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

Temptation and Surrender

The Truth About Love

To Distraction

What Price Love?

Where the Heart Leads

The Elusive Bride
by Stephanie Laurens
(Avon, $7.99, PG-13)  ISBN 978-006-179515-2
Stephanie Laurens has given us the Cynsters and the Bastion Club.  While not all of them were great, most got high marks from our critics.  This new series is a continuation or at least connected.  Some of the Cynsters and members of the club even put in a cameo.  While I didn’t get to read the first of this new series by Laurens, I definitely want to go find it now and also keep reading this Bride series.  The Elusive Bride starts off a little slow, but picks up nicely and is ultimately a tale that is hard to put down.

Emily Ensworth was sent to Bombay to stay with her uncle, the Governor, when it was clear she was not going to find a husband in the normal way of society.  Her parents hoped she could meet other types of men and ultimately settle on someone.  But Emily wants “the one” – you know, the guy who makes her heart patter and the guy who sees her as a valued partner, not just a way to an heir.  Her sisters found their men and she wants hers.   What she doesn’t expect to find is danger, intrigue and a race back to England with a man who stirs her senses. 

Emily becomes embroiled in a plot when the men who are guarding her are ambushed and she is given the task to get a package to four men.  The four men are all handpicked members of a ring that is trying to bring a villain known as the Black Cobra to justice.  They have suspicions but no hard evidence…until they receive the package Emily is carrying.  They decide to copy the evidence and all four head out on different routes to England.  Only one will have the original and the goal of the other three is to draw out as many of the cobra’s men as possible and kill them, thus paving the way for the man with the real document.  None of the four know who is carrying the real one, but they know if they are not.

Major Gareth Hamilton catches Emily’s eye and when their hands inadvertently touch, there is a zing.  Emily is determined to see more of him to determine if more can come of this.  But Gareth is one of the four and when he leaves, Emily decides to follow him.  Little does she realize that the Cobra knows she is the one who delivered the evidence and is as big a target as the four men.

They end up teaming up – Gareth to make sure Emily arrives in England safely, and Emily to give her time to get to know Gareth.  Of course, she is glad for his protection but is also aware that he does not yet see her as an equal.  She wants to change that perception.  They travel across land, sea and desert and face danger at all stations.  But from this they forge a bond and ultimately a very satisfying romance results.

Gareth was a great hero.  He was strong, demanding and at times, almost boorish.  But he also had a sense about Emily and was impressed with her courage even as he lamented her lack of caution at times.  He both appreciated her help and her intelligence while wishing she would just sit back and let him protect her.

Emily acted impulsively at times, but once the reader realizes that she is smart too, it is easy to accept her for who she was.  The fact that she took off and traveled so independently felt a little off for 1822, but if the reader can get over that fact, the story envelopes one in intrigue and dangerous adventures.  Luckily, Emily’s impulses are also tempered with common sense.  She might jump into a fight, but she does so having thought through how she could be the most help.  Her weapons are effective even if somewhat unorthodox.

The mystery surrounding the other men and the Black Cobra is engaging and definitely whetted my appetite for the other three men’s stories.  If they are as action-packed and romance packed as this one, they will be worth the hunt.  In the meantime, don’t hesitate to pick up The Elusive Bride.   

--Shirley Lyons

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