All About Love

All About Passion

Captain Jack's Woman

Devil's Bride

A Fine Passion

Four in Hand

A Gentleman's Honor

The Ideal Bride

The Lady Chosen

A Lady of His Own

On a Wild Night

The Perfect Lover

The Promise in a Kiss

A Rake's Vow

A Rogue's Proposal

Scandal's Bride

A Secret Love

Secrets of a Perfect Night

The Truth About Love

What Price Love? by Stephanie Laurens
(Wm. Morrow, $22.95, R) ISBN 0-06-084084-6
Cynster anyone? If you like ‘em, you’ll like this. If you despair of long lovemaking scenes that are Stephanie Laurens, you may not like this one so much. I liked it but with some reservations, even though at times I couldn’t put it down. If you are a Laurens fan, you will want to know the answer – What Price Love?

Dillon Caxton is a periphery Cynster by marriage. He is the cousin (read that like a brother) to Felicity who married Demon “Harry” Cynster in A Rogue’s Proposal. Horse racing, or rather the horse racing industry is in his blood. Despite some wild exploits as a young man that Felicity and Demon helped him get out of, Dillon is now a well respected gentleman of the ton who also happens to be the keeper of the Registry (a book that helps ensure that the horses that run in races are really the horses that should be running in races). Dillon is also heart stoppingly handsome and is highly sought after by the mamas hoping to marry off their daughters. Dillon is aware, however, that few women see beyond his handsome face and don’t take the time to know the real him.

Priscilla Dalloway, daughter of the Earl of Kentland leaves her home in Ireland to travel to Newmarket, the horse racing capital in search of her twin brother Rus, who it appears, is embroiled in some trouble around a horse racing scam. He mentions the registry in his letter, so Pris decides to investigate it with the hope of finding Rus. Pris, being an intelligent and intuitive miss, comes with her aunt and her cousin. Pris uses her aunt’s eccentric behaviors as the reason why she wants to see the book. She hopes her beauty will get her in the door. Everyone who only sees her pretty face and lovely body too often overlooks her. At twenty-four, she has yet to find anyone who wants to love her for who she really is. (I found myself having trouble really feeling sorry for Pris and Dillon, but I appreciated the attempt at finding a unique common ground for them).

The die is cast and Pris and Dillon are adversaries. Yet they are attracted and recognize like minds and personas. Eventually they share their tales and begin to work together to find Rus and save horseracing. There are actually two parts of the book with remarkably different plots. In Newmarket the whole emphasis is on the race and the possible scam. There is adventure, even while Pris and Dillon discover each other. In the last part of the book, in London, Dillon sets out to prove to Pris that he loves her and wants to marry her for all the right reasons. This is pure Laurens with lots of macho puffing and a smart woman who sees beyond the protectiveness and makes him work for it.

Throughout the tale there is lovemaking…pages upon pages in various settings and ways. Dillon is at times romantic, but mostly he is just hot and of course, he brings out the passionate “wild, reckless” side of Pris, a bond they share. It is explicit; it is often and demonstrates amazing stamina.

When not making love, Dillon is a Cynster type. Secure in his manhood, drawn to one woman who he then swears will be his and under his protection, he is charm itself. Pris meanwhile, goes through her own manipulation techniques and is overcome with lust for Dillon, making her more wary of his reasons. She is too smart to be totally beguiled and when she figures him out, she gives as good as she gets. Rah rah for her!

The horse racing plot is at times interesting, but at times plods into a slow trot rather than a gallop. The ending is fast and furious creating a bit of a pacing inconsistency in the book. But overall, the book kept my interest and I wanted to keep reading even when my lunch hour was over.

Barnaby Adair, who was introduced in Gerald Debbington’s book plays another key role here in solving the mystery. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him highlighted in his own story soon.

What Price Love? is pure Laurens in a lot of ways, including the lovemaking scenes, the character types and the visits from the other Cynsters. While this is better than some, it is still pretty formulaic, thus not making it stand far apart. Despite that, I enjoyed it. Call it recommended but with some reservations.

--Shirley Lyons

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