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Book Cover C2’s review of Mastered by Love by Stephanie Laurens
Historical romance, released 28 July 2009 by Avon

Royce Verisey, heir to the Duke of Wolverstone, grew up expecting to take his father’s place presiding over their not-so-small corner of northern England. He did not expect to receive a request from the Crown to serve England’s interests by heading a network of spies. Saying yes to the Crown meant turning his back on his family – a fact made clear by his father. Loyalty to his country (combined with rage at his father’s ultimatum) led Royce do as the Crown asked. He took the name Dalziel from his mother’s family and headed a group of spies that helped topple Napoleon.

After Napoleon’s defeat, Dalziel’s team of spies disbanded – even though one last traitor had escaped their net. The former spies founded the Bastion Club and went off to find wives and build lives for themselves in a peaceful England. And Dalziel decided that, after taking care of the last details of his work for the crown, he would go see his father and try to determine where things stood in their relationship.

One does not disown the heir to a dukedom, so even though there had been no contact with his family in sixteen years, there were matters to discuss. Before Royce completely wrapped things up in London, he received word of his father’s unexpected death. Upset he would not get any sort of closure with his father, Royce immediately headed north to take up the reins of the dukedom.

Since there has been no contact in years, he has no idea what sort of state the estate is in, knows nothing of the people – he is flying blindly into huge responsibilities. Thankfully, when he arrives at Wolverstone Castle, Royce finds the Wolverstone chatelaine, Miss Minerva Chesterton, has much of the information he needs to go forward as the new duke.

Minerva, the daughter of a childhood friend of Royce’s mother came to live with the Veriseys when her parents died. She was six years old and Royce was fourteen. Minerva grew up with the children of the family and remained – first as Royce’s mother’s companion and amanuensis (a fancy word for something close to a private secretary) and, after the duchess’s death, as Royce’s father’s chatelaine. Minerva promised both the late duke and duchess that she would see Royce settled into his new life as duke before leaving Wolverstone.

As he works with Minerva to finalize the arrangements for the funeral and get reacquainted with Wolverstone, Royce sees that she has much of the knowledge he needs to make good decisions for the future of the estate. Plus he is very attracted to her. Unfortunately, Royce does not sense any returned interest from Minerva. When the members of the ton arrive for the funeral, Royce finds out there are rumblings that the Crown will try to change the charter of the dukedom. In order to thwart the possibility of such a fate, he is told by the grande dames that he must marry quickly.

Royce refuses to have his life dictated; he has decided he does not want the sort of marriage his family is known for – a business arrangement between two influential families – he wants the sort of marriage the other Bastion Club members have. Still, he doesn’t want to offend such influential ladies so he negotiates a two week period to decide who he will marry (they provide lists of eligible young women, of course).

Over the next few weeks, Royce realizes that he wants Minerva to be his duchess. She has much of the knowledge he needs to make good decisions for the future of the estate. Plus he is very attracted to her. Unfortunately, Royce does not sense any returned interest from Minerva. He hasn’t picked up any signs that she is interested but is determined to seduce her – even though he has never had to exert himself like that for a woman. Poor Royce, having to work for a woman’s attention. *false sympathy* Little does he realize Minerva has been half in love with him since childhood.

She agrees to a fling, thinking two weeks isn’t enough time to lose her heart and that she will be able to walk away unscathed when Royce announces his chosen bride. She also tells him not to consider her as a potential bride because she doesn’t want to be a convenient way to meet the grande dames’ demands. Can Minerva resist Royce’s charms? Can Royce convince Minerva she is the only one duchess for him? And what about that last traitor lurking about on English soil – where does he fit in? Ah, faithful reader, the answers to all these questions and more can be yours. I’ll admit the whole business with the traitor dragged on a bit and I was not sympathetic to Royce’s “I don’t know how to seduce a woman, they always come to me” dilemma. As a bonus, we see Devil Cynster before the Cynster series (and his mom and a few other familiar faces). This book is set in 1816 and Devil’s Bride is set in 1818. But Royce is a pretty typical Laurens hero so fans know what to expect. All in all, it was a bit of a slow read – wow, there are lots and lots of words…434 pages with a small font! – but it was a good wrap of the Bastion Club series.

csquareds-icon.jpgGrade: B-

Summary: The men of the Bastion Club proved their bravery secretly fighting for their country. Now their leader faces that most dangerous mission of all: finding a bride. As the mysterious leader of the Bastion Club known as “Dalziel,” Royce Varisey, tenth Duke of Wolverstone, served his country for decades, facing dangers untold. But as the holder of one of England’s most august noble titles, he must now take on that gravest duty of all: marriage.

Yet the young ladies the grande dames would have him consider are predictably boring. Far more tempting is his castle’s willful and determinedly aloof chatelaine, Minerva Chesterton. Beneath her serene façade lies a woman of smoldering sensuality, one who will fill his days with comfort and his nights with sheer pleasure. Determined to claim her, he embarks on a seduction to prove his mastery over every inch of her body . . . and every piece of her heart.


Other books in the series:

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