Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-179514-5
Historical Romance, 2009
It has been a while since I last read a romance novel by Stephanie Laurens. Thinking that absence may make the heart grow fonder, I decide to give The Untamed Bride a try. After all, it is the start of a new series called The Black Cobra Quartet, which suggests to me that it will be free of the ridiculously fecund Cynsters. Well, that assumption about the series is wrong. This series is closely tied to the Cynsters and the dudes in the Bastion Club, and therefore, in this book, there is no escaping them.
Our hero, Colonel Derek “Del” Delborough, is part of the five super elite superheroes in India, assigned by the Governor-General of India to do things that mere humans cannot do. I’m sure if Ms Laurens can get away with giving them their own theme song, she would do just that. Their latest assignment is to squash the Black Cobra and his teams of bandits and thugs because these villains are disrupting the Honorable East India Company’s trade route. As Gareth, one of the five Power Rangers, puts it, the Black Cobra’s efforts are “an attempt to seize power beyond the usual bleeding of money and goods” by, as Rafe, another of the Power Rangers, puts it, “establishing a yoke of fear”. Naturally, the benevolent English overlords of India have never done such a thing, of course, toward the natives – only thugs like the Black Cobras do that. And yes, as you can guess, the five Power Rangers think alike and like to narrate things that they already know to each other. The whole effect would be creepy, were not for the fact that I know by now that the author’s heroes are all clones and therefore it is only natural that they all share the same brain.
Anyway, one of them dies during the efforts to bring down the Black Cobra. The remaining four Power Rangers however have evidence of the real identity of the Black Cobra (he’s English), and they come up with a plan. Three of them will be decoys, and they will all go separate ways back to England. That way, the Black Cobra will have to spread his men out to chase after four men and… I don’t know. I mean, now the Black Cobra only has to kill one person to retrieve the Secret Evidence, but hey, I guess we need an excuse to have a quartet of a series here.
So, after all that set-up, we go back to England. Yes, despite the foreword by Ms Laurens herself that promises “four action-packed adventures ranging from Bombay to Norfolk”, we are back in familiar territory for the rest of this story. Back in England, Del is requested by his aunt to escort his neighbor Deliah Duncannon (I know, Del and Deliah: so cute) on her journey up north. He refuses, of course, but people start shooting at them while he is with Deliah, and therefore, she’s stuck with him as he runs around doing his thing.
The Untamed Bride is a rehash of this author’s bestselling formula, so much so that if the author replaced “Del” and “Deliah” with “Devil” and “Honoria” respectively, it may take a while before I notice the switch. Del is, naturally, twenty feet tall, full of muscles, and brimming with arrogance. He won’t tell Deliah what she is knee-deep in until she nearly died, and even then, he’d put her in the back (because there is no kitchen within reach) for her own good as the world is clearly too dangerous for a mere woman to roam free. He wants Deliah, he plots to get her in his bed, but he’s predictably not too keen on being mushy about love. He has such a plot armor that is so obvious because the author creates Del to be so virile, so amazing, so powerful, and so talented to the point that I expect bullets to bounce off Del’s chest. Meanwhile, Deliah is feisty, supposedly independent although she’d naturally submit to Del’s high-handed “go to the kitchen, woman, where it is safe, and stay there until I call you to come shag me” attitude, blah blah blah. Their romance is also familiar – sex scenes, sex scenes, sex scenes, and some token “I love you” stuff at the very end of the story.
The predictability is boring enough, but the plot doesn’t help elevate the tedium as it basically sees Del and Deliah moving from Point A to Point B until they catch up with the Cynsters, where the story then turns into a campy Justice League of Superheroes episode as the Cynsters and their clones all band together like they are an all-male Thundercats league or something. The author has Deliah remark on how similar she is to all the other wives of these guys, which really cracks me up because I’d swear that if you examine the back of the necks of these characters, you’d see bar codes indicating that they are all manufactured in the same cloning plant. I especially love that scene where these men simultaneously shag and then tie up their wives to their beds so that these women will not be able to join the men in their mission. Such bad wives, daring to step out of the kitchen or the bedroom! What is the world coming to when women no longer know their place in the bigger scheme of the things?
There is nothing noteworthy about The Untamed Bride apart from the fact that it has the author doing yet another encore of the same song and dance that made her such a bestselling author. Only this time, she has turned the second half of the book into a blatant advertisement for her previous books. The most entertaining part of the book is the Q&A with the author in the 103-paged “World of Stephanie Laurens” advertising blitz that pads this book, with the funniest being Ms Laurens’s very sober reasoning that there are so many historical romances out there featuring aristocrats because these people were the only ones with the privilege of marrying for love in 19th century England. Everyone else married because of “physical attraction” back in those days. I learn something new every day, I tell you.
I’d recommend this book only to her die-hard fans who can’t get enough of the increasingly ridiculous and high-handed Cynster clones. There are plenty of other books for everyone else to read.