Review: The Greatest Challenge of Them All

Review: The Greatest Challenge of Them AllThe Greatest Challenge Of Them All (Cynster #26; Cynster Next Generation #6) by Stephanie Laurens
Series: Devil's Brood Trilogy #3, ,
Published by Savdek Management Pty Ltd on July 7th 2017
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-stars

“She’d had enough of playing by his rules.”

FINAL DECISION: This was the best of the three book trilogy as Drake and Louisa have a battle of wills over her involvement in Drake’s investigation. The focus in this series is the mystery and that is true here as well, but the romance was satisfying.

THE STORY: Drake Varisey, Marquess of Winchelsea and heir to the Duke of Wolverstone has taken up the reins of trying to unravel the plot to blow something in London up. The one woman he doesn’t want to help is Lady Louisa Cynster. For years, there has been something between these two and Louisa is determined to find out if there is any possibility of a future between them and he doesn’t intend to allow Drake to avoid her anymore. Recognizing that he needs Louisa’s vast social knowledge and connections, Drake allows Louisa to worm her way into his investigation, but he risks the emotional entanglement that he has been avoiding for years.

OPINION: This book pulls together the threads from the first two books of the series in both the mystery and the romances (as all three couples make appearances here). In fact, if I have a real complaint it is that it appears that all the real significant action was kept until this book which makes the first two books a little unnecessary.

Much of the book is about the mystery of what is going on with the gunpower that the characters have been searching for in the trilogy. There are differing points of view, including the villains in the story. That makes for a weighty story that has many moving parts.

Louisa is a woman who might be the strongest willed heroine that I’ve ever read by Laurens. She is already a mature woman who knows what her roll in life will be. She is giving Drake an audition so to speak. From the beginning she admits that there is no love between them because they haven’t been able to interact enough. (Honestly, I thought their beginning a little cold which has been an unfortunate repeated refrain in Laurens more recent books.¬† Too much intellectual evaluation, too little emotional upheaval). I like how she just does what she wants and doesn’t flinch at all from Mr. All powerful Spymaster extraordinaire.

Drake is a man who keeps control by avoiding those things that could challenge his control — namely Louisa. But as he cannot avoid her any longer, Drake is drawn closer and closer to the wonderfully competent and intelligent Louisa. And the closer he gets to her, the closer he wants to be.

I thought that these two had the best clashes as Drake is determined to avoid Louisa’s charms (but he doesn’t hold out well). I thought that this book best interwove the mystery and the romance. I also thought that the mystery was particularly good at the end as the unexpected target and motivations of the villains too center stage at the end of this book.

But what I loved most about this book was the extended epilogue which tied all the romances together in a beautiful fashion. That is what made this into a Cynster book for me.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a bit with Devil and Honoria which is my favorite part — because they remain my favorite Laurens’ couple.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE GREATEST CHALLENGE OF THEM ALL is the third book in the Devil’s Brood Trilogy. While the trilogy books work together as one mystery is solved, I think a reader could read just this book and not miss any of the mystery since there is a recap in the beginning.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: An Irresistible Alliance

Review: An Irresistible AllianceAn Irresistible Alliance by Stephanie Laurens
Series: Devil's Brood Trilogy #2, Cynsters #25, Cynsters Next Generation #5
Published by Savdek Management Pty Ltd on May 11th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

“You men always want to keep all the fun for yourselves.”

FINAL DECISION: A well rounded, if a little intellectual and mechanical, romance that mixes mystery with two people working a partnership to solve a mystery into a life partnership.

THE STORY: Lord Michael Cynster has been freed from his obligation to carry on the family line by the betrothal of his older brother, but now Michael feels at loose ends. When his brother and fiancee cannot continue the investigations they began, Michael takes up the reins to discover the barrels of gunpower now in London. His search takes him to Hendron Shipping for help where he meets¬†Miss Cleome Hendon who has been running the family shipping offices. Cleo’s efficiency is her enemy as she longs for something new and exciting. Michael’s appearance offers that as Cleo bargains with information in order to become part of the investigation.

OPINION: This book brings together two of the children from Laurens’ Cynster and Bastion Club series. I enjoyed this book, but have to admit that I miss the parents who seem like a lingering and missing presence in the book.

This book has a political mystery drama (similar to the Bastion Club series) that continues from the first book. Cleo is definitely her mother’s daughter and demands her equal role from the start. The mystery of the book is the method by which these two work out their relationship. In that fashion, it is a historical romantic suspense. The mystery is the central story here with the romance a constant presence, but only worked out as the two engage in their investigations.

While I enjoyed the interactions between these characters and I especially like that Michael quickly reconciles himself to wanting all of Cleo (including the adventurous part). His father gives him some good advice and I did enjoy seeing Devil in his fatherly role. The romance between the two seemed too pat and organized and reasonable. I have to admit that I kind of like romances where the match needs to be worked out more. This one was like pulling on a pair of favorite socks. Comfortable but not particularly exciting. Perhaps that it what is likely to happen with well known characters children (who don’t have misfortunes in their background).

I thought the story was well constructed and I enjoyed it, but it doesn’t reach the level of the early Cynster books which were superlative.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is really a next generation book so fans wanting glimpses of the original Cynsters might be disappointed. There are small glimpses of Devil and Honoria but only small ones.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AN IRRESISTIBLE ALLIANCE is the second book in the Devil’s Brood Trilogy which is a spin-off of the Cynsters Next Generation series (Book #5) which is itself a spin-off of the Cynsters series (Book #25). This book should be read as part of the Devil’s Brood Trilogy because there is an overarching storyline that is divided between the books even if the romance is self-contained.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars