Friday, August 7, 2009

Review of Mastered by Love by Stephanie Laurens


Mastered by Love by Stephanie Laurens
Nooooooooooo! Why, Stephanie, why?????

OK, to say that I am massively disappointed by this book would be an understatement. I have enjoyed the Bastion Club series quite a bit, although the last one (The Edge of Desire) was not my favorite, and some of them have felt repetitive, not unlike the Cynster series. However, Dalziel, the head of the spy organization in this series, was a really cool character. Dark, mysterious, brilliant, loyal. I was super excited for this final installment of the series. Finally, Laurens has a character she can really sink her writing chops into. Develop a cool story line with intrigue and danger. Create an amazing heroine who can match Dalziel with her intensity and cleverness. Did Laurens do these things?? Noooooooooooo!

Here are the reasons this book is in dire wall banger territory....
First of all, I realize that Laurens is recycling the same story and the same alpha male characters over and over again, but this time it has gone too far for me. A Fine Passion dealt with the exact same theme....father dying, coming home to take over the family estate, heroine already there running the show, etc. etc. I mean, come on!!!! With Dalziel's history, could Laurens not come up with something a little more interesting or original for a story? Jesus H. Canola. Also, right from the onset of this book, Dalziel comes off as a jerk. He wants to bed Minerva (whose name sounds like a shrivelled up ninety year old grandmother!) to "slake his terrible temper"????? What the....? He basically is a horny, self-absorbed ass. This is the incredible character who has saved countless lives, sacrificed so much for his men and country? I am so not buying this.

Also, reading Laurens' sex scenes is like chewing on a hunk of cardboard. Tasteless and boring. I just skip over them, frankly. They are all exactly the same, nothing original or sexy whatsoever. If the sex scenes in a romance novel are not sexy, this is basically the kiss o' death for the book. There is absolutely no spark, no chemistry here at all. It's pathetic. Dalziel is supposed to be so masterful, brooding, dark....should be easy to project these qualities into a sex scene, but it is not happening.

The worst disappointment is the story line. And it had so much potential. Laurens could have developed a dark and dangerous plot for this amazing character, but instead she plucked one of the most boring plots known to mankind. His dad died and he has to take over the dukedom. Some days he checks out bridges that need to be repaired. Some days, cottages that need to be repaired. Oh My God! This is the master spy leader!!!!!! And Minerva is no better. A competent chatelaine??? Great, wake me when it's over.....

And the unknown traitor!!! We have been waiting to discover his identity for so long....and he turns out to be a cuckoo cousin of Dalziel who is completely psychotic and babbling. What a bunch of horse shite. There is no way that this babbling buffoon would have been brilliant enough to avoid discovery during the war. And the worse part? Does Dalziel get to save the day? Nooooo.....Minvera, chatelaine extraordinaire, whips a knife out (which she just happens to have strapped to her thigh during her wedding day!!!!) and takes him out while Dalziel stands there. Crimeny. I am close to freaking speechless, and as you know, that is a rare occurrence in Penelope land.

I am most flabbergasted that many people think this book is good. I seriously cannot fathom it. I am usually pretty forgiving with my reviews and grades (grade inflation is alive and well at Penelope's!), but this one is too disappointing for me. Stephanie Laurens had the potential for something very cool here, and she totally blew it. Since my worst grade is a C, that's what it's getting. I will no longer shell out the big bucks for her hardcovers, and I'm hoping that her new series (The Black Cobra Quartet) will pump a little bit of life back into her books. But I'm not holding my breath. I am keeping Stephanie on my favorite author list since I still adore her older books, both the Cynster series and the original Bastion Club series. Oh please, please Stephanie....I hope you recapture the old magic again! Sigh.
Grade: C
A Very Sad Penelope

18 comments:

Lori said...

Oh gosh, noooo!!!! I skipped the paragraph where you gave away who the villain is, but otherwise, I can't bear to think that this is all Dalziel gets. *weeping*

Penelope said...

Lori, you should be weeping. Get out the hankies. If you are a Laurens fan I think you are going to be bitterly disappointed. However, there are some folks who actually like this book. Shocking to me, but there you have it.

Anonymous said...

I've been kinda *meh* about the entire series, managed to end up with a few in my hand despite my average response to these, but I did look forward to this one. Really wanted to read Dalziel's story.
Since I'd already had a lukewarm reception of the others, I think I'll skip this one.

--Lori P.

Mandi said...

Oh noes...cardboard is never good when describing love scenes ;) I think I will pass on this one!

Penelope said...

Hey Mandi! Some of Laurens' early books had great love scenes...memorable, emotional and hot. But lately she is re-hashing the same old, same old and it's getting stale as....well, cardboard.

Kate M said...

Seriously, Penelope, you need to stop being to shy. :)

I guess I'll be skipping this one. Such a shame to hear of someone with so much talent going stale. Maybe the new series will bring back the magic.

Penelope said...

Hi Kate M! I sure hope you're right...Stephanie Laurens used to be one of my favorite historical romance authors, and I really miss her!

Victoria Morgan said...

That is disappointing. It is the worst when you so look forward to a book in a series, and it doesn't hold up to expectations. I've definitely had that happen. Sometimes, I worry if the market is pushing authors to produce their work so fast that the writing suffers in the race for quantity over quality. Oh, well.
Jesus H. Cranola? I might have to borrow that expression....
Cardboard love scenes? Oh, dear.

Penelope said...

Hi Vicki! Thanks for stopping by. I love the expression Jesus H. Canola. Also just saw a new one today....crap on a cracker. That's good, too!

D. M. said...

Just my humble opinion, of course. I adored MASTERED BY LOVE. A 10+. This is a man who sacrificed a major portion of his life for love of country. He deserved to be happy at the end. I think the cover is romantic & sensual, & the epitomy of what Dalziel/Royce would look like - Stephanie Laurens repeatedly told us he looked younger than his age - that he had dark eyes, dark wavy hair and was well built - and he had a fierce temper he used to his advantage. He wanted to be more than what historically had been for members of his family - what the ton had expected him to be, what the ton felt, in spite of all he had accomplished and sacrificed, he was entitled to. He wanted to set his own course and destiny, choose his own woman - he wanted love, he wanted to give love. He was determined to make a difference - to take care of his people and make better lives for them. I didn't want the book to be about the traitor - I wanted it to be devoted to Dalziel/Royce - and it was! I wanted to know what he gave up and how he dealt with it while he "hid" in plain sight - and Laurens delivered. We learned how ducal homes operated at that time in history and how he set out to change things - to "modernize". He was a true Renaissance man. Minerva was his equal in every way - in bed and out. And they had some of the hottest love scenes I've ever read. Well done. I would love to see more of their romance in follow up books - not just "visits" - but MORE of their lives together with whatever children they may have. Frankly, I couldn't put the book down, I've re-read it several times. And I love Stephanie Laurens use of the English language and scenes which are often butchered and rushed by other authors. I think she excels at setting up a scene and how a character thinks AND what he or she feels. I highly recommend the book.

Penelope said...

Hi D.M.! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a message. I have noticed that a lot of people who have not read every single one of Stephanie Laurens' books liked this one. It was new and fresh for them. I, unfortunately, have read every single one of Stephanie Laurens' books, and the repetitiveness has gotten out of hand. I agree with you that her writing is wonderful, her descriptions of Regency England are fascinating, and that her long-winded love scenes are often very sexy. The problem is that I have read these exact same descriptions over 20 times, and they have gotten boring. If you look at other reviews I have done for her books, then you know that she is one of my favorite historical authors. However, I still think this book was a horrible disappointment in many ways. Some readers agreed with me, and some loved it. So there you go. It's funny that you should mention the cover. I usually ignore the covers, but another reader was really pissed because she felt it did not look like the Dalziel she'd pictured.

D.M. said...

Hi Penelope, delighted to be here. Like you I've read every one of Stephanie Laurens books too - including her Regency romances and her books with other authors. Of the Cynster series - Devil's Bride and Scandal's Bride (which was a bit different from the other Cynster books) are my favorites - but I did love them all. Of the Bastion Club series, in addition to this one, I loved A Fine Passion. I do LOVE the Royce/Minerva cover - LOL to me THAT is Dalziel!! I think first and foremost - Royce was a man, and he had all the simple wants and needs of any man. Every single one of his spies HE handpicked - and, consequently, they ALL had qualities and traits very similar to him, as well as education and appearance. BUT unlike the others - he had been abused and neglected. In every book he was the brooding, feared character - but he always was the one they knew they could go to - the one who ALWAYS helped them. He could have gone the way of becoming a mean nasty you know what LOL - but instead he observed, absorbed, LEARNED and chose to set a different course. And I think THAT is the moral of the story - of the entire series. How the one everyone expected to have the hard "cold" heart - was MASTERED BY LOVE. JMHO of course.

Penelope said...

Hi DM! I am tickled to have this dialogue going with a Laurens fan!! Most readers I have spoken to lately have been mocking her, and I find myself defending her, although I obviously was unhappy with this latest book. My favorites of the Cynsters also include the beginning of the series, Devil and Scandal's books, and of the Bastion Club my favorites are The Lady Chosen, A Gentleman's Honor and A Lady of His Own. I also liked A Fine Passion (did it not bother you how similar Dalziel's story is to Jack's? I felt like I was re-reading the beginning of that book!). I also really like some of her older shorter stories that are not quite as steamy. They are wonderful. Anyway, I find that my favorites with her are the beginning of the series, when it's fresh and new and exciting. As the series progresses, so does the repetition. However, believe it or not, you have made me decide to re-read Mastered by Love and give it another chance. (I am bringing a basket of books to the beach next week!). This book was lacking the Laurens magic in my opinion, but I'll try again. After my disappointment with Christine Feehan lately, I am feeling let down by my old favorites.

D. M. said...

LOL - Devil was the Duke who BEGAN (led) the Cynster series while the Bastion Club series (led up to) CLOSED with Dalziel who was a Duke. I loved Jack Warnefleet because he "let" Clarice dominate him or let her think she dominated him - LOL know what I mean? Unlike Royce, Jack didn't have an abusive, neglected relationship with his parents. There's a small passage in MASTERED BY LOVE which tells how Royce was treated by his mother. And it was NOT how Helena treated her sons - she adored BOTH her sons - Devil AND Scandal, who wasn't her own flesh (remember how she doted on him when he was poisoned?). In A Fine Passion, Jack returns home YEARS after the death and burial of his father to meet a strange woman who was managing his estate. In MASTERED BY LOVE, Royce returned home to find the little girl he'd left behind grown up and managing his estate and he has to face his father's death and bury him. Not really the same. The last few paragraphs of MASTERED BY LOVE really sum up what was going on inside Royce. I don't recall ANY other character in the Cynster or Bastion Club series having been victimized by abuse/neglect in their childhood - ONLY Royce - and he MASTERED it. Good night Penelope. Let me know after you re-read it what you think. Talk to you soon.

Penelope said...

Good night, DM! Thanks for the chat! I will get back to you in about a week with my re-assessment of Mastered by Love.

D.M. said...

There are very subtle hints to his upbringing. The first one was in Edge of Desire - when it was noted his father ruled with an iron hand. HOW could ANY parent, let alone a mother shut out her child (Cranny, the Cook had more concern for him!)? No real love from parents or legitimate siblings - what a difference from the Cynsters! Regret is a terrible thing - and it was revealed that both parents had terrible regrets at the end of their lives. I did appreciate that they had taken Minvera in. And I was amazed with Minerva. She managed to thrive. Oh, here I go again, I'm jumping the gun. LOL - I'll wait til you get back. Have fun at the beach, Penelope!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Moonths later, I come into the scene!! :) I wanted to say that I've been looking for the Dalziel book and will now be diligent about it! All of the Laurens books, the singles, the sets, and the series are all great. I tend to skip over the love-scenes....that is just my Victorian up-bringing!! The insight Laurens shows in the development of characters is very good. In the series, some of it is a repeat, because it is a "family" or "unit" many of whom are very similar in character (by rearing) and personality. Go Penelope! Go D.M.! Oh, by the way? Did you get to the beach and did you re-read the book, Penelope? Cary

DM said...

Hi Cary. Just saw your note. There were many great scenes in Mastered by Love, IMHO. One particularly HOT and memorable scene was referred to in Laurens' most recent novel, The Untamed Bride, the first installment of her 4 part series The Black Cobra which features all the Bastion Club and Cynster husbands as well as their wives, and fast forwards 7 years from the time Royce and Minerva get together. Once again Royce is called upon to protect the country from a dastardly villain and his evil minions, and the Duke of Wolverstoe enlists everyone to do so. The Cynster men play a trick on their wives, and the ladies want "revenge". It is Minerva who "advises" the women and that memorable scene is played out again. Did you finally get to read Mastered by Love?