the story. But at the time of their young adolescence, he would not have known how to read the different signs nor thought of them in conjunction with Alathea.
With a decent and realistic plot to move the story along (not some far out fantasy adventure, but a somewhat realistic scam) our leads get reacquainted with one another. The first half of the book is sensual and gripping. When Gabriel arrives at his epiphany about their relationship, it is truly spine tingling. Alathea, although realizes her feelings first, is plagued by doubts. Knowing Rupert/Gabriel so well, she knows that he would help them out and want to marry her because of his Cynaster over-protectivism, not necessarily for love. It is because these two lead characters have such a long history, that the plot devises work so well. Friends first, lovers second, they understand each other too well and can't get away with anything. This is a great book, and I do not give 5 stars often but I feel it deserves each and every one of them.
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on July 6, 2000
After stumbling on the Cynsters last winter, I haunted bookstores until A Secret Love finally appeared on the shelf. Like the Mallorys, the Cynsters are a seductive family, and Gabriel's story doesn't disappoint. The fifth in the "Bar Cynster" series lives up to the standard Ms. Laurens set with her intorduction to the family in Devil's Bride. The story is expertly written, focussing mainly on Gabriels growing obsession and seduction of Alathea. After reading this installment, I fell in love with the Cynsters all over again! As expected, Gabriel was our wonderfully strong, arrogant, overly-protective, sexy and seductive Cynster male. Alathea, was surprisingly intelligent and strong, but with just the right touch of vunerability and naivitee to make the story compelling and believable. I loved this book! It was wonderfully written; making me laugh at the antics the fops that surround Alathea; making me annoyed at Gabriel and Lucifer for their overbearing protectiveness of the twins; making me fall in love with Gabriel; and most of all, making me want to be Alathea. The biggest complaint I have with the story itself is, as seems to be the case with many romance novels, the ending to the myster sub-plot seems a little contrived. However, it was great to meet our old friends whom we haven't seen in a while (namely Chillingworth), but also to get a little more acquainted with fate's next victim, Lucifer. As far as the series goes, it seems Ms. Laurens has developed a pattern. The introduction to the Cynsters with Devils story is both seductive and compelling, the mystery sub-plot provides just the right back drop to allow the reader to focus on Devil and Honoria. Vane's story, I found to best at best, slow. Scandal's story certainly made up for that, and was, so far my favorite. In Demon's story, Ms. Laurens seemed to get lost in the sensuality she was trying to create, and it appeared that the sub-plot was just an excuse to get from one love sceen to another. But in Gabrel's story, Ms. Laurens returns to the superb writing her fans know she is capable of. She focuses on the interaction between Gabriel and Alathea, and expertly intertwines them with the mystery. I haven't yet decided if Gabriel's story has surpasses Scandal's. It will take more than one read to determine that. However, if Scandal's story continues to be my favorite, Gabriel will be a close second. Hopefully this pattern won't continue, and Lucifer's story will be right on par with Devil, Scandal and now Gabriel! If you haven't picked up this book, do it now! I only wish we didn't have to wait for the rest of the series to be published!
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