A young comtesse finds true love with a sensual duke: a prequel to (and first hardcover in) the popular Cynster series.
Lovely, virginal Helena, the future comtesse d’Lisle, is startled by an intruder in the walled garden of her convent school. The devastatingly handsome fellow bestows a kiss (her first) and decamps before he’s discovered. It’s an unforgettable moment, and upon making her debut in English society seven years later she is equally startled to meet the man again. Sebastian, Duke of St. Ives, the embodiment of arrogant masculinity, has a well-deserved reputation as dangereux. Helena is warned to keep away from him, but she is shockingly independent for a young woman of her class and pays little heed. Anyway, her guardian, Fabien de Mordaunt, packed her off to London with a document freeing her to marry any English nobleman with an estate greater than her own. He’s sure that can’t happen, since Helena will inherit vast landholdings in the Camargue, a cool château in the Loire, and other goodies. Fabien would just as soon keep his charge’s fabulous fortune in the family and is secretly scheming to marry Helena off to her cousin Louis. Sebastian, however, must and will have her, and so begins a series of increasingly lubricious encounters. She can’t resist the dashing duke, who’s effortlessly elegant and moves with powerful grace, and he in turn is obsessed by her flawless beauty and snowy bosoms, not to mention her crystalline peridot eyes. Helena’s guardian is blissfully unaware of all this, although he and Sebastian have met before; the English lord has stolen an Arabian dagger, a family heirloom that Fabien wants back. Further schemes are set in motion, swords are crossed, the impending French Revolution proves complication—but by the close, true love (surprise) prevails.
Entertaining in its way, if a trifle overripe. Lots and lots of tastefully erotic sex for those who like their Regencies a little less ladylike.