The Daredevil Snared is the third book in Stephanie Laurens’ The Adventurers Quartet. Going in, I knew I was starting the book mid series; but what I didn’t know is that the books are not self-contained. I was able to catch on pretty quickly; but interested readers may want to start with The Lady’s Command. It’s not impossible to enjoy The Daredevil Snared on its own, but you will get a lot more out of it if you read this series in order.
The central plot of The Adventurers Quartet revolves around an illegal diamond mining operation in West Africa. The Frobisher brothers – Robert, Declan, Caleb, and Royd – are the owners of the Frobisher Shipping Company and occasional agents for the Crown. From what I can gather, without having read the previous books, the brothers have been tasked with investigating the diamond mining operation, and they have assigned one leg of the mission to each brother. Why one brother cannot be involved with the entire investigation is unclear; but by the time The Daredevil Snared opens, we already know the following:
- There is an illegal diamond mine somewhere in West Africa near Freetown, but the exact location of the mine is unknown.
- A slaver has been kidnapping residents from Freetown to supply the diamond mine with free labor. Some of the people kidnapped are relatives (and fiancée) of characters who appeared in the previous books.
The Daredevil Snared starts with Captain Caleb Frobisher leading his men through a dense West African jungle in search of the slaver and his camp. After a short trek and a skirmish, Caleb and his men are able to dispatch the slaver and his associates with relative ease. The goupr then trudges on, trying to find the mine with only clues from Robert's journal as guidance. Luckily, they soon came upon Diccon, a seven-year-old abductee who is forced to work in the mine. Diccon is then able to lead Caleb's party to the mine as well as give them a detailed layout of the mining compound.
I really enjoyed the first half of the book and thought that I would be giving it at least a B+. After Caleb made contact with Diccon, he sends a dispatch to London so that his brothers can organize a rescue party. Meanwhile, he has his men set up camp in a clearing nearby so they can provide assistance to the hostages should the need arise. One of these hostages is Katherine Fortescue, a former governess from Freetown. Being the only hostage besides Diccon who is allowed to leave the mining camp, Katherine is soon meeting with Caleb clandestinely to plot how they can keep all the hostages alive until the rescue party arrives.
Both Katherine and Caleb are smart, capable leaders and it’s easy to see why the others in the circle look up to them. Upon meeting, their attraction is immediate and before long, they have declared their feelings for each other. I thought that the first stages of their courtship are handled very well and it is refreshing to see a couple who actually talk to each other, instead of leaving each other to guess at the other's feelings. During this part of the book, we are also introduced to a bevy of other interesting characters who could all easily be heroes or heroines of their own stories. Caleb's friend Phillipe, in particular, had me searching through Ms. Laurens' backlist to see if he has his own book. Another thing I liked is how the author avoids the pitfall of using mistrust between the hostages and their rescuers as a plot device. These people trust each other and know that the only way they are going to get out of the jungle alive is to work together. Dubois, the leader of the mercenaries running the mining camp, may think that he's in charge. But the hostages do plenty to ensure their own survival.
Up until about the midway point, The Daredevil Snared is a fast and breezy read. But then it stalls. I don't want to give too many plot points away, but basically, the entire second half of the book deals with one dilemma faced by the hostages, which got really boring, really fast. It was also at this point that the hostages' stoicism starts to take on a tinge of implausibility. Am I to believe that in a camp with almost 40 hostages, no one will inadvertently let something slip and rouse Dubois' suspicion that they are plotting something? This is especially hard for me to believe given that about half of those captured are children between the ages of 6 and 14. But then again, none of these children act a bit like any of the kids I've ever known.
This is one of those books in which the romance takes a backseat to the adventure. There are plenty of pages devoted to Caleb and Katherine's courtship; but without any tangible obstacle to keep them apart, many of the later scenes feel superfluous. The love scenes, in particular, feel tacked on and unnecessary. Stephanie Laurens is famous for writing long and detailed love scenes, and she is true to form here. But in this case, I found the writing style – just like the title of the book - dated and uninteresting. Of the two love scenes, one is an extended make-out session that lasts five pages. After yet another kiss and we were told for the fifth time how desire bloomed between Caleb and Katherine, I skipped to the end of the chapter.
Ultimately, this book is comprised of two halves – one half that I liked a lot, and one that I had to slog through. The novel ends very abruptly with many questions stilled unanswered; and there is an attempt to introduce Royd, the hero of the next book, that doesn’t feel quite right. Still, I would say that the positives of this book outweighed the negatives and I would definitely be interested in reading the next book when it comes out. Here’s hoping that Lord of the Privateers will effectively tie up all the loose ends and bring the series to a satisfying close.
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