Sunday Salon: Stephanie Laurens

I recently discovered Laurens’ Regency period romance novels in the public library at home. I read three of her novels in December and have read an additional four so far this month. I started with her Bastion Club series, but have since moved on to her Lester Family series and the Cynster series. So far, I appear to either really enjoy or think her books are just okay. There seems to be little middle ground for me. The four reviewed below are the ones I enjoyed the most.

The Lady Chosen, the first in the Bastion Club series, was incidentally the first book by Laurens I read. The story follows the Earl of Trentham, Tristan, who needs to wed within a year or forfeit his inheritance. With time running out, he becomes determined to wed the daughter of his neighbor, Miss Leonora Carling. His chosen bride-to-be is not at all interested in marriage and rejects Tristan outright; her reasons are part of the mystery in this book along with why her house is being targeted by burglars.

Yet there is an attraction between them, one that Leonora is convinced will fade with time. Given her hesitation, Tristan makes Leonora a deal: if she agrees to continue to be his lover for the next month and finds that at month’s end the attraction has faded, he will stop pursuing her. If not, Leonora must agree to marry him.

The mystery of the burglaries and sabotage is supposed to give this novel some semblance of plot through the continued seduction of Lenora. It has certainly takes a back seat to the main point of the novel, leading to a rather anti-climactic ending in that regard. Still, it’s one of the first books I’ve managed to finish since October so it deserves points in that regard.

The Reasons for Marriage, the first in the Lester Family series, introduces readers to Miss Lenore Lester, a woman perfectly content with managing her brother’s estate and remaining inconspicuous to her guests. She’s never had a Season, never been presented, and rather enjoys that fact.

The Duke of Eversleigh, Jason, arrives for one of her brother’s notorious house parties and sees right through her fake glasses and unfashionable dresses. He wants to know exactly why she has decided to hide herself, but decides instead to point of the follies in her plan. Namely, how does she expect to manage her brother’s estate when he gets married and his wife takes over?

Jason offers Lenore a marriage of convenience; she can stay retired in the country and run his household while he enjoys his life as it currently in London after assuring his familial line. Of course, things begin to run amuck as miscommunication runs abound. Their “marriage of convenience” evolves but neither of them wants to upset the other by demanding something more. I thought Laurens’ did a fantastic job of showing the evolution of both characters throughout the novel, and I rather liked that the focus was on romance rather than sex like some of her other novels.

The Taste of Innocence, the fourteenth book in the in the Cynster series, begins with Charles the Earl of Meredith determined not to fall in love having seen how the emotion destroyed his father, his family, and his fortune. He offers for the daughter of his neighbor, but Sarah is unwilling to wed him unless it is for love. Her parents, oddly enough, support her in this decision, and it is only after Charles spends an intense two weeks courting her both in public and in private that she agrees to marry him.

Sarah has fallen in love with Charles even before their wedding night, but he remains coldly aloof towards her during the day. At night, in the privacy of their shared bedroom, he is different, and Sarah is desperate to get him to show that side in public. It is only after Sarah and her beloved orphanage falls under a series of attacks does Charles begin to realize how much not admitting his love is costing him.

This novel managed to combine the intrigue Laurens are trying to go for in The Lady Chosen with the romance found The Reasons for Marriage. Once again, I found myself enjoyed the changes in the characters as the plot progressed. But this time, I was entirely intrigued by the mystery as well. It kept me guessing until the very end of the novel, which I was not at all expecting.

Finally, the second book in the Bastion Club series, A Gentleman’s Honor, is the last book by Laurens I have read. This one follows Anthony “Tony” Blake, Viscount Torrington, after his discovery of Mrs. Alicia Carrington standing over a dead body, dagger in hand, at a soiree fit for the Ton. The deceased man, a Mr. Rankin, had been blackmailing Mrs. Carrington, and Tony is desperate to discover why as he sets out to find out who really killed Mr. Rankin.

Alicia is desperate to keep her identity as secret. She has been poising as Mrs. Carrington, the perfect chaperone for her younger sister who the orphaned family desperately needs to make a good match. But one aspect of being a wealthy widowed that Alicia did not expect is how willing the Ton is to turning a blind eye towards widows becoming mistresses, nor did she expect how willing she would be to becoming Tony’s mistress.

This one is definitely my favorite of those in the Bastion Club series that I have read. The villain remained a mystery to me until the very end, and his villainy was believable compared to some of the other villains Laurens has created. Tony was by far the best male lead Laurens has created, as well. I also enjoyed seeing how resourceful Alicia and her sister, Adrianna, were; so-called independent women who were actually independent!

Books Mentioned:

  • Laurens, Stephanie. A Gentleman’s Honor. New York: Avon, 2004. Print. 441 pgs. ISBN: 9780060002077. Source: Library.
  • Laurens, Stephanie. The Lady Chosen. New York: Avon, 2003. Print. 446 pgs. ISBN: 9780060002060. Source: Library.
  • Laurens, Stephanie. The Reasons for Marriage. Surrey, England: Severn House Publishers, 1995. Print. 298 pgs. ISBN: 9780727869449. Source: Library.
  • Laurens, Stephanie. The Taste of Innocence. New York: William Marrow, 2007. Print. 396 pgs. ISBN: 9780060840860. Source: Library.

The Sunday Salon:

The Sunday Salon.com The Sunday Salon encourages bloggers to get together –at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones– every Sunday and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another’s blogs. Salon participants are encouraged to blog about their time spent reading, pages read, information about current reading, discuss a reaction to a book, state what they plan to read the following week, or make suggestions for a group read.

Book Covers © Avon, Severn House Publishers, and William Marrow. Retrieved: January 5, 2013.
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