REVIEW: Edge of Desire by Stephanie Laurens
Dear Ms. Laurens:
I’ve taking to reading a Laurens book every other release because I find that a year is a good buffer between books. There’s a certain, well, similarity between your novels and while your writing is quite good, sometime the stories seem to be copies (and not in the plagiaristic sense, but in the sense that the characters often seem interchangeable from book to book). The last Bastien Club novel I read was last year’s release, Beyond Seduction.
Christian Allardyce had left for on a mission and Lady Letitia Randall nee Vaux had promised to wait for him. But she hadn’t waited. Instead she married another man in a purported love match. Christian has always felt betrayed. The true and somewhat unhappy circumstances of Letitia’s marriage become apparent to the reader, although not to Christian when Letitia seeks help for her brother who is accused of murdering her husband. Christian agrees to help because the embers of his love have only been banked, not totally snuffed out.
I had some issues with the construct of the story and the actions of the characters which I felt weren’t consistent with the period or with the type of setting you had created. The basis of a Laurens book has a lot to do with the knowledge and inner workings of the ton. For example, Letitia is a master manipulator of the ton and she strives to teach her sister how planting gossip and refuting it works. One of the pleasures of reading this series is kind of the insider workings of this powerful and mysterious group.
Yet the entire message of how important social standing is and how easily it can be taken away from a family with the slightest whisper is undermined by Christian and Letitia’s quick assumption of an affair. She was just recently widowed and was seen everywhere with Christian including walking out his front door in the early morning hours to scamper off to her house supposedly so that his servants wouldn’t know of her overnight slumber parties.
Christian uses the threat to Letitia’s reputation to get her not to do things (such as caper about in the evenings with him investigating the death of her husband). The whole pursuit of justice for Justin, the brother, by complete exoneration is so that Justin can continue to live and marry well within society no matter that he will be an earl one day. Christian’s reputation would be marred if he would marry Letitia with the stain of Justin’s crime hanging over her head. She would refuse to marry him on those grounds. This provides the impetus for him to seek a quick resolution.
I would have appreciated some insight as to why the openness and immediacy of the affair would have been considered acceptable.
I found the constant reference to "the Vaux" strangely Suess like. This could be due to the fact that my reading is highly influenced by children’s literature of late, but it still seemed odd.
One thing that really irked me was this
Despite the irritations, I read this Laurens in one long sitting (it’s a long book) and I enjoyed myself quite a bit. I think that these books are comfort reads for me. I recognize their imperfections but the types of characters (the alpha male and the purportedly strong female character), the ton interactions, the social manueverings, and the heightened sensuality entertain me nearly everytime. B-
This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.
Everything I know about English history I learned from romance novels and a very large portion of that knowledge (whether it be right or wrong) I learned from Stephanie Laurens. I’ve said many, MANY a time that I think Devil’s Bride is closer to perfection than any other romance novel I’ve ever read. And I had a real head-desk moment when I found out she was at RWA-SF and I wasn’t!
Jane, you perfectly summed up the appeal of Lauren’s writing:
However, I also completely agree with your assessment of The Bastian Club series. I’m pretty sure there’s a couple I haven’t read but damned if I know which ones because this series, and the most recent Cynster series books, DO seem too similar. Maybe not in plot, but certainly in character personalities. When I do pick one up, I thoroughly enjoy it, but an hour later I wouldn’t be able to tell you even the names of the main characters.
I came home and discovered this review after checking out her book briefly in a store earlier today. I had checked the word count and was actually intrigued that it was over 400 pages. Now after reading this review and seeing Jordan Summers blog about her, I definitely want to sample her work at some point. Guess I should have bought the book!
BevQB and Jane, I have to agree about the way some of Laurens’ books run together in my head — they are always enjoyable reads, but they are not unique each from the others. Even Devil’s Bride, a wonderful book, is diluted a bit in my memory by the ones that came after it. I think this is what keeps her off my list of very favorite authors.
I first read On a Wicked Dawn and was so impressed I looked up the rest of her backlist. My favourites are Devil’s Bride, On a Wicked Dawn, The Promise in a Kiss, An Ideal Bride (all Cynster books) and A Gentleman’s Honour (Bastion Club). I still enjoy her books but they are very “samey” now. It seems pretty much the same characters (different names) and/or story (with few variations) and they seem lacking in inspiration. Her books are still a good read but I don’t race out to get them now and in fact, I’m happy to get them from the library. My favourites I’ll go back to every now and then, but I really hope that we see a “new” character one of these days. For those who haven’t read any of her books, I’d certainly recommend her earlier stories though.
I gave up on Stephanie Laurens right about the seventh or eighth Cynster book. The sameness of it all was too tedious for words, but I still enjoy her older ones which she wrote for the Masquerade Historical line. Four in Hand is one of her earliest ones and never fails to please.
I read all of Stephanie Lauren’s books but find her, as an author, more frustrating than almost any others I consistently read. I admit that I do hold her to a higher standard–this is because she has the knowledge and feel for the period that many authors lack. At times, she can almost aspire to “Heyerness”. Her writing is wonderful and her characters are strong. And I enjoy the mystery/suspense as well as the romance. BUT!
I detest the sameness and interchangeability book to book and character to character! To me this just seems lazy and to show disregard for her readers.
And, I hate the way she has the characters jump in an out of bed so consistently with no thought or worry as to getting pregnant. A knowledgeable and self-aware woman (which her characters are) from this time period would not behave so stupidly–at least not without a lot of thought as to the consequences of becoming pregnant out of wedlock and what that would do to her family and social status. This “smart women/stupid choices” trope that SL uses over and over just drives me crazy.
I keep hoping for a change, and keep reading her books, but I have yet to think they deserve better than a B or a C.
I was going to bring up Dalziel yesterday but was too lazy to search for the correct spelling. Then I received this last night in Stephanie Laurens’ newsletter:
I really have high hopes for the mysterious Dalziel’s story and I consider it a must-buy.
So Jane, based on what you learned about him in Edge of Desire, do you think he will turn out to be a refreshingly unique and memorable character?
Good point. When it comes right down to it, most of the sub-genre of Regency Romance tends to blur together for me. So when an author is as well versed in the period as Laurens is, she stands out because she makes the period come alive for us. But then we expect that same level of world building and character development in every single book.
So are we being fair to expect more from her when we say “Give us more of that but make it different” or are those impossible standards we’ve set for her? Considering that her many, many books are set in the same place, same time period, in the same rule-driven society, is it even possible to make each book completely memorable or is the fact that each book is enjoyable the most we should hope for?
Note that I actually agree with what you, in fact most of us here, have said. I’m just questioning whether we have a legitimate reason to complain.
Umm, no? I mean, I’m interested in his story but it appears all the women in society know who he is but none of the men? How is Laurens going to pull that off?
I tried not to grade on her sameness. I mean, if you grade on originality in this book, it would get like a D because she writes the same book over and over (someone needs to do an If You Like piece on her). But when the September arcs arrived, it was the first book I pulled out to read and it was like visiting an old friend and like you said, Bev, she does make the period come alive for readers which is probably why she is so successful.
But at the same time, because of her sameness, I don’t read the cynster books anymore because I’m so bored with that family and the family tree and the mere mention of the Cynsters is enough to make me roll my eyes and consider a book toss.
I feel that I have a reason to complain because I am a consumer of her product. In fact, I am her customer.
Also, since she is in the process of writing 2 very looooong series, I am assuming she wants me to purchase ALL her books. If they are all nearly exactly the same, how am I motivated to spend my money on what I see as a poorly made product?
Devil’s Bride was one of the first romance novels I read when I ‘discovered’ the genre almost 2 1/2 years ago (yes, I obviously had my head in the sand before then :) and I LOVED it! Saying that, I haven’t enjoyed the later Cynster books as much (although I should point out that I still haven’t read them all so perhaps I should refrain from commenting?). I too have found the characters rather similar from book to book. Plus, everyone seem so aesthetically pleasing. Yes, I know the Cynsters are meant to be gorgeous, but could one of them not fall in love with a heroine who is….well….less than perfect in some way (or am I preaching sedition?). Saying that, I don’t see Honoria as a ‘diamond of the first water’, which is probably why Devil’s Bride will remain my favourite Stephanie Laurens book (at least for the time being).
PS Maybe it’s just me, but I would love Stephanie Laurens to write a medieval Cynster book…I’d like to see how the Cynsters ‘acquired’ their titles and land :)
Great review, thank you.
I’m always pleased to see a new release from Stephanie Laurens…and as devil’s advocate… for the reasons many of you have stated. I can depend on her. On her stories, on her love scenes and once in a while (NOT often enough) one of her waltz scenes.
Yes they are often the pretty much the same story with different names but I know there won’t be dead heroine, a vampire or a hero who decides he would rather have a menage…. all of which work for me in other books but once in a while I just want to be in Regency England with this author…. and the lady sure can write.
She did do something a little different with Where The Heart Leads, Casebook of Barnaby Adair. It had a less inter-changeable cast, although there were Cynsters, LOL. Anyway, she is and probably always will be an auto-buy for me because in my little world I like to have one thing that stays constant. I hope it’s the Cynsters/Bastion Club books.
(and oh yes…. I really look forward to Dalziel's story… so massive points to S.L. for pre-sales!)
I just started the fourth book in the Bastian series and not sure I can even bring myself to finish it, something that has never happened to me before. Honestly, its the same premise as the first three with the same characters, they just look different and have new names. They even have exactly the same kind of sex… that progresses in exactly the same way… over and over again in minute detail. It’s not even believable or honest… just graphic page filler when the plot and characters can’t carry the books. The only interesting character after the first book is Dalziel! Off the soapbox, I’ll end in Ms. Lauren’s writing style…
“Thought about it. Realized it was a waste of money. Didn’t care. Realized it was a waste of precious time. Cared! Cared deeply!”
She’s a lazy writer, I think. It’s obvious that she CAN write, but choosing to just cut and past from book to book is extremely obvious to the knowledgeable reader. I find it kind of insulting to my intelligence.
She’s certainly not going to get me to spend money on her stuff…that’s for sure. If I want repetition, I can get it for free from the library.