So, I originally intended to do a bodice ripper reading challenge through Unapologetic Romance Readers this year...only I realized that 1) I was having difficulty finding ACTUAL bodice rippers, and 2) the challenge had actually started in October 2016 so I was already three months behind. So I ditched that, but still planned to read this book, which I found on a list of bodice rippers, to fulfill a category on my general romance reading challenge for the year. Well, um, this isn't a bodice ripper. Like, not at all. Bodice rippers typically feature dubious heroes who are actually pretty bad guys, foot-stamping, hair-tossing heroines, and usually some very dubiously consensual sex (lots of "traitorous body"s) if not outright rape. Devil's Bride doesn't feature any of that. While that's actually probably a good thing, it meant it didn't fit for the bodice ripper challenge category. Luckily, I'd recently done some shifting that had left my Regency romance category empty, so this will fit there, instead.
Honoria, our heroine, is a young woman of noble birth who spends her time as a finishing governess, preparing young women for their society debuts, in order to while away the years before she considers herself old enough to travel on her own. Her greatest dream is to visit Egypt and ride a camel in the shadow of the sphinx. The logistics of this are a bit hazy, as the Great Spinx of Giza wasn't entirely excavated until 1936 and in the time period the book takes place in, only its head and chest would have been visible, but I'll let that go. Her plans are thrown off when she discovers a young man dying in the road on her way back to her new employers' home, ends up spending a stormy night in a cabin with said dying young man and a mysterious other man who showed up and helped, and is subsequently discovered, finds out that the mystery man is the Duke of St. Ives, known as Devil (seriously), and he declares that she's going to marry him. Which Honoria does not want to do.
Devil mainly persuades Honoria to marry him through kissing her, proving he is a True Gentleman by refusing to have sex with her until she declares that she will, in fact, marry him. Then they have sex about every two pages. There's also the plot here that involves trying to discover the murderer of Tolly, who is the young man who died in the first chapter. I didn't really feel any chemistry between Devil and Honoria, despite all their making out, so this was all incredibly boring to me.
But mostly, I found this book sad. Why? Because I feel like Honoria totally lost herself to Devil. She wanted to travel. She wanted to see the sphinx. I don't think she wanted these things just because she was afraid of losing someone; that's not exactly the sort of thing someone usually compensates for by riding a camel in the shadow of the sphinx. But of course, as soon as Devil says no, Honoria completely gives up on it. She starts submitting to Devil in so many other ways, too, that I just felt like she lost so much of what made her Honoria. It was very sad, to me. Does this happen in other historical romance books? Maybe. Probably. But I feel like it's never as obvious or pronounced as it is here, so it hit me particularly hard. I just feel so bad for her. It really soured the entire book for me, how instead of, I don't know, going on a trip with her, Devil just said no, and that was that. I was so hoping this would end with a joint trip to Egypt, but no...nothing.
Overall this was disappointing. I've read Laurens before and have a few more of hers, but I haven't been dazzled with them, and this was no different.
2 stars out of 5.