The Lady Risks All by Stephanie Laurens

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Neville Roscoe, notorious and enigmatic, lives resolutely outside society, bound only by his own code of honor – until challenged by his desire for the one woman he cannot have.

Miranda Clifford is a lady imprisoned by rigid respectability – until tempted by a passion beyond her power to deny.

Flung together in peril, through danger and intrigue, they discover a love impossible to ignore…or keep.

Rating: C-

I have to say first of all that this is the first of Ms Laurens’ books that I’ve read. I thought the story was good, and the characterisation was generally strong – although I admit that Miranda’s tendency to remind us at regular intervals that she’s 29 and practically on the shelf every few pages became annoying quite quickly.

Roscoe is a wonderful hero. Beginning the story as somewhat of a Jack-the-Lad with the luck of the devil, he abandons his carefree existence in order to save his family from disgrace and ruin following the suicide of his elder brother. He has a great head for business and when we meet him again twelve years later, has built up an empire of gambling establishments, and it’s clear that he’s honest and fair, yet will go a long way in order to protect what’s his.

I did think that the latter part of the book was overly drawn out. I enjoyed the detective story element when Miranda and Roscoe were searching for Roderick, and then later, when they were trying to find out who was behind the plot against him, and the events and discoveries that lead up to the eventual unmasking of the real villain. What I don’t think worked so well were the reasons that kept Miranda and Roscoe apart. They were obviously in love, obviously very well-suited and while I know there were strict social conventions of the time, that seemed a very flimsy way of keeping them apart. Roscoe might have been London’s “gambling king”, but he also operated within the law and was incredibly rich – and even at that time, money talked. There are plenty of novels in which one of the protagonists had made their fortune in trade (or inheritied it) and I didn’t quite buy the idea that a rich and honourable man would make a social outcast of any woman he chose to marry.

That’s not my main problem with the book, though. No, that lies not with the story, but with the writing style. I have no idea if these are techniques employed by the author in her other books, but I found her way of breaking sentences; of chopping them up with copious semi-colons to be very irritating. Annoying. Grating. And then there’s the way she not only makes a point, but hammers it in and then smacks it with a sledgehammer for effect. Impact . Force. I know it’s all done to create certain effects (or I assume that to be the case), but it’s just not to my taste; I found it to be stilted and contrived.

And speaking of things not to my taste brings me to the sex scenes. There is plenty of romantic tension between the hero and heroine and I have no complaints about that. But I’m not one for too much purple prose, and some of the prose in this was so purple as to be almost black!

For example:

Into a dance to end all dances, into the heat of their raging fire.
And she was with him, gasping and clinging, riding and racing as, bodies plunging, they let passion whip them up the last peak.

To where ecstacy waited, brighter, more brilliant, than ever before.

To where their hearts collided, shattered and re-formed, transformed and became one as they fell through the glory.

Or this:

He wanted, clear and simple, and let his need show, let the maelstrom of it manifest and infuse him, flow to her and bind them – let it blend with her much more openly declared passion to create … something more.

I just… have no idea what’s going on! I know it’s not meant to be taken literally (otherwise it’d be pretty painful!), but that sort of language – to my mind, anyway – conveys next to nothing about what these people are feeling. And in a sex scene, I think that’s pretty important.

It’s not that I wanted out-and-out porn. Not that I’ve anything against out-and-out porn – it has its place. But I found the sex scenes in this book were making me giggle rather than want to loosen my collar and open the windows! In the end, I found myself skimming through them so I could get to the next bit of action or dialogue.

I know Ms Laurens is a best-selling author of dozens of books, and I’m just a pleb who’s never read any of her novels before. As I’ve said, there were things I liked about the story, but the overall style just isn’t to my taste.

Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for the review copy

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