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Carissa Green Reads

I read widely from many genres. Perhaps this blog will feature fewer ratings and reviews, but I certainly intend to write about my reading life - it's the subject I most find myself wanting to talk about.

Currently reading

Chekhov Four Plays
Anton Chekhov, David Magarshack
Beyond the University Why Liberal Education Matters
Michael S Roth
First Love, Last Rites
Ian McEwan
The Gay Science: with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs
Walter Kaufmann, Friedrich Nietzsche
A Kierkegaard Anthology
Robert W. Bretall

Sloppy Plotting

Mastered By Love - Stephanie Laurens

(Yes, I'm going to write about a romance novel published six years ago. It's my blog; I'll do as I please.)


By the end of the seventh novel in Stephanie Laurens' Bastion Club series (eighth, if you count the prequel), only two major questions remained: What was the true identity of the great spymaster, Dalziel, and how would the evil "last traitor" of the Napoleonic wars be identified and caught. 


The first question was answered straightaway - Dalziel is Royce Varisey, who just ascended as the Duke of Wolverton. He is our male hero.


The second question should be the plot around which our love story hangs. Instead, it is given completely short shrift, as the book is basically the story of a funeral, country house party, and rural fair during which Royce and his family's ward and chatelaine, Minerva Chesterton, go through the rituals of historical romance. 


The "Last Traitor" plot is mentioned once or twice every hundred pages or so and ends with a couple of pages of "woman in peril" just before the end of the novel. We really learn very little about this evil mastermind who has been lurking about for all of these books. And, since several other of the Bastion Club novels featured "women in peril" conclusions, it was a kind of retread. 


I could have forgiven -- although not appreciated -- all of this, as romance plots are generally stock and often are repeated, even within a particular author's oeuvre, but Laurens hangs some extra baggage on this story that was both unnecessary and ridiculous.


First, Royce is informed by his London accountant (a character we've met and trusted in many other Laurens books), and the story is confirmed by Royce's ex-operatives, that the Prince Regent has a mind to see him killed and, as he has no heir, take back his title and the proceeds from his valuable estate. 


Historically, the Prince Regent was a well-known wastrel and spendthrift who was often going back to Parliament for extra funds to settle his many debits, spending follies, and payments to mistresses and children outside his official line, but he's never really been known as a malicious character. Dumb, maybe. Cruel, not really. So the whole "kill the duke, take his money" thing makes next to no sense. 


Now, to be fair, Laurens' characters sort of quickly dismiss this as an unlikely possibility, but really, why bring it up at all? It's so ridiculous. The impetus is to give Royce a sense of urgency to find a wife and make an heir. Then, Laurens even doubles-down on this trope and has all of the "dowagers" of the "ton" descend upon Royce's estate and threaten to hound him to death until he does so. Seriously, old society ladies are going to foist themselves upon the great spymaster and powerful duke until he capitulates? It's just preposterous. 


The Bastion Club series was pretty great, and Royce and Minerva are an excellent couple, as well as individual characters, but they -- and the series -- really deserved a better-plotted story.