The last time I reviewed a Stephanie Laurens book, I told myself it would be the last. The one overriding reason for this is Ms. Laurens’ tendency to write with an open thesaurus tuned to every paragraph (or so it seems) on every page. She finds many ways to write the same exact thing more than once. Right after the other. Repeatedly. It’s annoying.
That being said, I just couldn’t resist the last of the Bastion Club novels, and the story of Dalziel, the spy ring’s enigmatic leader, now known as Royce Henry Varisey, Tenth Duke of Wolverstone.
The story opens with Royce returning to his ancestral holding, after a sixteen year exile imposed by his father for his refusal to give up his service to the Crown. Upon his father’s passing, Royce has become the next Duke of Wolverstone and is woefully unprepared for the task. Enter Minerva Chesterton, a resident of Wolverstone since her early childhood and more recently, chatelaine to the estate. Minerva guides Royce through the early days of his reign, explaining the workings of the castle and the surrounding land, introducing him to his people, and getting him to involve himself in his ducal role. While doing all this, Minerva hides a secret. She’s been in love with Royce since that childhood, and now realizes that as the new Duke, he will need to marry, and soon. When that happens, she knows she’ll have to leave Royce and the only home she’s ever known.
Royce, meanwhile, is pressured into declaring an intended bride. What he has come to realize is that there is a perfect candidate for the job right under his nose. When feelings between Royce and Minerva begin to grow, they are both riddled with doubt as to Royce’s ability to fashion a marriage of more than convenience. When both are threatened by an enemy that is closer to home in more ways than they can imagine, Royce realizes that deep feelings are not beyond his capability, and the spymaster and ring leader finds a love match of his own.
Despite prior misgivings, I really enjoyed this latest novel. Intrigue and dangerous situations are kept to a minimum. The story is, to put it bluntly, highly sexual, and what I find interesting is that for the spymaster, Laurens decides to concentrate on the story of the courtship as opposed to the action and intrigue found in the earlier Bastion novels. A wise choice, this, as it ultimately humanizes Dalziel, and finally makes him a Bastion boy we can all love.