I've read Heyer's These Old Shades earlier this year (my review was a part of the Heyer Season and I loved it. I couldn't wait to get my hands on the sequel - The Devil's Cub - and now that I have I think I love it even more than TOS.
Intelligent, practical Mary Challoner knew wicked Dominic Alastair, Marquis of Vidal, wouldn''t marry her sister, despite her mother''s matchmaking schemes. So Mary coolly prepared to protect her sister by deceiving Vidal. But she certainly hadn''t expected the infuriated nobleman to kidnap her! Reluctantly awakening to his responsibility—and realizing just how serious Mary was about her virtue—Vidal proposed marriage.
But after all the carefully laid wedding plots he''d dodged, Vidal had never expected to be refused by a chit! Baffled, bewitched and frustratingly tempted, Vidal swore that Mary would be his wife. Even if it was the last thing either of them ever did…
Vidal, Avon and Leonie's son is a rake and possesses his mother fiery temper. He has a loving relationship with his mother, who is forever saying it's not his fault that he gets in trouble but the fact that he inherited her spirit, and a more distant relationship with his father, to whom he feels must prove something.
Vidal is currently very interested in a young lady of a respectable family but whose less than respectable behaviour has led him to feel he can seduce her with no honourable intentions. The young lady, however, has an older and wiser sister who decides to ruin Vidal's plans by going with him pretending to be her sister and later uncover the ruse and showing him to be the victim of a malicious joke.
Unfortunately Vidal doesn't get annoyed and send her back as she expected, in fact he gets so mad that he decides to take her along with him. If he can't have one sister he will have the other. But Mary Challoner is not a heroine who quietly accepts being ordered about or manhandled and soon Vidal realises that not only he has met his match but also that Mary is a respectable woman and marriage is the only option. Now if he could just convince her of that...
There are many fabulous scenes in this book, Heyer writes great dialog and one just can't help laughing out loud in many of them as Mary and Vidal constantly challenge each other. After their first confrontation and when Vidal decides he will marry her, Mary is forever trying to avoid him because she feels she is not good enough for him. She believes his family would be dead set against the match and she has no option but to run away leading Vidal and his immediate family on a search for her across France. The final scene at the inn was lovely, engaging and emotional. Mary is the cool, sensible one, she is smart and independent, and she instintively knows how to deal with Vidal. He is the impetuous one, agressive and domineering, used to having his own way he doesn't realise how well Mary understands his temper and with subtlety uses that knowledge.
It was nice to see Leonie all grown up and with a dignified manner, even if she hasn't lost her spirit, and Avon as a concerned and loving father, without losing any of his authocratic manners. And there's a whole lot of secondary characters from both Vidal and Mary's family who are just delightful to read about, the scene between Leonie and Mary's mother, between Vidal and his cousin, there are too many to list really so I really recommend this read to everyone.
Want a little bit of dialog as a teaser? Here you go:
He stopped short. "Where did you get that thing?" he demanded.
"Out of your coach," she answered.
"Is it loaded?"
"I don't know," said Miss Challoner, incurably truthful.
He began to laugh again, and walked forward. "Shoot then," he invited, "and we shall know. For I'm coming several steps nearer, my lady."
Miss Challoner saw that he meant it, shut her eyes, and resolutely pulled the trigger. There was a deafening report and the Marquis went staggering back. He recovered in a moment. "It was loaded," he said coolly.