MIRA, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7783-1896-5
Historical Romance, 2016
The Daredevil Snared is the third book in Stephanie Laurens’s The Adventurers Quartet, and since we only have one more book to go, this means this story goes right into the heat of the action, as Great Britain, apparently unable to cope with slavers capturing white expatriates in Freetown to be used as slaves in mines and such, finally finds a solution. Where armies have failed, a bunch of people will succeed.
No, not the Avengers armed with spaceships on loan from Star-Lord – the Frobisher brothers. It’s not even the four brothers working together to take down the bad guys in a flurry of Cynster kung fu: like other romance novel series, each brother takes turn to star in one book, and once he has been wedded, he steps back and sends a summon to the next brother to take over. I’m not kidding. So it’s basically a succession of a one-man tank and his loyal small crew making inroads in such a short time where mighty armies have failed.
So, this time around it’s Caleb Frobisher’s turn to answer the call. Indeed, he and his crew, which the author proudly tells me right from the get go are just too awesome, cut a mighty swathe, but the end stage boss still manages to escape. Along the way, Caleb meets Katherine Fletcher, a governess who came here seeking a new life only to be captured and made to supervise the kids and women made to work the mines. Can Caleb assist Katherine and her people in finding freedom? Of course. It’s obviously just a matter of time, as the author still hasn’t learned the simple art of creating suspense: you never, ever tell the reader from the start that the good guys completely out-awesome the bad guys. But that’s what she does here, so oops, there goes all the suspense in the story.
Still, there is a nostalgic charm to this one, as it reminds me of those old campy stories that would be considered hugely politically incorrect today, ones like Sir H Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines or even Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim, where it’s all about white boys running around having a wild old time in foreign exotic lands. I always enjoyed those stories for the melodramatic, breathtaking grandeur of those adventures, and there are moments when reading this one gives me twinges of fond nostalgic flashbacks to those times when I discovered those readers. Not that this is a particularly exciting story – no suspense here, for one, as the bad guys are too inconsequential to be more than a mosquito trying to get a bite at Caleb Almighty’s rear end – but I don’t come across stories like this sort so often these days. Hmm, maybe it’s because I’m looking at the wrong places. But that may say more about me than the book, right?
Yes, there are loads of non-stop action adventure here, but the good guys are often rather unnaturally capable at any given situation. Even Katherine and her folks, despite having spent a long time suffering and all that, are still ready to fight and what not, and they always know how to do the right thing at the right moment. There are many times when they even seem to think, say things, and behave like they all have the same hive mind. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the author could do a whole lot more to make her action scenes more exciting if this is the route she wants to head down. It’s not just about the good guys coming in and mowing all crap down – the good guys need to show vulnerabilities too, to make them seem real as well as to play with the reader’s emotions and make her root for the good guys. This is why Luke Skywalker doesn’t start the original trilogy already a Jedi master commanding his own Death Star to mow down Darth Vader’s shanty colony in some backward planet – if it’s so obvious from the start that the good guys will win without much effort, it’s time to see what is on the other channel.
As for the romance, well, who has time for that? Okay, there are a few tacked on scenes of hungry looks, kisses, and some love scenes, but on the whole, the relationship feels like it’s included just to make sure that this book can be placed on the romance shelf and the author’s long-time fans won’t bay for blood too loudly.
Therefore, if you are looking for some old-fashioned love all day, long long time story, this one is definitely not what you are looking for. But if you want some action-packed story with some romance thrown in… well, actually, you can do better than to read this one, due to its overpowered good guys killing all sense of urgency or suspense in this story. Besides, how urgent can crushing the evil slavers be if the heroes can take a breather after getting a wife to call the next unmarried brother to come take over? But if you do have to read this book for some reason though, and romance is not a priority for you, I suppose this one is okay. I’ve read better, and I’ve certainly read worse from this author.