Review: And Then She Fell

Reviewed by Jen

I know there is much more to a book than the sex scenes. In fact, I have read some very good books that had no sex scenes in them at all. But just like bad sex can ruin a relationship, so too can it ruin a book.  Especially when the book was just ok to start with.

OK. That sounds harsh. Let me back up a little.

And Then She Fell is the latest installment in Stephanie Laurens uber-huge Cynster series.  It focuses on Henrietta Cynster, who has come to be known as “the Matchbreaker.” She has made it her mission to help young ladies weed out the fortune seekers among potential suitors.  At 29, she doesn’t really believe marriage is in her own future. But when her younger sister asks her to don the Lady’s crystal necklace and seek out her hero, she agrees to try.

It just so happens that she has recently ruined the marriage prospects of her brother’s best friend, James, who desperately needs to wed to earn his inheritance and save the livelihood of the people who work his land.  When Henrietta learns of the mess she made, she agrees to help him find a new bride.  And of course, they end up falling for each other.

The romance wasn’t bad.  Both James and Henrietta were pretty likeable characters. It was easy enough to root for them to make a go of it, though neither was truly remarkable enough to thoroughly invest me.  There was a little extra oomph worked in when someone starts trying to kill Henrietta and James must save her over and over again.

But then they get to the bedroom and it was all over the top figurative language and … just… see for yourself:

Her maidenhead ruptured and she didn’t even flinch; instead, the honeyed walls of her heated sheath tamped tight around his rigid member, the ultimate velvet vice…

Clinging, gasping and utterly in thrall, they reached for the peak, the thunder in their veins escalating, the thudding of their hearts a single beat that swept them on, whipped them higher.

Until they broke through the clouds and ecstasy beckoned, as hot as the sun and more brilliant than the stars…

That elemental tide of pure sensation wrecked them, wracked them, then, like flotsam, flung them high and far, out and into the void.

To where glory rolled in and filled them, healed them, sealed them, fused and remade them.

Then, with a gentle hand, set them floating free, bliss-filled on a golden sea.

In the second love scene, alliteration joined the party.

Reassuring, restating, revisiting, and reiterating, they dived in again, plunged in again, seized and surrendered and shared the scintillating delights once again.

I could not stop rolling my eyes.  Which made it very difficult to keep reading.  Yet I did.  And the big villain reveal was a total fail, because he was nobody we had even met before in the course of the book.  Can you spell anticlimactic?

(*sigh*)  I know a lot of people love Laurens’ early work, but this is my fourth try with her.  The others were so-so. After this, I just don’t see me reading her again.

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by Avon 

Click to purchase: Amazon 
And Then She Fell
by Stephanie Laurens
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Publisher: Avon

Review: Royal Bridesmaids

Reviewed by Jen

This anthology features a collection of historical short stories, featuring royal weddings where the bridesmaids find love.  I was excited for this one, as I enjoy all three authors.  I knew the stories would be short, but I was unprepared for how short, especially when the entire ebook was 181 pages.

“A Return Engagement” (S Laurens) – I didn’t really love this one because so little of it actually focused on the romance between the hero and heroine. That would be a problem in any story, but it’s even more pronounced in a short story like this one.  Nell and Robert were an item nine years ago, but he never proposed when she thought he would and their romance ended abruptly. Now the two of them are thrown together as Nell’s sister prepares to marry the prince Robert works for. Most of the story centers on the wedding and Nell & Robert’s efforts to make it happen. There just isn’t enough about the two of them and their feelings for each other to make me care about their future one way or the other. 31 pages.

“The Imposter Bride” (G Foley) – This one, I did enjoy.  The prince and princess of two warring nations have agreed to marry to make peace. But the night before the wedding, the bride runs away, leaving her lady in waiting, Minerva, to assume her identity and take her place at the altar. Minerva quickly falls for her new husband, Tor.  But how long can she keep up the charade?  The story was a little predictable, but I really liked Minerva and the chemistry between her and Tor.  Sweet and a little sexy. 38 pages.

“Lord Lovedon’s Duel” (L Chase) – Probably the best in the bunch.  It’s based loosely in the Dressmakers world. Just after Chloe’s sister is married to a duke, the women overhear some men saying the groom married for money and not love.  Angered over the hurt it causes her sister –and just a little bit drunk– Chloe confronts Lord Lovedon, the man speaking most disparagingly of the match. She demands a duel, sparking his attention and a witty banter which evolves into a relationship. It was funny and sassy.  21 pages.

If you do the math, you’ll find that the short stories make up 90 of the 181 pages of the ebook.  The rest of the space is filled with previews and excerpts of future Avon historicals, from the featured authors as well as Carla Swafford, Alice Gaines, Candis Terry, and Anna Randol.  If that’s something you’re interested in, that’s great, but it frustrated me.  It was more tease than substance.

Rating: C

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Royal Bridesmaids
by Stephanie Laurens, Gaelen Foley, Loretta Chase
Release Date: July 17, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae

Reviewed by Jen

I’m so glad I did not give up on this trilogy. This installment is far and away the best book of the three. Like the first two, it was still long, but the pacing was so much better. Even though it was continuation of the ongoing kidnapping storyline, the book avoided the redundant feeling of its predecessor. And the hero is the strongest and most interesting character in all three books.

We first met Dominic in Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue. But then, we only knew him as the man intent on kidnapping one of the Cynster sisters. His efforts failed, of course, in both that book and the next. So when this book begins, the only Cynster sister remaining is the youngest, Angelica. Instead of hiring someone to do the deed this time, Dominic decides to do his own dirty work. He never expects how easy Angelica would make it for him.

From the moment Angelica sees Dominic at a ball, she knows that he is the man for her. Even after he kidnaps her, she is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He explains to her that the kidnapping plot is all a ruse to trick his mother into believing he has ruined a Cynster. She is extorting his cooperation. Angelica quickly agrees to go back to Scotland with him and help in any way she can.

I enjoyed their love story. Angelica is strong and determined and she never wavers. Dominic is a great hero. He is stalwart and loyal to his clan… a gentleman… and still a sexy beast. The love scenes are steamy. The romance is fulfilling. And the adventure is never dull. Plus –we get a fabulous epilogue, treating us to the weddings of all three Cynster sisters. Thumbs up! A little more than 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae
by Stephanie Laurens
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster

Reviewed by Jen

A mysterious Scottish laird is on the hunt for a Cynster sister to become his wife. He doesn’t really want to do it; His mother is forcing him through blackmail. His first attempt to secure a Cynster wife failed when Heather Cynster got away from the kidnappers he hired (in Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue.) Now, he is hoping for better luck by hiring a new man to snatch her younger sister Eliza.

But shortly after the kidnappers take to the road with their quarry in hand, Eliza manages to gain the attention of a gentleman in a passing carriage.  That man, Jeremy Carling, will eventually become her rescuer.  But escape from the captors is only the beginning.  The laird and the man he hired won’t let them get away so easily.  The story follows their pursuit of the couple, as they try to make their way back to England and to safety.

The basic plot of the book is a great deal like its predecessor.  The biggest difference is that here, more time in the story is focused on the getaway than the time our heroine spends in captivity.  The love story is ok.  Neither our hero or heroine is flighty or fickle.  There is a quiet surety to their relationship as it develops.  And despite their own insecurities, there is never any doubt to their feelings for each other.

But this book was far too long.  The first half had decent pacing, but the second half just went on and on.  Too many love scenes in too much detail. (Holy cow! I never thought I would say that about a book.)  While they were good at the beginning, they lost their magic by the third or fourth round.  And the maps.  Good gravy, they consulted the maps every five minutes. And described the routes and roadways in excruciating detail.  I found my eyes jumping over chunks of text every time someone pulled out a map because I knew what was coming next.

The story was most effective when it focused on Eliza and Jeremy discovering their feelings. It was also gratifying to watch them grow as individuals as they learned to be a couple.  The laird is also interesting as we learn bits and pieces about him and his motivations.  But the book was bloated.  I believe an aggressive editor could have streamlined this into a much stronger piece. 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster
by Stephanie Laurens
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Avon

Review: Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue

Reviewed by Jen

This book was not a winner for me.  It had some redeeming qualities, but more often than not, it left me frustrated and annoyed with the main characters.

At 25, Heather Cynster isn’t quite on the shelf, but she is probably facing her last season. So she decides to take her love life into her own hands and to go in search of her own hero.  She ventures out to a scandalous party and comes face to face with Viscount Breckenridge, the bane of her existence.  Breckenridge ushers her away from the party and to her carriage. But she’s kidnapped before she makes it to her destination.  Fortunately, Breckenridge witnesses the whole things and takes off in pursuit.

Heather’s kidnappers are working for a mystery man who have tasked them with snatching any one of the Cynster sisters.  So once Breckenridge catches up to them, Heather opts to stay close to her captors to learn about their boss. She figures that if she simply escapes, the man will hire someone to go after one of her sisters.  That plan is a dud, but takes us about 1/3 of the way through the book.  From there, she does escape with Breckenridge… and they make they way towards some nearby relatives.  Along the way, the couple falls into bed together. And the rest of the book is spent going back and forth as to whether the two of them will admit their feelings to the other as the rules of society dictate they should wed.

These two frankly didn’t deserve to find happiness.  At first, I kind of sympathized with Heather — I mean, who would want to marry a man who doesn’t love you?  But then, I realized, she won’t step up and admit her feelings any more than he will.  They do this dance, where they sleep together, feel warm and fuzzy, refuse to admit it and have one miscommunication after another. And it goes on and on.

The book was too long, especially in the second half.  And the language was cumbersome and too flowery at times.  I actually found myself skimming over parts of the love scenes… which frankly, is blasphemy in most cases.  Let me give you an example of why:

“He led her into a landscape of sensual lushness created by touch, by tactile sensation, by long drawn-out intimate exploration, capped by sexual revelation.  He guided her on through valleys of pleasure colored by rainbows of glitteringly sharp delight, onto plateaus where untempered passion ran so luxuriously and deliciously deep that it swamped her senses and left her reeling.”

Moving on.  There were moments I did want them to work things out. I wasn’t beyond caring.  And I was pleased when the two of them finally admitted their feelings.  But on the whole, it didn’t ring my bells. A little more than 3 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue
by Stephanie Laurens
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Publisher: Avon