From Stephanie Laurens first ‘Bastion Club’ novel, I’ve been fascinated by Dalziel. Finally, in “Mastered By Love”, I get his story and it’s a doozy. Why and how he became a ‘shadow’ in society and head of the British spies makes for a wonderful read and the woman he falls for is not at all what he expected. And for Cynster fans, Devil makes a few appearances!
Minerva has been the chatelaine of Wolverstone Castle for many years now. Informally adopted by the Duke’s family after the death of her parents and raised with all the privileges of their name and family, she’s never forgotten what she feels she ‘owes’ them. She was always fascinated by the heir, Royce, and her life lost color after his banishment. But deathbed promises are no small matter, and Minerva promised BOTH of Royce’s parents (at separate times) to stay and help Royce settle into the Dukedom after his long absence. Of course, one of his first tasks MUST be to ensure the succession and once he marries, Minerva plans to leave. If she can only keep her heart safe until then!
Royce…how strange to use that name again after all this time. But oh, this is NOT how he imagined returning home would be. His plans were already made, but his father’s sudden death means his learning curve will be steep and painful. How could he have forgotten Minerva? Well, in his defense, he doesn’t remember her looking like THIS! But he knows his duty and it’s to marry some cold, dutiful peeress who will breed his heir and a spare and then live their own life without bothering him. But after seeing his Bastion Club operatives find love and happiness, why does this plan seem so wrong? And even if he changes his mind, can he convince Minerva? And don’t forget, there’s still that last traitor to catch!
If you enjoy Laurens’ writing style, you’ll love “Mastered By Love”. She does tend to be a bit wordy (!), but I still mainline her books as soon as they’re released. This one may not be my favorite Bastion Club book, but it’s close. Royce is such a complicated character and his relationship with Minerva is every bit of everything he had coming. Their attraction and the dilemma of tradition resonate on every page. Laurens can write breath-taking love scenes, if a bit long, but then again, sometimes longer is better, eh?
I was a bit disappointed with the sideline story of the last traitor. For something that played so largely in earlier books, it seemed a bit of a sidenote here. The majority of the book is ALL about Royce and Minerva and the danger of the traitor is really only expressed towards the very end and wrapped up fairly quickly. Dalziel/Royce’s ‘wooing’ is not to be missed and even with its quirks, this book will go on my keeper shelf with the rest of the Bastion Club series.