vrijdag 19 november 2010

Stephanie Laurens – The reckless bride

The fourth book in the Black Cobra Quartet series, published in 2010.

The reckless bride

Four officers of the Crown, aided by Bastion Club member and Cynster alike, fight to bring down a venomous enemy – and to win the loves of their lives …

Entrusted with vital evidence, Rafe takes the long way home to England - a journey made even longer and more perilous when when he acquires some unwanted companions. After rescuing an old woman from footpads, he finds himself stuck with the woman's niece Lucy. Unwilling to leave her to the Black Cobra's minions, he discovers he has a surprisingly fierce defender on his hands.

Lucy is not quite certain what Rafe is up to, but it's clearly dangerous. Drawn to him, despite the obstacles he tries to place in their way, Lucy soon realises that this particular rake is the one for her. Brought together by faith and united by fiery passion, Rafe and Lucy pursue their shared destiny, as they race to bring down the Black Cobra – and begin their lives happily ever after…

I typed this blurb from the back cover of the book itself. The really stupid thing about it is, the heroine is not named Lucy, but Loretta. How come no one noticed that before the book was printed?

After having declined her eight suitor, a totally eligible young man, Loretta Michelmarsh is whisked away into Europe by her great-aunt, Lady Esme Congreve. Lady Esme has recently been widowed, and now she wants to visit all those places she went with her late husband again. As Loretta has come to the conclusion, that after posing as a demure female for years, she is attracting the wrong suitors, and she needs to change herself into her true being, she takes joy in the travelling. What no one in her family knew, is that she is secretly writing articles for one of London’s newssheets, the musings of a Young Lady in London. Her editor is only to pleased to continue with her new series, a Young Lady Abroad.

After travelling for a few months through Europe, meeting with Lady Esme’s friends and acquaintances, seeing the sights, and revisiting her memories, they decide it is time to return to England for Christmas. But just after they have booked passage on a river boat on the Danube (it took me a while to figure out that is the Donau), Esme is attacked by two villains. Luckily she is saved by an English gentleman, Captain Rafe Carstairs. And although the gentleman resists, she hires him and his companion to act as their guides and guards until they reach England.

Captain Rafe Carstairs has travelled all the way from Bombay, India, over land to reach England on a certain date. He is on a secret mission for the Crown, and his journey is extremely dangerous. Still, he cannot say no to Lady Esme. After all, she knows his family, and they do believe she and her party will provide cover for him and his companion Hassan. They have to evade the assassins of the Black Cobra cult, who followed them from India, trying to intercept the message he is carrying back home, with the proof of the identity of the Black Cobra. By travelling over the river instead of the highway’s they manage to stay out of sight of the cultists for a few days. But every time the ladies set out for a bit of sightseeing, some ruffians try to rob them. Are they really hired by the cultists as local muscle? They don’t seem to want Rafe and Hassan, but are after Lady Esme.

The moment Rafe and Loretta meet for the first time, time seems to stand still. Instantly aware of the other, and shaken to their souls, they have eyes only for each other. But Rafe can’t afford any distraction from his mission, so he tries to control himself, and ignore the attraction between them. Loretta has other plans. Never has she been attracted to a gentleman before, and she needs to find out about herself, before she is back in her old life in her brothers house in London. She wants to explore the attraction, and find out if she can have marriage after all, or will spend the rest of her life as an old maid. And when Loretta charges, Rafe doesn’t stand a chance. He will of course marry her when they cross the final line, but Loretta holds out on her promise. O, she knows he is in love with her, but she needs him to acknowledge that fact too.

Danger throws the two of them together, closer and closer. And when back in England the final battle begins, amidst all the other heroes of the previous books by Stephanie Laurens, they know they want to be together for ever.

I really did like the story, but there are some things in Stephanie Laurens’ books I am starting to dislike. Both Loretta and Rafe think way too much, there are too many love scenes, when I want some action, some intrigue. Stephanie Laurens is not easy or fast to read, she uses long sentences and an elaborate play of words. I love the story itself, and the strong hero and heroine, who are made for each other. Of course I will continue buying and reading her books, as I love meeting the previous characters again, and the adventures the current couple has.

I had a feeling about the Black Cobra that became reality, and made me think back to the previous books. All in all, a really good quartet of books.

7 stars.

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