14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Pre-Cynster Laurens: much better writing, but flawed,
This review is from: Four in Hand (Mass Market Paperback)
Stephanie Laurens is a talented writer and also reasonably knowledgeableabout her period, but in recent years she's been wasting that talentwriting 'historical romances' which are little more than Black Lace booksin disguise. This book, however, is one of her earlier romances, writtenat a time when she was still trying to stay true to the Regencyperiod.
This is somewhat reminiscent of Georgette Heyer's Regency Buck, in that wehave an arrogant, rakish lord who discovers that, along with the title hehas recently inherited (in this case, Duke of Twyford), he has alsoinherited some wards. Here, his wards are four beautiful sisters, allunmarried, all wealthy and all, he knows, who will be the targets of everyrake in town. He himself is hugely attracted to the eldest Miss Twinning,Caroline, and finds himself plotting to make her his mistress. Were shereally his ward, it would be contrary to any sense of honour - even hishonour - to seduce her, but under the terms of her parents' will, she isof age and so not his ward. Yet he pretends to her that she is, so thathe'll be free to be with her without any suspicion.
There are four romances in this book but, as some other reviewers havenoted, none of them is really satisfying. In an attempt to fit them allin, Laurens rushes through crucial developments - such as her heroesactually realising that they are in love with the women they're pursuing.Even Max - Twyford - whose story is the main one appears to fall in lovewithout the readers ever realising how this momentous event happens. Oneminute he is pursuing Caroline in order to make her his mistress; the next(and this is quite early in the book) we see him musing that seducing heris no longer his primary aim. Why not? What made him fall in love? Wedon't know, because Laurens doesn't show us. Similarly with Lord Darcy,the suitor of Sarah Twinning: Sarah rejects his attempts at seduction, andhe gives up, retiring to his Irish estate in order to show her that he'slost interest. And yet he comes back and pursues her again. Why? With whatobject?
This book does show signs of the pattern Laurens fell into with herCynster books: her heroes all seem to fall in love too quickly, withoutany showing on Laurens' part of why and how this happens. Given the rushednature of the individual love stories, which does leave readersunsatisfied, she would have been better advised to have made it afour-book series, culminating in Max and Caroline's story. Nevertheless,it's an entertaining read, and definitely far, far better than themajority of her later work.