Nursing a broken heart, Lizzie Carlisle retreated to the country estate of the Dowager Viscountess Strathmore to work as her paid companion. Bluestocking Lizzie has all but written off men after Alec Knight shattered her dreams of a future with him, and thinks that she can be content to live out her days as a spinster, working for her keep, until she earns enough money to open her own bookshop. The wealthy Dowager has been paying all the bills for her favored nephew Devlin who has recently returned to England after years of adventuring abroad. Lizzie thinks that Devlin is a dissolute rake like Alec when she see his extravagant expenditures and his seeming lack of attention to his aunt, so she hatches a scheme to get him to come for a visit by sending him a note implying that his aunt is dying. What she doesn't realize is just how much pain her missive would bring to the Viscount.
Buying Devlin a ship and practically ordering him to trek around the globe was Aunt Augusta's way of trying to save Devlin from his own grief. Twelve years earlier, his entire family was tragically murdered, along with over forty other people, in a fire at a coaching inn, while on their way to pick him up from school. Devlin partially blames himself for their deaths, but throughout the years, he has also been planning his sweet revenge against the men who committed this atrocity. All of the money he has been spending is for the purpose of setting a trap for his enemies. Nothing could have brought more sorrow and fear to Devlin than Lizzie's false note. He already feels utterly alone in the world, and Aunt Augusta is his last living relative.
When Devlin arrives and Lizzie sees how much he actually does care for his aunt, she feels remorse for her deception, which is only compounded when she realizes his history. Devlin is surprisingly understanding, admitting that he has been rather remiss in his duties to his aunt, but only because he is deeply afraid of loosing another person he loves. As Devlin and Lizzie get to know one another, they develop a surprisingly intimate bond in the few days they spend together, which the Dowager can also see. Wanting to make sure that Devlin has someone to look after him and love him after she is gone, Aunt Augusta makes a shocking stipulation in her will in order for Devlin to receive his inheritance. When Augusta passes away, Devlin is initially so angered by her wishes, he ends up making several faux pas in his efforts to comply, and all the while he slowly begins to realize that in spite of his best efforts not to love Lizzie, he is falling for her anyway. In the meantime, the bad guys are starting to catch on to Devlin's scheme to take them down, but will he be able to give up his thirst for revenge before Lizzie becomes their next target?
Oh my goodness! Devil Takes a Bride is one of the best books I've read in quite some time. Gaelen Foley has done it again, with yet another engrossing installment in the Knight Miscellany series. Devil Takes a Bride has now become my favorite book in the series to date, and that's no easy task since all of them have rated 4-5 stars for me. Ms. Foley is masterful at painting word pictures that make me feel like I'm right there and part of the story. It was much like watching a movie playing out in my head, complete with slow-motion action scenes. I think she is able to make me see all of these things so vividly in my mind's eye, because of the richness in her characterizations and the detailed descriptions of the settings and actions, and I definitely consider her to be an incredibly talented author to do this. Devil Takes a Bride is a near-perfect novel with thoroughly likable main characters, dastardly villains, suspense, sweet and sensuous romance, and an action-packed ending, and to top it all off, everything flowed together with the smoothness of an ocean current. I didn't find a single plot hole, and if there were any to be found, I was simply too absorbed in this amazing story to notice. The best thing about it was that there was nary a misunderstanding or TSTL moment to be found. Devlin and Lizzie are both described as having above average intelligence, and they both actually put their brains to good use. There were a number of times that danger, problems or mysteries arose in which a weaker author probably would have taken the easy way out by allowing the characters to be clueless and act stupidly in spite of their intelligence, but every time, Dev and Lizzie always put two and two together to figure things out and make good solid choices. I cannot tell you how utterly refreshing this is, and it made me respect both the characters and the author a whole lot more.
For me, Devlin was the epitome of the romantic hero. He is described as having long dark hair, a tanned and well-muscled body, and he even sports a piratical gold earring. Dev is the perfect blend of proper English gentleman and exotic savage gained from his years of adventuring around the globe. Outwardly, he is charming and intelligent, but within his gorgeous body, he harbors a dark tormented soul and an unquenchable thirst for revenge borne from the tragic murder of his family twelve years earlier. He has vowed never to love again, because all he knows of love is the pain of loss. Still, Devlin can't help but care, if somewhat reluctantly, for his aged Aunt Augusta who was his lifeline after his parents deaths, for his valet and best friend, Ben, and most of all for Lizzie. He sees in Lizzie a kindred spirit who understands him in a way no one else does except Aunt Augusta and Ben. Devlin is, without a doubt, a thoroughly masculine alpha male, but he isn't afraid to exhibit just enough vulnerability to also make him thoroughly human, which is a combination I can never resist.
I relate to Lizzie so much, because she is a lot like me, with a just little less fear and a little more spunk. I adored her all throughout the first four books when she was just a shy, bookish companion to Jacinda Knight, but in Devil Takes a Bride, Lizzie definitely comes into her own. She has always been rather invisible, caught between two classes and never really belonging to either, but in this book she earns all the love and attention she so richly deserves. What's even better is that Dev (and Alec) realized how much she merited her moment in the spotlight every bit as much as I did. I have to say that in those earlier books in the series, I had really liked Lizzie with Alec. In my opinion, they made a great couple, and I thought that for sure they would end up together eventually. I was rather sad when Alec hurt Lizzie so badly at the end of book #4, but Dev turned out to be far more than just a consolation prize. Until reading her book, I don't think I would have guessed the kind of passionate spirit Lizzie had within her. Alec's thoughtlessness had nearly jaded her completely toward men, and the determined bluestocking had decided to make it on her own for the rest of her life, until Dev came along to stir up her emotions again. Lizzie is simply a wonderful combination of gentility and tenderness toward anyone who needs it, intuitiveness and intense passion toward the man she loves, and ardent fortitude toward the world at large, making her one of the most perfect heroines I have ever read.
The secondary cast was equally as well-developed as Dev and Lizzie. Since Alec and Lizzie had unfinished business, so to speak, I was not at all surprised to see him resurface in Devil Takes a Bride, being his usual charming self, except now with a jealous streak added, after he realized what a huge mistake he'd made. I adored Aunt Augusta, a bit of a bluestocking in her own right, who was tough-minded enough to have made her way in life quite nicely after the death of her husband, and yet still thought the sun rose and shone with her much-favored nephew, Devlin. Even though she thought she had failed in guiding him through his grief, she actually did far more for him that she may have known. I only wish she could have had more scenes. Ben was also a wonderful characters, and I was very impressed with the author's choice to place a freed American slave not only in the position of Dev's trusted valet, but his most treasured friend as well. She even gave a hint of a blossoming interracial romance for him by the end of the book. Mary Harris was another strong female character whose courageous actions saved lives on more than one occasion. She was much like Lizzie in that she was tender-hearted enough to raise a child who wasn't biologically hers for twelve years, yet spunky enough to take on the bad guys almost single-handedly. The young girls, Sorscha and Daisy brought innocence and light to the story, and Aunt Augusta's spoiled cat, Pascha, was a hoot. Even the trio of dastardly villains, while certainly not likable, were rather intriguing in their own way. Each had very different personalities which blended seamlessly into the motives for their evil deeds.
Devil Takes a Bride is quite simply one of the best romance novels I have ever read, with all the elements there to make it great. There are many marvelous scenes in the book such as Dev and Lizzie's first sensual interaction which was filled with tenderness and a deep trusting intimacy that was a joy to read, or Dev finally coming to terms with his parent's deaths which was heartbreakingly cathartic. I can't really say that Gaelen Foley is known for her humor, but there was even a pretty good dose of that in this book. I'm not usually a fan of love triangles, but Ms. Foley managed to make one that was so endearing, I couldn't help but like it. Devlin and Alec's antics in vying for Lizzie's affections brought tears of mirth to my eyes. There was also a scene in which Devlin kidnaps Lizzie that was equal parts wry humor and dark sensuality, a heady combination. The only small issue I had with the book is a long passage of dialog that comes right before the consummation of Dev and Lizzie relationship, where Dev confesses his true involvement with the villains and the whole story of his family's deaths to Lizzie. I thought that the passage was equally as well-written as the rest of the book and the placement made sense, as the couple's long drive to the countryside was a perfect opportunity for conversation, yet it still seemed to interrupt the sexual tension of the moment. Overall though, this was a very minor thing in an otherwise wonderful story. Devil Takes a Bride is the fifth book in the Knight Miscellany series, and all the Knight siblings, their spouses and families put in an appearance, with the exception of the still errant Jack. Jacinda and Billy (Lady of Desire) and of course, Alec (One Night of Sin) actually have secondary roles, but none of the others have any dialog except for a very brief conversation between Lucien and Alec in the epilogue. Devil Takes a Bride was a well-rounded, engaging read that I cannot recommend highly enough, and one which I had an extremely difficult time putting down. Gaelen Foley is one of the most consistently good romance authors that I have found to date, and I'm eagerly looking forward to continuing this series, and reading about Alec's HEA very soon.
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