|There are really two books in one here, with the romance taking up the first part of Beyond Seduction and deserving a four heart rating. The last part of the book ties up the romance’s loose ends but centers on the Bastion Club’s activities in searching for the last known spy from the Napoleonic Wars. Laurens’ does tie the characters into the adventure but it feels as if it is almost an afterthought. This lessens the enjoyment of the whole book.
Gervase Tregarth, Earl of Crowhurst is the featured Bastion Club member in this one. He is looking for a bride in London when his sisters call him home, having gotten into some trouble at the Castle, their country home in Cornwall. Apparently a neighbor got married to a London beauty and his sisters, all of whom were in approximate age to Gervase’s sisters, were sent off to live with an old aunt. The girls are fearful that this will happen to them if Gervase marries someone from London, so they start getting into trouble, which causes him to come home. After an initial fit of anger, he agrees to look around Cornwall for a wife during the summer. If he finds someone who suits and is compatible, he agrees to marry her. The only likely candidate is an old friend and neighbor, Madeline Gascoigne.
Madeline is twenty-nine and most consider her on the shelf. She gave up her social life when her father died to run the estate and help raise her brothers 9 years ago. Harry, the eldest is now 15, with Edmund 14 and Ben just 10. She is treated as a landowner in the small community and while she is attractive, she often dresses in a way that is not overly flattering. She is independent and used to getting her way.
Gervase decides he must get to know the real her – the woman – if he is going to determine if they would be compatible. He sets off on a course to really get to know her. Madeline, meanwhile, sees clearly that she could never be the type of countess he would want, so is resistant of his efforts. She states to him that she would not make a good countess. Gervase sets out to convince her that she might, if she just gets to know him and allow him to know her.
These two are well matched. They battle with words, yet spend their time sharing their interests and find they do have a lot in common. They work together on the local festival and each try to out maneuver the other. They have a strong relationship and yet Gervase realizes that he must play his cards close to his vest if he is going to convince her to marry him. The tale was fun and the romance enjoyable. The seduction is hot, as only Laurens can write and they are well matched in the bedroom too.
In two different places, there are hints that someone is out to destroy their happiness. But the one “mystery” fizzles quickly and the other doesn’t start until the romance is basically resolved. While this second mystery is intriguing if you have read the other Bastion Club books, it feels like it is added on just to include the other members. Dalziel, Allardyce and St. Austell and his bride all play a part in the adventure. But it is drawn out quite extensively, taking over 150 pages at the end. If this had been tied into the romance more or if there had been a little less of it at the end, I think the story would have been easier to read and more engaging overall, especially since it essentially just sets up the last two books in the series.
Beyond Seduction is Lauren at her seductive best. It is not her best story or mystery plotline, however, leaving just a satisfactory feeling with the reader.