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

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
by Stephanie Laurens
(Wm. Morrow, $24.95, R) ISBN 978-0-06-124339-4
Like other great realms, Historical Romanceland also has its great dynasties: for example, the Bedwyns, the Effingtons, the Mallorens and of course the Cynsters. The latter are not, by any means, my favorite one. In fact, I gave up on them a while ago. Other readers can't seem to get enough, even after hearing of the love life of every sibling, several cousins, and a couple of very close friends. This leaves Stephanie Laurens and her publishers with a serious quandary: they can't very well continue inventing new relatives. So they have expanded the definition of a "Cynster" novel to include not so very close friends. Laurens's latest novel focuses on Barnaby Adair, an investigator who has already helped out in quite a few novels.

This time, it is Penelope Ashford who asks for Adair's help. She helps manage a Foundling House which takes care of orphaned boys. A number of boys who are meant to come under her protection have not shown up. She is worried that something has happened to them. Or even worse that they have been drawn into a life of crime. She would like Adair to get to the heart of the matter, and she would like to work with him on it.

 Adair agrees to investigate. He is less sure about having Penelope around for the ride. He quickly changes his mind. He becomes so delighted with her that the hardened bachelor hopes he can seduce her into marrying him.

Penelope, however, is determined not to marry. She wants to continue to manage the Foundling House, and she sees absolutely no need for a husband. She would not mind, on the other hand, some lessons in desire. And so, Penelope and Adair intersperse their excursions into the East End with reunions in his bedroom. Another couple, Stokes and Griselda, respectively a Scotland Yard investigator and a seamstress, help out Penelope and Adair. They also discover true love together, although they don't take as many pages doing so.

The best I can say about Where the Heart Leads is that it is undistinguishable from most of Laurens' books. The characters, the plot, and even the love scenes, while competently wrought, quickly blur into identical ones from similar books. Adair is a bachelor who willingly admits his end is near; Penelope is quite out of synch with her times and class. They are clever enough to jump over all the hurdles the villain tosses their way. The latter is careful to hide his identity by working with numerous subalterns. This also ensures that Penelope and Adair have enough to keep them busy for four hundred pages. When they aren't burning up the sheets, that is.

I suspect old fans will find this book quite satisfying: at least, they will know what they are getting. Those who have moved on to chart new waters should proceed on course. This dynasty, like so many before, will eventually die out.

  --Mary Benn

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