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Book Review, Stephanie Laurens, The Lady’s Command (The Adventurers Quartet #1)

February 24, 2016

I’ve been reading Stephanie Laurens’ books for a long time now, and am well-versed on the Cynster clan and all of their many, many friends. While Laurens is a romance novelist, she has also written several series that blend romance with adventure and mystery plotlines. The Bastion Club and Black Cobra series, as well as the Casebook of Barnaby Adair, tended this way, and her new series, The Adventurers Quartet, seems to also be in this mold.

The other trend I have observed in Laurens’ recent work is that, as she’s moving chronologically out of the Regency and into the Victorian era, her couples are growing somewhat cookie cutter. They now all-too-rationally spend pages analyzing their feelings and making plans, and, while this is Romancelandia, there’s not all that much conflict between the couples. Even the sex scenes aren’t that sexy anymore (what on earth must Devil Cynster think of this?). The couples spend far too much time talking and recapping where they are both emotionally and in regard to whatever problem they are attempting to solve. Basically, strategic planning will get you everywhere, and even the villains will fall into line if you’ve done your research.

The Lady’s Command (published December 29, 2015) is the first book in the new series, and features Declan Frobisher, part of a shipping dynasty and occasional British spy, and his new wife Lady Edwina Delbraith. While their marriage is off to a smooth start, Declan is determined to keep his wife safe at home when he is asked to sail to Freeport, West Africa to investigate a series of mysterious disappearances. (And due credit to Laurens for setting the book somewhere you don’t normally see in a romance novel.) Edwina refuses to be left behind and stows away aboard his ship, and the couple re-evaluates their marriage while they investigate the disappearances, which appear related to the church services of a mysterious and charismatic preacher, Obo Undoto.

I liked this book much better as an adventure story than as a romance, and felt that the kidnapping plot was more interesting than the Declan and Edwina’s (endless) emotional negotiations. To a certain extent, I think this is because Laurens was trying too hard to shove Declan into the mold of her usual overprotective alpha hero and he didn’t quite fit. The reveal of the “villain,” however, was clever, and I loved the characters’ historically accurate response to Edwina’s being drugged with laudanum as no big deal (despite laudanum being an alcohol and opium tincture).

I would say if you would like to spend a pleasant afternoon on an adventure, this is the book for you, but if you want a romance that pushes all of your feel buttons, go back to the early Cynster novels.

(Minor rant: I have to mention the cover of this book…there are some seriously garish color choices, and the models look like they are proportioned incorrectly. I suspect that this, as well as the fact that it looks like the books are less edited than they used to be, is because of Laurens’ change from Avon to Harlequin/Mira as her publisher—the Cynsters Next Generation series had similar issues.)

Source: Copy from my public library

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