29 April 2009

Bar Cynster Challenge: The Promise In A Kiss

~click on cover to buy a copy~
Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Avon (November 5, 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061031755
ISBN-13: 978-0061031755


When a handsome man literally fell at her feet while she was walking through a moonlit convent courtyard, Helena knew he must have been there for a scandalous liaison. Yet she kept his presence a secret from the questioning nuns -- and for her silence the stranger rewarded her with an enticing, unforgettable kiss. What Helena didn't know was that her wild Englishman was Sebastian Cynster, Duke of St. Ives ... and that this dashing, dangerous nobleman was her destiny.

Seven years later, Sebastian spies Helena from across a crowded ballroom. This heiress is dazzling London society with her wit and beauty, tantalizing all the eligible men with the prospect of taking her hand in marriage. But Helena is not looking for just any husband. She wants an equal, a challenge -- someone who can live up to the promise of that delicious, never-forgotten kiss.


I can still remember going to the library in my early twenties, hoping for new arrivals in one of my favorite genres: the historical romance. When I went in one afternoon my first glance was at the table of new arrivals and I noticed the gleaming bright cover of the Dutch version of The Promise In A Kiss, shining like a new penny and beckoning me. My heartbeat increased in anticipation as my hands wrapped around the book. “Mine all mine” I thought and since our library only buys one copy of every book it was quite my lucky day. With a grin wider than the Grand Canyon I went to the desk to check it out, this was eight years ago and it seems like a lifetime!

I don’t think that I re-read this novel since that fateful day but the feeling lasted, imbedded in my memories and with my Bar Cynster challenge I wondered if I could be enchanted again with the romance of Helena and Sebastian. The matriarch and patriarch of a regency clan so well known within the genre it knows its equal in only a few other series.

I got my Dutch copy of the top shelves where only my most treasured Dutch historicals remain as the rest of my shelves is occupied by my English romance novels. And for the first time, in perhaps a year, I started reading in my native language again…


With a heart for true romance Stephanie Laurens created a worthy story for Sebastian and Helena. Since my first time reading this book I have changed and grown as a reader, still they symbolize for me the beginning of the series while this was not the first book written.

While I was still adjusting to reading the Dutch language again I got to the page where Sebastian and Helena met for the first time, I feel that their whole destiny is wrapped up in this scene. Their lives may have been very different if Sebastian wouldn’t have fallen from that tree, flat on his stomach, peering at Helena’s feet. I can’t help myself but I just love that scene, he is al brawn and confidence, she innocent but fiery, one look, one kiss, and subtly everything changed in that moment for the both of them.

When I was taken to a date seven years later Helena has grown in to a confident woman who was yearning to get some measure of freedom and control over her own life and she would do just about anything to obtain that. With a written promise of her guardian Fabien she travels to England and there, with the splendor of the ballrooms attended by the Ton, it takes a singular look onto a man to remember his kiss in the garden of the convent.

Sebastian has outgrown his days of climbing trees to steel an object for a dare as he has come into his power as the Duke of St. Ives. He stands at the head of a warm, loyal yet very curious and interfering family which is immediately felt throughout this novel. With his tall, muscular frame he looked around the ballroom and found the girl he never forgot in the face of a woman. This is where the present story begins, with one look across a ballroom they are inevitably drawn to each other but that wasn’t to say a happily ever after was on the next page. No, a hot-blooded game begun between two high-born people who were innate smart, commanding and bent on getting their way.

I don’t think that the Dutch language allows itself to be used in conveying the exact sentiment of a word or phrase which sometimes got me to laugh out loud at the translation. Still it is Helena and Sebastian who know how to capture my attention with an all consuming passion burning between them. A passion which is well matched by their headstrong personalities and they both play a high risk game.

There is a group of characters surrounding them and getting a degree of more or less attention but it is the deepening of Sebastian and Helena’s feelings that comes first and foremost. It is rich in its display, sensuous, vibrant and a tenacious connection that is as undeniable as the need for air. Because if there is one thing Stephanie Laurens displays in this novel is that a good kiss can be very hot and capitulating for both parties. I had forgotten how Laurens can steep her historical with this need, this absolute hunger for one another yet make the road to the moment of ‘I love you’ intriguing with scheming on the background and colorful personalities.

Though I have read the translation I feel that Stephanie Laurens has an easy going writing style yet passionate enough to draw me into the story. I can’t say that the story-plot stands above anything else, it is the Bar Cynster family with its multi-faceted personalities who attach me to this series and the desire to the see them happy. I love to celebrate love. To have two people struggle together but also find each other in alcoves for heated moments. Together in the end, with a fierce bond between their hearts, shinning like a new penny and knowing they will get through all life can throw at them.

A Promise In A Kiss is one of those stories you can utterly entertain yourself with. It is wealthy in enigmatic characters and contains a love that will sweep the reader to regency England! Feelings of the past mixed itself with this renewed reading experience and at the bottom line all I can say is that I got a lovely start in my Bar Cynster challenge.

Dutch quote Sebastian:
Zijn ogen waren heel blauw toen hij haar aankeek. ‘Ik wil dat het simpele antwoord dat je me uiteindelijk gaat geven, jóuw antwoord zal zijn, mignonne. Niet een antwoord dat logisch voortvloeit uit het afwegen van de voor tegen de nadelen, maar een antwoord dat echt voortvloeit uit jouw verlangen!

Dutch Quote:
Twee helften van dezelfde munt, samengesmeed door een macht die zelfs geen machtig man zou kunnen verbreken.

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  1. Great review Leontine! I also read this book in Dutch, a veeeeeeeeeeery long time ago! And one day I'll read the English original version.

    One question though: Will the original quotes in English follow or will it remain only the Dutch quotes?

    I do agree that the Dutch language doesn't entirely lend itself for the the impact some books can bring. Did this influence your rating of the book? (oops another question LOL)


  2. Hi Pearl,
    If I can find the translation I will add the English quotes to the post. It will probably sound jibberish to everyone else but I just had to add them. And to answer your next question LOL No I did not weigh the translation into my grading. Even if the English language might have added a bit more passion or expression or feeling to my reading experience the story and characters were good but not something that would justify giving it 4 stars.

    I am looking forward to reading Devil's story, the only feeling I get when thinking about his story is that butterfly feeling in stomach but can't remember exactly why LOL


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