Monday, February 19, 2007

REVIEWBALL: "What Price Love?" by Stephanie Laurens


What Price Love?
By Stephanie Laurens
Avon (reprint January 2007)
ISBN: 0060840854

Cai Said: Stephanie Laurens’ latest foray into the world of the Cynster family concerns Dillon Caxton. Dillon is first introduced in Demon & Flick’s story, A Rogue’s Proposal. Dillon had managed to get himself embroiled in a nefarious scheme and needs rescuing. Along the way, he managed to redeem himself and since then has struggled to regain his honor and has maintained an impeccable reputation.

Stephanie Said: I did not read Demon and Flick’s story but I was able to easily grasp that Dillon had been a very bad boy, been redeemed and was not working towards said impeccable reputation. So this book stood alone for me quite well. I’ve read quite a few of the Cynster novels but even so I don’t think you need to be an aficionado of the Cynsters to be able to get this book.

Cai Said: Dillon is in charge of the breeding register and the stud books for the Jockey Club. His responsibility is one he takes very seriously and one that he will not allow to be compromised – no matter how beguiling the person asking. Enter Pris Dalling. This beyond-beautiful woman is in search of her missing twin brother. The fact that her brother is obsessed with horses and racing leads her to Newmarket, Suffolk and straight to Dillon.

Stephanie Said: What we also should mention here is that Dillon is beyond-handsome.

Cai Said: Pris is surprised by the extremely handsome man and senses a somewhat kindred spirit in him. They’ve both been judged by their outward beauty. No one ever seems to want to look beneath the surface.

Stephanie Said: At first I was bored by this pretty meets pretty story. I felt it had been done time and time again. What made this interesting was Priscilla’s knowledge and understanding of how she could use her body. She had the power of a femme fatale without the black widow mindset so often associated with that. I enjoyed her calculating what to wear in order to present precisely the right picture. She knew how to tone down or fully display her assets. This added layers to her “pretty” character that made her more enjoyable to me. I liked that she knowingly manipulated Dillon. Or rather, tried to manipulate him. His experience with how his own physical beauty affected others left him seemingly immune to Pris’s outer dressings. This caused an interested conflict for Pris because she had to seek other ways to interact with this man.

Cai Said: Much to Pris’ surprise, Dillon does look beneath the surface of her beauty. And he wants what he sees. She determines to use her beauty to her advantage, as she’s done most of her life, only this time she’s not sure. Dillon proposes a trade – her body for a look at the register. He doesn’t expect her to agree and he doesn’t expect his own world to be turned around by that agreement.

Stephanie Said: When Pris took Dillon up on his suggestion, I was rather surprised. I didn’t get the motivation for her having sex with this man other than as a way to move the plot forward. Laurens very nearly lost me at this point because I didn’t buy into the physical relationship between these too people. It just seemed far too contrived to me. Also the book seemed to really be dragging at this point and this did not help it.

Cai Said: They begin a sensual exploration unhampered by physical beauty. At the same time, Pris is trying to find her brother and Dillon is trying to find out why it is so important that she find out what is in the register. He’s afraid she might have something to do with the scandal he’s caught wind of.

Stephanie Said: I really wish we’d had more of a look at Pris’s brother. He was a fascinating character as a first-born who would leave his estate and position as heir to an earldom for horses. What motivates a man to do something that significant in that day and age? I wanted to know more about him.

Cai Said: Several of the Cynster family make appearances in this novel, along with Dillon’s friend Barnaby and some other interesting secondary characters. There’s romance aplenty, but the action truly comes near the end when the scheme is revealed and a small group of ‘warriors’ plot to unravel it.

Stephanie Said: The secondary characters at times just stopped the book for me. It was as if Laurens thought “This will make a good secondary plot line” and then decided against it. I had glimpses of characters and then they just went away. Very unsatisfying for me as a reader.

Cai Said: Suspense abounds near the end, but don’t expect a great deal of it in the beginning of this novel.

Stephanie Said: Do give this one a chance. I felt that the dragging, dull beginning was compensated for by the rapid-fire ending. Once the horse race/register problem is in the process of being solved, the book really does pick up. The ending is satisfying but truly, this book was not as good as some of Laurens’ other books. And I love her writing! It is always crisp and clean and evocative.

Cai Said: I give it a rousing cheer because I just can’t seem to get enough of the Cynster world!

Stephanie Said: I give it a half-hearted cheer for the dull beginning that made me feel as if I was slogging towards my expected Laurens story. It was almost as if she’d been half-asleep for the first part of the book. But when she woke up? Well, that made the whole thing worth it.

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