The Lady Chosen
Stephanie Laurens
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The Lady Chosen
Stephanie Laurens
464 pages
August 2003
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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The war with Napoleon over, seven ex-spies return to England only to find that in the interim, they’ve all inherited titles and wealth and are now considered "prime catches" in the matrimonial market. In order to avoid the determined matchmaking mamas as well as exchange vital information about their mutual experiences in society, they decide to set up a club of their own as sort of a "last bastion"; hence the name, “The Bastion Club”.

Tristan, the Fourth Earl of Trentham, has many dependents, and the terms of his inheritance are such that he has to marry within a year or lose all the money. While arranging to buy and refurbish the house that is to host the Bastion Club in the near future, Tristan meets and is surprised to find himself greatly intrigued by his attractive neighbor, Miss Leonora Carling. Through her, this ex-spy comes to know of the rash of burglaries that have plagued her house and some other extremely odd incidents. His suspicions aroused, he begins investigating and gets a shock when the bold and beautiful Leonora makes it very clear that she expects to be totally involved in the whole shady affair, with or without his consent.

At age twenty-six, Leonora considers herself a veritable spinster. Having long had complete charge of her own life as well as that of her uncle’s household, she’s become a confident and assured young woman. When, without asking, Tristan comes to her aid, she’s at first pleasantly surprised. But his take-charge attitude doesn’t sit well with her, and soon they’re at loggerheads. When Tristan tries to distract Leonora by kissing her silly, he not only does not succeed, but also leaves Leonora intrigued and demanding more. In an abrupt turn of the tables, Tristan is the one who wants to get married while Leonora is the one who’s determined to have an affair. A battle of love, lust and wits is fought even as danger escalates and becomes deadly.

Stephanie Laurens, author of the popular Cynster series, has started a new series with The Lady Chosen. But the story of this first book is nothing new, although this seasoned author has used all her skills to breathe new life into a clichéd story and succeeded to a great extent. What’s intriguing is that the heroine wants the affair while the hero wants marriage. Not only hilarious, this has deeper undercurrents to it. The characterizations of the main protagonists are expected, but what makes it interesting is that in the story, the main leads talk out their feelings and motives, and the understanding and love which thus develops is natural and easy. The suspense of an exciting mystery builds gradually and, just when it is getting really interesting, passion invades. Then that side of the story comes to a complete halt while the bedroom scenes take over. This is a bit jarring but nonetheless titillating. However, the historical atmosphere of an England gradually returning to normal after the war is authentically conveyed, and the dearth of eligible men is contrasted poignantly with the overabundance of unwanted and maimed ex-soldiers. Fans of Stephanie Laurens will not be disappointed, but newer readers may not be so enamored.

© 2003 by Rashmi Srinivas for Curled Up With a Good Book

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