Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: Beyond Seduction by Stephanie Laurens

Dear Ms. Laurens:

Beyond SeductionIn 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:

Here’s the story of a lovely lady
Who was bringing up three very lovely girls boys.
All of them had hair of gold, like their mother,
The youngest one in curls liked toys.

Here’s the store, of a man named Brady Tregarth,
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.

Best regards

Jane

P.S. Avon, I really really appreciated the “First Time in Print” notice on the front of the book.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

13 Comments

  1. Jennifer McKenzie
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 07:34:40

    So, let me get this straight. Is it a GOOD thing this author inspired “The Brady Bunch” theme song? I’ve never been able to get into Laurens, but I don’t think I’ve read “Devil’s Bride”. Since that’s one of your favorites, I may start there.

  2. Stephanie
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 07:53:25

    There’s apparently an Emma Holly book with the same name.

  3. Jayne
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 08:19:45

    Jennifer, I’ve never gotten into the Laurens’ books either and one of the reasons was “Devil’s Bride.” Her heroes are definitely take charge, alpha dudes and readers need to be ready for that. The hero in D’sB was too much for me and the imbalance between the h/h Jane mentions in this book was, to me in that one, like a scale with a 1 ton weight on one side and a hummingbird feather on the other.

  4. Barbara B.
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 08:24:56

    Thanks for the great review, Jane. You’ve managed to interest me in a Stephanie Laurens book again, something I didn’t think was possible. I used to love Laurens until I just got tired of reading what were essentially the same characters in SLIGHTLY different stories.

    I’m not crazy about the balance of power in most historicals and while Laurens creates fairly strong, capable heroines, the men are always the ones in charge, in my opinion. Maybe that’s realistic but it still annoys me.

    Has Laurens ever written any contemporaries? I’d like to see the dynamics between her heroine and hero in a contemporary. Not that contemporaries guarantee equal relationships, as anyone who’s read Linda Howard or Christine Feehan can attest. It would just be interesting to see what Laurens could do in a more modern romance subgenre.

  5. Sarah
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 11:31:25

    I am one of those readers who like you have given up on Laurens. Her books started to take on way too much of a repetitious plot/character tone for me. I felt like I was reading the same book over and over again. But, coincidentally, the only two Laurens’ books I have kept in my collection are Devil’s Bride and A Secret Love. I still enjoy those books and feel they are some of her more original stories.

  6. Susan/DC
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 12:28:16

    I’ve never been a huge Laurens fan precisely because of the situation you mention: intelligent, strong, interesting heroine meets hero and suddenly cedes all control of her life to him. I want to like Laurens because her heroines are usually the genuine article and not merely TSTL wimps masquerading as smart. However, once the hero enters the picture, announces that the heroine belongs to him, and she then spends the rest of the novel saying “yes dear”, I lose interest. I’m not asking for 21st C feminists in Regency clothing, but a little more discussion would be nice. For example, in Devil’s Bride, Helena (I think that was her name) wanted to travel. Would it have been so much trouble to have the hero humor her and take her to Africa or wherever on their honeymoon? No acknowledgement was made whatsoever that her desires had any validity once the hero stepped into the picture, and that reduced my enjoyment of that book and some of her others as ell. Okay, rant over.

  7. Charlene Teglia
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 12:45:23

    Now that song is going to be stuck in my head. The only cure is probably going to be reading this book…I haven’t picked up a Laurens recently and this sounds like a fun read!

  8. RfP
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 15:04:37

    A Secret Love is one of my favorite romances ever. Intelligent characters, a slightly older (well, 28) and very capable heroine, a childhood almost-sibling friendship turned awkward, and the relationship gives both hero and heroine a wakeup call about their lives. Also, the hero isn’t the head of the family (unlike in Devil’s Bride)–he’s not nearly as dictatory. But beyond all those aspects, I think it’s one of her more “freshly” written novels–unlike the later books, which became absolutely cookie-cutter.

    In general, her older Cynster novels are good reads. But for me, A Secret Love is the only keeper.

    I do like some aspects of The Ideal Bride–again there’s a more experienced heroine, who actually mentors the hero through his new position in politics. (She’s the usual miraculous!virgin!widow! But at least that turns out to explain a lot of her character.) Overall it’s interesting, but it suffers from some late-in-series fatigue.

  9. LinM
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 17:30:19

    Reviewing a single Stephanie Laurens title is misleading because the biggest problem with each book is its mind numbing similarity to all of her other titles. And this is a sad fact because individually the titles seem much stronger than they are collectively.

  10. RfP
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 23:01:45

    Yes, you certainly wouldn’t want to read all her books–they’re too alike. It’s unfortunate–normally when you find a well-written book, you’d want to glom the author’s whole backlist. But not in this case. They’re best read singly.

  11. Claudia
    Aug 24, 2007 @ 23:58:55

    The Truth About Love was my last Laurens. Beyond Seduction sounds like it has a fantastic start, but I’ll pass because I won’t set myself up for disenchantment with the usual story arc.

  12. Prabal
    Aug 29, 2007 @ 11:44:25

  13. Tina B
    Sep 03, 2007 @ 17:54:08

    Having just finished this novel, I am in disagreement over the inequality of the relationship. Gervase is, like all Luarens male leads, exteremly strong. I would agree he took controll of the relationship in a lot of ways but there would never have been a relationship if he didnt’…and yes Madeline does take control of sexual encounter. Laurens typically has both strong male and female characters and I don’t feel that typically one gives over the other. They both are required to sacrifice in order for this to work. In this story Gervase must let go of his male desire to protect and let Madeline be a defender instead. As the reviews states Madeline already had the freedom, she really doesn’t gain anything new from Gervase…there really isn’t much left to gain except the abilty to remain that way and still be in love with a powerful man.

    Laurens Cynster novels do take on a familar track but I find the mystery involved in the Bastion Club novels keeps them much more unique.

%d bloggers like this: