#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens began writing as an escape from the dry world of professional science, a hobby that quickly became a career. Her novels set in Regency England have captivated readers around the globe, making her one of the romance world's most beloved and popular authors.
Michael Anstruther-Wetherby is the new MP in the district. As his career takes off, with a cabinet post a distinct possibility, it behooves him to marry. Elizabeth Mollison, the 19-year-old daughter of his predecessor, seems a solid choice. But when Michael arrives at Bramshaw House to further his suit, suddenly Miss Elizabeth seems less a promising candidate than her aunt, Mrs. Caroline Sutcliffe, widow of veteran diplomat Camden Sutcliffe and an accomplished political hand. Can Michael convince his old friend Caro that their match would be the perfect blending of skills? What secrets make this "Merry Widow" adamant about never remarrying? And who is trying to do her harm? This story continues Laurens's Cynster novels (e.g., The Perfect Lover), though Michael is merely a Cynster-in-law, with peerage taking a backseat to politics in this tale of passion, intrigue, and international machinations. Though the eventual unmasking of the villain seems a bit contrived, the usual Laurens romantic touches and interesting characters are here. Not as dead-on delicious as some of the previous Cynster outings, this will still be welcomed by fans of the author and the series. Recommended for public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/03.]-Bette-Lee Fox, "Library Journal" Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Laurens's newest romantic offering, set in early 19th-century London, possesses two of her trademarks-coolly confident characters and plentiful and graphic sex scenes-but it lacks the fire and feisty humor of her earlier works (All About Passion, etc.). Once readers encounter Laurens's protagonists, it's clear why. A self-possessed young widow, Caro Sutcliffe, whose late husband was an ambassador, and a calculating political player, Michael Anstruther-Wetherby, are adept at diplomacy; they know who to align themselves with, how to manage the people around them and what to say in every situation. Unlike the protagonists in Laurens's previous novels, Caro and Michael hardly ever lose control of their emotions, which makes them seem more like marionettes than people. When Michael sets his sights on marrying Caro's 19-year-old niece, Elizabeth, who's actually in love with somebody else, Caro intervenes not by confronting him but by attending a number of social gatherings and instructing Elizabeth to behave in ways unbefitting a politician's wife. Caro's plan works, but she soon finds that she's become the object of Michael's pursuit. Laurens stuffs the story with sex scenes, but her second-by-second analyses of every kiss and caress brings new meaning to the word tedious. Her overblown metaphors also detract from the sensuality of these scenes ("she was dimly aware when he reached his own limit and release caught him, racked him, then the storm rolled on and he lay beside her on that golden shore"). A well-executed mystery subplot involving attempts on Caro's life lends some zest to this offering, but not enough to satisfy fans of Laurens's popular Cynster novels. (Mar.) Forecast: Laurens's hardcovers haven't been received as well as her paperbacks, but this should still sell like gangbusters. 200,000 first printing. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.