Stephanie Laurens has done it again. Or, as she in fact wrote it earlier in her career (this was the second book Laurens ever wrote), she has set the precedent for her future work. A well written, fast paced Regency Romance - in fact four for the price of one.
Max Rotherbridge inherited more than a dukedom on the death of his father eighteen months previous to the opening of the book - unknown to him he also inherited 4 wards. An established rake, he is initially dismayed to learn of his responsibilities, but dismay quickly turns into something else when he is presented with the eldest of the four sisters, Caroline Twinning.
It appears that Twinnings have something of a thing for rakes, as the four gorgeous sisters cut a swath through the ton and have the men at their feet. They may seem young, with the exception of 26 year old Caroline, but their eighteen months in America have given them a great deal of polish, and the freedom to discover what it is they really want in life.
This is a truly delightful tale and for me the principle enjoyment is the relationship between the females in the story. Set in a time when women rarely triumphed, here Caroline and her sisters Sarah, Arabella & Lizzy, their chaperone (Max's aunt) and the friends they make in London are able to set their goals, pursue and obtain them - even if it takes a little scheming and risk to get what they want. Each is a true character in their own right, and yet takes comfort in the relationship with their sisters (in the modern sense). Their story is told with a great deal of humour and style.
There has to be some sacrifice in squeezing four stories into one volume. This is firstly that Caroline and Max's is the main romance - the other three are something more than subplots and yet slightly less than a fully developed story in their own right. And finally, of course, is the improbability that all four romances should resolve themselves at the same time. To some extent this is satisfactorily dealt with by making the suitors either friends or relatives of Max. Each romance develops with a different plan of attack, and the charming thing is that although more confident than the typical deb, none of the four women are sure they will be able to hold out for marriage, as they themselves fall in love.
If you enjoy romance and the Regency genre, you will enjoy this well written example. Regular readers of Laurens will not be disappointed - I certainly wasn't.