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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fifth in the "Bastion Club" regency romance series, 20 Nov. 2010
This review is from: To Distraction: Number 5 in series (Bastion Club) (Paperback)
This book is the fifth in the "Bastion Club" romance/espionage series if you don't count the prequel, "Captain Jack's Woman."

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 most of them need to marry, they found 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 miss thrown at him by society.

In the that book and the following six, all set between 1815 and 1816, each of the seven Bastion Club members finds his bride, as follows:

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 (A Bastion Club), Jack Warnefleet and Clarice Attwood
5) This book, To Distraction, 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.

As mentioned, there is a prequel, Captain Jack's Woman (Bastion Club) which is set a few years earlier, in 1811. The prequel fills in a story hinted at in "A Gentleman's honour" when it was mentioned that Tony Blake, hero of that book, had been rescued from drowning in mysterious circumstances by Kathryn (Kit), who is the wife of a close friend and colleague of the Bastion Club members.

And in the last volume Mastered By Love (Bastion Club), we find out who their mysterious former boss, the spymaster "Dalziel" really is, and it's his turn to find his lady.

At the start of this book, Jocelyn Deverell (known to friends and family alike as "Deverell", but he is also Viscount Paignton) has approached his aunt Audrey for advice in finding a wife.

Like all the Basion Club members, Deverell has no wish to marry some innocent teenage deb, having spent more than ten years working undercover as a spy. His aunt, who appreciates this, points out that "The ladies who would suit you are no more enamoured of the marriage mart than you are: you won't find them eating stale cakes at Almacks."

The good news is that Aunt Audrey can recommend an ideal bride for Jocelyn: the bad news is that if he should not expect persuading her to marry him to be easy. Audrey explains that "It's not a question of whether she is the perfect wife for you - rest assured she is. It's a question of whether you can persuade her that YOU are the perfect husband for HER."

As a wealthy, titled and handsome war hero, Deverell's problem up to now has been fending off far too many would-be brides, so he was not expecting to hear this, but if anything Audrey has understanded the challenge. Phoebe Malleson is everything that Aunt Audrey says, including being as skilled at avoiding matrimony as almost any heroine in regency romance fiction (with the possible exception of Lady Charlotte Haywood, heroine of Not Quite A Lady by Loretta Chase).

Phoebe and Deverell are very attracted to each other, but she remains committed to the single state. Despite the difficulty of persuading her to consider his suit, Deverell continues to seek her company, and discovers that she has a secret - a cause to which she is committed which involves helping a particular group of people in difficult circumstances. In the process Phoebe has made some very dangerous enemies, and is in grave danger of meeting a terrible fate ...

Can Deverell and his Bastion Club companions rescue her in time ?

This is a well-written and entertaining romance, but I do wish that Stephanie Laurens would use some of her considerable talents to think of more new plots. She is in danger of becoming to the genre of Georgian 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 at risk of being accused of bringing out fifty variants of the same book.

Essentially the romantic aspects of all the "Bastion Club" novels except for "Captain Jack's Woman," and indeed also of most of the author's "Bar Cynster" novels are minor variations on the same standard plot.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy the story.

If you're not too bothered about the formulaic storyline, I can therefore recommend this book.
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