In this second installment of the Black Cobra Quartet, we follow the journey of Major Gareth Hamilton as he makes his way back to English soil with his copy of the letter sought after by the Black Cobra.  In tow is Emily Ensworth, niece to the Governor of India, and the reason for Captain McFarlane’s journey that saw him murdered by the Cobra’s assassins.  Before sending Emily on, Captain McFarlane entrusted the original copy of the letter to her, instructing her to deliver it only to Colonel Delborough.  Sparks fly between the young and daring Miss Ensworth and Major Hamilton, but as Gareth is leaving the area to draw out the Black Cobra, he does not act on the attraction.  Luckily for him, Emily is resourceful and places herself on the same ship as the Major, and thus ensuring they are traveling companions.

The Black Cobra has not only set its sights on the Major and his letter, but on the young Miss Ensworth, as she played a vital role in the scheme, and will be dealt with as well.  Naturally, Gareth vows to protect her, and makes her a part of his traveling party that consists of several European ex-military men, and Indian couple, and now Emily and her retinue.  Little does he know that when Emily purposely placed herself in Gareth’s path, it was to get to know him better.  For how is one to decide whether one is “The One” unless you get to know him better?  She doesn’t expect to become the target of an assassin!  Their passion ignites as they fight for their lives in various places- on boats, moving across the desert as part of a caravan, and back home on English soil.  Gareth tries to convince Emily that she feels nothing more for him than heroworship, and Emily does her best to prove him wrong, and wrong he is.  Emily places herself into harm’s way by assisting in the fight, much to Gareth’s annoyance and fear, but she proves she can help defend their party.  Emily uses herself as bait to draw out the nobleman heading the Black Cobra, and Gareth has to learn to accept that she is capable of taking care of herself, to a point, but she reassures him she will always need his protection.After these two finally get together, there is no keeping them apart, literally.  They both desperately need each other.

The same characters that helped Colonel Delborough in the previous installment, appear to assist Emily and Gareth fight against the Black Cobra.  The stakes raise as the man they believed was the Black Cobra is murdered, leaving an unknown player in the game.  There are many secondary characters in this installment that after a while became one too many and a bit confusing, but you get them all sorted out in the end.  Gareth and Emily are nicely written and their passion is certainly clear in the many, many scenes that often last for several pages.  Too much smut?  Nevah!

Here at Bookishly Attentive, we seem to have a love/hate relationship with Stephanie Laurens.  Her characters are simply intriguing, and each is different enough that they keep you hooked long after you have turned the last page.  Laurens is an excellent story-teller, and her intermingling of the different characters in her serials has proved to be enjoyable.  There are two more installments to come in the Black Cobra Quartet, and this one is due in stores January 26th.  If you like your men daring and brave, and able to handle a sword expertly, then put this one your list to pick up.

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