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Devil's Bride

A Fine Passion

Four in Hand

A Gentleman's Honor

The Ideal Bride

A Lady of His Own

The Lady Chosen

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

To Distraction

What Price Love?

Where the Heart Leads

Temptation and Surrender
by Stephanie Laurens
(Wm. Morrow, $25.99, R) ISBN 978-006-124340-0
Stephanie Laurens continues her Cynster franchise with Temptation and Surrender, featuring the brother-in-law of a previous Cynster. I thought by now she’d have run out of Cynsters, but if she’s going to branch out into in-laws, family friends, and the like, one suspects Laurens can keep going for a long, long time. While the sex is hot, the plot doesn’t hold up under much scrutiny, and the leads display a distinct lack of smarts.

Jonas Tallent is the twin brother of Phyllida, who is now married to Lucifer Cynster. Jonas is wealthy in his own right, and as the story opens, he decides to leave London and return to Devon to manage his estate in the village of Colyton. One of his challenges is to find a new manager for the local inn, which is the only place in the village where the locals can gather. Jonas is sure the under the right management, the inn can be profitable again.

Emily Beauregard and her four younger siblings are well-bred orphans who have spent the past ten or so years living with their miserly uncle, who has used them as unpaid servants. Now that Emily is 25, she can legally assume guardianship of her brother and sisters. Emily, whose ancestors were Colytons, is determined to locate a treasure supposedly hidden in a place only a Colyton would look. But first, she needs to get her family to the village of Colyton, and badgering Jonas into letting her manage the inn is the perfect plan.

Jonas can’t find a suitable manager, so he reluctantly agrees to let Emily try her hand. He’s quite intrigued by her, in fact. Emily has a clue to the location of the treasure:

The treasure of the Colytons resides in Colyton, in the highest house, the house of the highest, at the lowest level. It lies in a box made for the purpose, one only a Colyton would open.

Emily decides that she must get into the homes of the most important families in Colyton and look for her treasure in the cellars. Exasperated readers, who will have figured out the location of the treasure in about thirty seconds, will no doubt spend most of the book wondering why Emily and Jonas can’t do the same. Jonas begins to court Emily, who is just as attracted to him, but even though he’s rich, successful, and doesn’t need her treasure, she refuses to tell him the truth.  This leads to tiresome scenes of Emily sneaking around various homes and being surprised by Jonas, who wonders what she’s up to. It’s predictable and not very entertaining.

The romance between Jonas and Emily plods at first, then heats up about midway through the book. Laurens can write a hot sex scene with the best of them, and readers won’t be disappointed in that aspect. The plot, however, is uninspiring. Emily runs around looking for her treasure, holding at bay the one person who might be able to help her. Jonas makes his intentions clear early on, but Emily plays the old “I’m not good enough for him” card.  And if she can’t accept his offer of marriage, because she’s only an innkeeper, it’s okay to just have sex with him, right? Because after all, she wants to know how it would be with him. What a nitwit. I had no patience with her. And I sure got tired reading about her “Colyton soul”,  “Colyton spirit”, etc, etc.  “Colyton intelligence” wasn’t mentioned, come to think of it.

Jonas is a fine hero, and certainly deserved better than he got.  I enjoyed that he figured out his feelings for Emily early on and set a course of action to win her. There is a secondary romance between Emily’s younger sister and the local vicar, but it’s not well-developed and is just background filler. Laurens employs her usual style of one-sentence paragraphs, too.

Lots of them.

Which might annoy readers no end.

Or perhaps not, if they’re used to them.

At any rate, Temptation and Surrender feels like a formulaic Cynster novel, once removed, and certainly at $24.95, I can’t recommend it. If you’re a diehard Laurens fan, try the local library. 

--Cathy Sova

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