In fact the reviewer specifically says:
Quite honestly, romance simply doesn’t get any better than this.Uhm... Maybe she should have qualified that with "in [her] opinion" because romance does, often and usually, get a lot better in my opinion. Quite a lot better.
Devil's Cub was originally published in 1932. Ms. Heyer is credited with writing witty and well-researched stories, and indeed, I have no quarrel with her writing style even though I did find it sometimes difficult to keep up with the double, triple and even quadruple negatives used to make a point (how many negatives make a positive again?). Her books are being reprinted by HQN - and are apparently in big demand, as I ended up paying full price at a book store!
The Cub in question is Dominic, Marquis of Vidal, son of the Duke and Duchess of Avon. He's a rake, a rogue, in all ways a demanding, spoiled young man given to drink, loose women and duels that he wins by killing his fellow duelist, usually over cards or some other slight not worth someone's life. He has been wooing young Sophia Challoner - a pretty 18-year-old miss bent on making a good marriage with the Duke, in full support of her scheming mamma.
Sophia's just-older sister, Mary, is not as pretty but much more educated and wise in the ways of the world. Somehow - it wasn't clear to me how - Mary realizes that Dominic plans to ruin Sophia and never marry her, and she does her best to keep them apart.
Dominic fights another duel after a drunken game of dice, and his father orders him to leave England to avoid prosecution for this almost-murder (the fellow hadn't died, yet). Dominic sends a note to Sophia asking her to accompany him to France.
Now - I sorta got a little lost here. I wasn't following the plot point that he only intended to ruin Sophia. He did things which smacked of courting - meeting her on walks, taking her to the theater, sending her this note, calling her his love. If I wasn't privy to Mary's POV, I would have understood he was indeed courting Sophia. And I also got the idea that Sophia was interested, in spite of being told, again from Mary's POV, that Sophia didn't really love Dominic but just wanted to trick him into marriage. OK. So you gotta buy those 2 assumptions.
Mary intercepts the note, and hatches a plan to foil the lovers - she will meet Dominic in Sophia's place and tell him that she and Sophia planned only to make a fool of him, and she assumes he will be disgusted with Sophia and her and throw her out and forget about Sophia.
She dons a mask and meets him, he puts her in a coach and takes her to the coast where he discovers her plan. He is enraged and tries to strangle her (and this is supposed to be side-splittingly humorous?) and forces her onto the boat to cross the channel, figuring he'd as soon ruin Mary as Sophia. She is sea-sick the entire way - somehow I think one is supposed to realize he is taking care of her in a way out of character.
Once they reach France, she convinces him she was never in league with Sophia but only intended to thwart his ruin of her. Also she admits to herself she's actually been in love with him for weeks. Hello? When did that come about?? Stealing her sister's beau? I missed that little plot point all together.
He is suddenly overcome with what he has done and decides he must marry Mary to avoid her ruin, since it has become apparent to him she is indeed honorable and virginal and he would never ruin someone like her. Uh, he would ruin Sophia but not Mary? OK, I missed another plot point, once again, because I wasn't following the logic there.
Meanwhile we get to meet his mother, the heroine of the book These Old Shades. What an awful person she was. I truly disliked her the entire book. In her eyes, that scoundrel son really could do no wrong, everyone who said anything negative about him was deemed a liar, and she defended him way past what is normal even for mothers. Maybe someone else reading this found her to be funny, humorous, witty, whatever, but I found her to be a Stage Mother Supreme. The descriptions of his character were pretty clear to me - he was a murderer, a complete asshole when drinking, and held no regard for any woman except her - to a degree that was beyond Oedipal.
Ah, and there's Dominic's cousin Julianna, a school mate of Mary's, in love with a commoner, Frederick. What a twit she was. She was waaaay mean to Frederick and frankly didn't deserve him.
The rest of the story is everyone getting different accounts of Mary's abduction, and chasing around England and France to find Dominic and Mary and get their lives sorted out. Per the reviewer at AAR, this was "a love story that is as heart-achingly romantic as any I’ve ever come across" in which case I might recommend she keep reading. Not once did my heart ache - when Dominic theoretically "shows" his love for Mary the first time (ok, maybe the vomit scene was the first time) after he accidentally stabs her, I had to take the author's word on that because I did not Feel The Love. He does declare it later, but again I never once felt or saw the love bloom between the two - I only knew it because Heyer told me.
So (1) I did not feel the story was at all romantic and (2) I never felt moved to even smile, much less laugh. When I first finished, my inclination was to give it 3 stars, but now that I've written all this, it has slipped to 2 stars. Truly, I did not get out of this book what I want when I read. Mostly I was just annoyed at trying to figure out what was happening and why. And dang if there aren't 2 more by this same author in my AAR Top 100 Quest...