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on 24 July 2017
A great ending to a lovely series. Stephanie Laurens has a great sense of writing for her public, always follows through and this is no exception.
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on 20 May 2009
Stephanie Laurens' Bastion Club series of novels have generally been good reads, and 'Mastered by Love' was no different. Focusing on the spymaster, Dalziel, it follows his first few months as the new Duke of Wolverstone following the unexpected death of his father. Estranged for sixteen years, Dalziel/Royce regrets that he didn't have a chance to repair matters with his father, especially as his work as a spymaster had finished and he would shortly have been returning home.

When Royce returns to his home, Wolverstone, he finds everything ably managed by his chatelaine, Minerva Chesterton. He remembers Minerva as a young girl when he left, one who followed him around; she has grown up rather considerably in the intervening sixteen years and runs his home ably. When society requires Royce to marry, he is given a list of possible brides. However, he very quickly realises that Miranda is the woman for him - only will he be able to persuade her?

What was particularly good about this book was the way in which Stephanie Laurens described Royce taking up the mantle of duke and learning how his estate works, relating with his tenants and carrying out the daily business of a duke. His relationship with Minerva was believable, if occasionally requiring a few stretches of imagination. What didn't work for me was the sub-plot of the baddie, the final traitor that Royce has been hunting; very little book space was given to this part of the plot so it felt rather rushed, as if it were included just to create some kind of dramatic tension at the end. Still, overall it was a good enough read, with some nods toward historicity even if the behaviour of some characters felt a little unlikely.

Originally published for Curled Up With A Good Book © Helen Hancox 2009
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 September 2010
"Mastered by love is the ninth and last of the Bastion Club series of nine regency romances, counting the prequel.

The Bastion Club series starts immediately after the battle of Waterloo, as described in "The Lady Chosen: Bastion Club Series, Book 1," as seven officers who have served Britain during the Napoleonic wars, first in the guards and latterly as spies, agree to support one another in time of peace. And particularly, as they all need to marry, they set up the Bastion Club as a place where they can meet away from the "matchmaking mamas" of the Ton and ensure that each has the best chance of finding the wife who is right for him, not some simpering, hen-witted teenage debutante thrown at him by society.

In the that book and the following six, each of the seven Bastion Club members finds his bride:

1) The Lady Chosen, (Tristan Wemyss and Leonora Carling)
2) A Gentleman's Honor, (Tony Blake and Alicia "Carrington")
3) A Lady of His Own (Bastion Club), (Charles St Austell and Penelope Selborne)
4) A Fine Passion (Bastion Club Series), (Jack Warnefleet and Clarice Attwood)
5) To Distraction (Bastion Club Series), (Jocelyn Deverell and Phoebe Malleson)
6) Beyond Seduction (Bastion Club), (Gervase Tregarth and Madeline Gascoigne)
7) The Edge of Desire (Bastion Club Series), (Christian Allardyce and Letitia Randall).

There is also a prequel, set in 1811, called Captain Jack's Woman (Bastion Club) in which a lady dressed as a boy becomes involved with the ringleader of a gang of smugglers ...

At the end of the book, "The Edge of Desire" the last of the seven members of the Bastion Club to find his bride, Christian Allardice, Marquis of Dearne, has just done so. In the epilogue to that volume, which sets up "Mastered by love" attention turns to the one important character in the series still single: the sinister boss who had headed their spy network. None of the Bastion Club members know his real identity: a character who does know lets slip that his given name is Royce, but he is only known in the first eight books as "Dalziel."

The epilogue to "The Edge of Desire" is set on the last day of Dalziel's sixteen year career as Britain's top spymaster, running agents who spied on Napoleon and catching spies and traitors working for the French emperor. Having completed that job, he was closing down the department, and was about to resume his normal life, which he intended to start by trying to make peace with with his father.

Royce hadn't spoken to his father since accepting the position of Britain's spymaster sixteen years before, his father considered espionage to be dishonorable and beneath the dignity of one of the noblest family lines in England. And over those sixteen years Royce used a name from his mother's side of the family, "Dalziel" as an alias instead of either his real name the courtesy title to which he was entitled as heir to an ancient peerage.

But now that Britain's greatest enemy had been banished to St Helena, and almost all the traitors who passed information to him have been caught and punished, Royce no longer needs to hide behind that alias. He was about to ride north to his family's castle in the Cheviot Hills to see if it was possible to heal the breach when a messenger arrived from his ancestral home and addressed him as "Your Grace." Those two words told Royce that there could be no reconciliation now with his father: they indicate that Royce has inherited the Dukedom.

At the start of this book Royce returns to his ancestral home as the new Duke, and finds it in the care of a chatelaine, Minerva Chesterton, who had been no more than a girl when he last saw her sixteen years before.

As the grande dames of society from Devil Cynster's mum downwards line up to advise Royce that he must marry some young deb at once to protect the ducal line, the new Duke of Wolverstone has ideas of his own. If he has to marry, there is someone much more interesting a lot closer to hand. But Royce is not the only person who has other ideas ...

Most of the Bastion Club stories are 50% romance and 50% detective mystery, as the Bastion Club members work with Dalziel to catch various criminals, spies and traitors who usually also happen to be threatening the heroines of the books. The first 80% of this book is almost entirely romance, with occasional hints that there may be one last traitor to catch. But considering that in the previous books he has been the sinister spymaster and spycatcher, Royce seems surprisingly slow to recognise that there may be a threat to him and the woman he wants as his bride - until it may be too late ...

Stephanie Laurens has a brilliant pen, but she is in danger of becoming to the genre of Regency and Georgian historical romances what Douglas Reeman is to Royal Navy fiction or Robert Ludlum to spy thrillers. E.g. a highly competent and entertaining writer, who has successfully published many best-sellers, but whose plots are so similar as to put her in danger of being accused of bringing out fifty variants of the same book. I was really hoping that the mysterious Dalziel might be a little more subtle than the heroes of most of her recent books, and that the heroine might have a different set of dilemmas in deciding whether to accept him. This book would have been the ideal opportunity to try a different plot, and the opportunity was largely missed.

As a resident myself of what in Regency times was the historic Border county of Cumberland (now part of the modern county fo Cumbria), I found the quality of the homework in the book to be a bit patchy, particularly about the distinctive character of the border country between England and Scotland.

The Dukedom of Woverstone is repeatedly referred to as a "Marcher Lordship" - which is a term which only applies to five earldoms on the WELSH border. On the Anglo-Scottish border, both English and Scots monarchs appointed Lord Wardens until the union of the crowns in 1603, with Wardens for the West, Middle and East marches reporting to them.

It is quite possible that, as this book suggests, the fictional Varisey family who went on to become Dukes of Wolverston might have been made Wardens of the middle march by successive Kings or Queens. However, this would have been an appointed office conferred by individual monarchs on individual Variseys, not a special privilege associated with the Dukedom equivalent to the status associated with the marcher lordships of history, e.g. the earldoms of Chester, Gloucester, Hereford, Pembroke and Shrewsbury on the Welsh border.

This liberty with the truth is one of two reasons why a minor part of the plot of the book - e.g. the reason given by the Grande Dames who want Royce to marry as soon as possible, which I won't describe in detail here to avoid spoiling the story - fails to make any historical sense.

There is a second and even stronger reason the pressure which is put on Royce to marry quickly doesn't make a lot of sense, which again I can't give in detail to avoid spoiling the story. Let's just say that the assumption is that shadowy and sinister figures in the court are assumed to be plotting against Royce. Since he himself had been the country's principal spymaster for sixteen years, anyone who knew enough about the workings of government to be dangerous would know that Royce himself has been the most dangerous of all the sinister and shadowy figures in the government, and quite literally knows where all the bodies are buried: even in a court as notoriously eccentric as that around the Prince Regent, to plot against such a man would be extremely risky and to be avoided at all costs by anyone with the least scintilla of common sense.

Dalziel's real identity as given in this book also makes rather a nonsense of those passages in earlier Bastion Club novels where we are told that the members of the club did not know who he really was. Given that we now know Royce was the heir to one of the most ancient and noble titles in the English peerage, and was appointed to his post partly on the grounds that his wide range of contacts would help him to recruit a good spy network, and since the club members are themselves sufficiently well connected that they have all inherited peerages, it is rather preposterous that not one of them would have recognised him.

Indeed, we were told in "The Edge of Desire" that half the most prominent ladies of the ton knew perfectly well who "Dalziel" was, including the heroine of that book, but all of them have obeyed an unspoken edict not to tell anybody.

There is a saying that "three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead" and a secret which was known to such a large chunk of society would hardly stay secret for long.

Admittedly most of the Bastion Club members were originally younger sons or cousins, who did not expect to inherit their titles, but the world of the nobility and the haut ton was simply too small - there were fewer than 300 members of the House of Lords at the time of the Bastion Club books - to make it plausible that not one of them would have known the heir to a Dukedom.

The other ludicrous feature of the book is that Royce has a half brother, e.g. an illegitimate son of the (English) ninth Duke who is described as a Scotsman and has the given name Hamish but the Irish surname O'Loughlin. If his mother was Irish then he is half English, half Irish and zero percent Scot, if his mother was a Scot what is he doing with an Irish surname? (The name O'Loughlin originates in County Clare.)

If you can put aside the implausibility of the plot, and its' similarity to that of many of her other books, this one is reasonably well written and entertaining. But I do think that Stephanie Laurens should be capable of better than recycling slightly different versions of the same storyline.
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on 14 August 2009
I've not written a review before, but having ploughed my way through Ms Laurens' latest opus, I just had to put fingers to keyboard and register my severe disappointment in it. I have been reading her books since I found the first Cynster novel in a bookshop in Singapore back in 2003, and have faithfully bought and read (and re-read) every one since then. Despite the most recent books all having exactly the same plot and what are becoming drearily repetitive sex scenes (if I have to read the words "blatant", "flagrant" or "evocative" once more, I shall scream), I enjoy them. For the sake of a good story I can generally forgive a lot.

But this most recent book is such a disappointment. Other people have written very eloquently about the ridiculous-ness of the plot line that stipulates Royce Varisey (anyone else unable to shake off visions of The League of Gentlemen's Royston Vaisey whenever they read that? Just me then...) should drop everything and marry immediately, so I won't go over that again. I'll just say that for me, it is impossible to believe that the Dalziel we meet (oh, and his name should be pronounced Dee-yell, by the way, and not Dall-zeel, as Jack Warnefleet seems to be about to do at one point) is the same man who successfully ran a spy network for 16 years. I know that the standard plot of a Laurens novel is that the hero should take one look at the heroine and decide they're meant to be together and the only way he can show her that is to carry her off to his bedchamber and ravish her thoroughly every ten pages thereafter, but I really hoped this one would be different. It's not.

My main frustration was the lack of a decent setting. It was all so generic. I am a displaced Borderer, so I was delighted to read that Royce's ancestral home is in the shadow of the Cheviot Hills. Goodie, I thought, a chance for a bit of cross-border excitement. Not a bit of it! The Border might as well not have existed for all the notice the characters took of it. And as for Royce's illegitimate half-brother, well can I just say that I've never heard of a Scottish (or English) Borderman called Hamish O'LOUGHLIN!! What?!? I'll just about allow the name Hamish, despite the fact that the first time it's actually recorded in print is in 1827, 11 years after this book's supposed setting. But an Irish surname? No, no, no.

There was absolutely no attempt to evoke the unique atmosphere and history of the Borderlands, other than vague references to Royce as a "Marcher Lord" - a term which is more usually associated with the Welsh Border, not the Scottish Border. The local yokels speak generic "mummerset" when they speak at all, instead of the distinctive Northumberland dialect they should use. A little background research would have been so simple but as far as I can see, Ms Laurens stuck a pin in a map of Britain and dumped her stock plot into the setting she landed on, regardless of whether or not it actually fitted.

Such a shame. I've been a genuine fan of the all Ms Laurens' books, but I've come close to wall-banging this one a few times. Could do better.
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on 7 December 2014
The last in this particular series and was a strong story, enjoyable for the romance and the dangerous bit of unfinished business for the new Duke of Wolverstone. If left you wanting to know more about how his marriage worked out and best of all you have glimpses in the later Cynster and Black Cobra novels.
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on 5 March 2015
Stephanie Laurens Fan, Love the Bastion Club books, has a bit of everything, Mystery, Love, great story lines with people you already know from other books
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When you read Stephanie Laurens books, you feel you are involved, Dalziel was one of my favourites, keep them coming
all her books are wonderful
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on 29 June 2014
Got this book for my Granny when come in the post on date said she was so happy. She start reading at day
She says it as a good story line.
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on 9 September 2009
I have been waiting for the Daziel book with great anticipation and well I rather wish it hadn't been written and we could then have just used our imaginations.

Sadly it was a very dissapointing end to a superb series which I read again and again, this one will not be read again. I really felt it wasn't written with the same passion and enjoyment. The plotting was weak and very flimsy and the denoument predictable. Such a real shame! I will be very cautious in future when buying S Laurens books.
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on 12 October 2010
I have just finished reading this book and can honestly say that it was an amazing read. I read so many negative reviews prior to purchasing Mastered by Love that I very nearly didn't bother with it.
However, I'm glad I did as it is possibly one of the better stories written by Stephanie Laurens. Would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical romances.
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