MIRA, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7783-1765-4
Historical Romance, 2015 (Reissue)
By Winter’s Light takes place before the last two books by Stephanie Laurens, but it was first published in hardcover and only now is it available in mass market paperback. So, the characters who were married by the end of the previous books are still single here, and people who are reading this out of order – like me – have only themselves to blame for being too cheap to buy hardcover books.
This is a Christmas cash-in story, so while there is a romance highlighted in the back cover synopsis, the whole thing is actually fanservice in action. I was drawn into picking up this book because of the promised romance: Daniel Crosbie, who tutors the Cynster boys, is in love with Claire Meadows, the governess to the Cynster daughters. He has been offered a generous pay raise to serve as Lucifer Cynster’s personal assistant once all the boys head off to Eton, so he is in a good position to ask Claire to marry him. Alas, she cannot bring herself to trust any man ever again, so she knows that the two of them must never, ever be.
Yes, that’s the whole drama. Claire’s mistrust of men is just that. For a long time. I thought she had some good reason to be all “Never again!” with Daniel – maybe she’s had some kind of sexual trauma, or maybe she has vagina dentata, or something. Alas, no, she just doesn’t think that she can trust a man ever again, hence her whole flailing around acting like there is a dog humping her leg and she can’t shake it off. The whole thing turns out to be a waste of time.
The rest of the story – the bulk of the story, actually – deals with the Cynsters who have come to Scotland to rusticate for the holidays. These are such a prolific bunch, I’m sure they have bred on one another enough spawns to populate the whole of Greenland. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a Cynster book, and I recall that they are the original historical-era Black Dagger Brotherhood, with hideously awful nicknames only in correct spelling. Let’s see, there are Devil, Lucifer, Satan, Beelzebub, Diablo, Barnaby, Hippopotamus… anyway, who cares, they are all the same guy, and they all marry the same kind of woman.
Here, there are six, seven, or 29 brats, and hilariously enough, the author has made sure that there is always an older boy to each girl. Oh, and the boys all go to ride their horses while the girls keep the house clean and pretty up the place. I’m not kidding. I recall some of the Cynster wives starting out as feisty “I want to have premarital sex in the spirit of adventure!” imbecile types, so it’s rather sad, actually, to see them maintaining such a traditional household for their brats. I guess it’s true for these women – “feminism” and “independence” are all childish games to pass the time until they land a husband.
Why am I pointing out all this? Because that is all there is here. Day by day accounts of these people talking, doing things, hee-hee’ing and ha-ha’ing around, while throwing at my faces how blissfully happy and shagged out all the married couples are. The kids show up simply to be shepherded around like… well, sheep, with the girls all giggling and planning to make Claire and Daniel happen. Since I have zero care to give about these people, I find By Winter’s Light a stupefying pointless read.
Get this only if you really need confirmation that your darling Cynster BFFs are still going strong, breeding and gestating while acting deliriously happy until god knows when.