The Lady Chosen
For those who have been waiting so patiently, here’s the big news: The Lady Chosen is not about the Cynsters. Okay, so there’s a cameo appearance by our Devil, but with that small exception, there is nary a Cynster in sight. Ready for more noteworthy news? If you’ve given up on Laurens (as I had), but have a deep fondness for those early Cynster books (as I do), I’m happy to report that The Lady Chosen is a welcome reminder of what we all once found so appealing about Stephanie Laurens.
It’s more than obvious on virtually every page that the author is energized by her new series and, despite the fact that I’m crossing my fingers about future entries, I am, too. She’s kept what works (her alpha hero, likable heroine, and great love scenes are all intact) and freshened up enough of the storyline to make me feel as if were I reading a good book by an author I like – not the same book by an author I like.
The seven members of The Bastion Club (and the series reason for being) are all ex-spy types from the Napoleonic Wars. Upon their return to England at war’s end, they decide to pool their strengths and intelligence and help select their future brides, which all acknowledge they need. First at bat is one Tristan Wemyss, Earl of Trentham, who has unexpectedly inherited his title – and a passel of elderly female dependents. The catch is that unless he marries within a certain amount of time (those pesky wills!), Tristan will lose everything that isn’t entailed, including the income and fortune he needs to support himself and the women who depend upon him.
Resigned to his fate and determined to make the most intelligent choice possible, Tristan arrives in London before the season begins to oversee the renovation of the Belgravia home chosen to serve as the members’ refuge from the matchmakers of the ton. But, supervising construction isn’t even half as interesting to the newly minted Earl as the garden meanderings of the young woman living in the house next door. When leaving the house one day, Tristan is stunned to be confronted by the same young woman he had grown so fond of watching.
Happily on the shelf, Miss Leonora Carling generally lives a quiet and content existence with her scholarly (and, of course, abstracted) uncle and brother. But after several aggressive offers to purchase her house – offers firmly declined by her uncle – and two subsequent mysterious attempted break-ins, Leonora’s life is anything but calm when she first meets Tristan. When Tristan quickly persuades her that he and his friends aren’t behind either the offers or the break-ins, it’s not too far a road to travel before the stalwart hero soon begins aiding the equally stalwart heroine as they attempt to discover the culprit.
I’ll just be honest here and admit that I love a Laurens alpha hero and Tristan is a prime example. He’s strong, he’s smart, he’s determined, he’s overbearing (but trainable), and he’s more than willing to admit that Leonora is the only woman for him.
Leonora also fits the Laurens profile – independent, smart, and far less willing to succumb to love than our hero. While I can already hear the screams of the historical purists over Leonora’s desire to experience physical love (again and again) while determinedly avoiding marriage, I found myself both willing and able to suspend disbelief and just enjoy it. Ms. Laurens, however, goes a step beyond many books these days in giving us a real and understandable reason why Leonora might be so opposed to marriage and the book is a better one for it.
The suspense plot, however, isn’t nearly as compelling or as strong as the central romance. Frankly, in the latter half of the book, it almost feels as if we lose track of it entirely for a good portion of the book, only to hurriedly wrap everything up at the end.
But, for the most part, The Lady Chosen represents a welcome return to the Stephanie Laurens books that I once so much enjoyed. But with six books left to go (including the second entry next month), I admit to some trepidation. Let’s all hope for good books – not the same book again and again – from the author in the future.