REVIEW: Beyond Seduction by Stephanie Laurens
Dear Ms. Laurens:
In the early days, I read your books the moment that they came out but after the 8th or 9th Cynster book, they began to lose their appeal to such a degree that when you made the move to hardcover, I left myself behind. Since the hardcover move, I’ve read only three Laurens books. I think that it was the breather that made me appreciate in Beyond Seduction what made me a fan in the first place.
Your historical romances are richly detailed and your characters are well thought out. I can see you making conscious decisions about even what types of clothes your characters wear and what type of gifts they would find appealing. I believe that type of writing shows a lot of respect for the reader and the genre. At your best, you show us why these two individuals, Gervase Tregarth and Madeline Gasciogne, belong together. While Beyond Seduction is not your best (Devil’s Bride and A Secret Love will always be my favorites and what I consider to be the “best” Laurens books), it is a good read.
Gervase Tregarth, the sixth earl of Crowhurst, is looking for a wife in London but his search is being interrupted for the last six months by the increasingly devilish antics of his three half sisters. When he comes home to confront his sisters about their recent vandalism, he was finally let in on the truth. His sisters know that he is in London searching for a wife, but they do not want a London woman running the Crowhurst household. A well landed baron married a Londoner who decided that his girls were a nuisance and shipped them away. His sisters doubt his ability to choose a wife that would be respectful of his existing family and they extract a promise that he look locally. Gervase agrees knowing that there is no one local that will meet his demands of “age, birth and station, temperament, compatibility and beauty”.
Yes, Gervase is a bit of an arrogant ass; however, he is a wealthy man born to a position of power so I suppose he can expect all of the above but it seemed that his criteria were shallow and one sided. This depiction of Gervase was my biggest objection to the story. More on that later.
Madeline Gasciogne is considered to be THE Gasciogne in the area. She has held the reins of her family’s holdings since her father’s death 8 years ago. She manages the land and does it ably as steward for her eldest half-brother who is currently fifteen. Madeline has so long been the Gasciogne that everyone in the area, including Gervase, treats her as a peer, a landowner, and almost, sexless. She rides astride with trousers under her skirt which is deemed socially acceptable because she must cover miles of land in overseeing the Gasciogne properties on a daily basis. She is included in important regional discussions. Other male landowners listen and value her counsel. When Gervase encounters Madeline soon after he’s made his pact with his sisters, he realizes that he’s had blinders on his whole life. She fits every bit of his criteria except for the issue of “compatibility” and he sets out to ascertain whether Madeline’s passion for life extends into more intimate arenas.
As noted before, the details are the setting are quite fine. Both Tregarth and Madeline are well respected landowners. They both know their land and the people involved. Smuggling was a well acknowledged event in the region and even considered to be a rite of passage for boys, even the gentry boys. The community is viewed as tight knit with gossip being one of the primary ways for the passage of information. Strangers, particularly Londoners, are viewed with some suspicion. The economy of the local community was detailed (tin mines provided good supplemental income) as was the way in which community socialized through small get togethers, modest dances, a festival sponsored by the landed gentry.
I really loved Madeline. She was a strong and capable individual who never seemed to lose her head. She recognized almost immediately when Gervase began looking at her differently. While he pursued her, she recognized that while she was interested in pursuing something that she had previously and willingly given up, she was not willing to lose herself in Gervase.
The problem was that I felt that Madeline was diminished by marriage to Gervase. Granted, when her eldest brother reached his majority and took over the reins of the Gasciogne enterprises, Madeline would have a greatly reduced role in her household, but I never felt that she had equality in the relationship with Gervase. Gervase controlled the rhythm and movement of the relationship. There was one scene in which Madeline exerted herself in defiance of Gervase, but it was too little too late to save it. Most of their interaction seemed to be one where Gervase allowed Madeline her freedom that she already had earned making the freedom seem almost illusory.
I want to insert one more thing and that is I absolutely love the foreplay, the build up, the anticipation, and for me, those parts were the sexiest, most sensuous parts of the book and not the chapter length love scenes. After the first one, I skimmed the others. It is possible that Madeline took control in the bedroom and exerted herself there but in all else, she deferred and Gervase controlled.
I will also acknowledge that I started humming the Brady Bunch theme song a few chapters in when I realized I could slightly massage the lyrics:
Who was bringing up three very lovely
All of them had hair of gold, like their mother,
The youngest one
Here’s the store, of a man named
Who was busy with three
boys girls of his own,
They were four
men siblings, living all together,
Yet they were all alone.
Till the one day when the lady met this fellow
And they knew it was much more than a hunch,
That this group would somehow form a family.
That’s the way
we they all became the Brady Tregarth Bunch.
The Tregarth Bunch. The Tegarth Bunch
That’s the way
we they all became the Brady Tregarth Bunch.
While this book is part of the Bastion Club series, it appeared that it could be read without having read any of the previous series. I’ve only read one of the previous Bastion Club books and I never once felt lost. In grading this book, I struggled because it was so readable, the habit of over explaining really wasn’t present, and I did love Madeline but I felt that the story failed to evoke an equality in partnership which I believe that you intended. In finishing the book, it made me want to read the other Bastion Club stories. In the end, any historical book that invokes the Brady Bunch theme song surely deserves a B.
P.S. Avon, I really really appreciated the “First Time in Print” notice on the front of the book.