If you ask Stephanie Laurens' fans what book they are most eager to read, Mastered By Love would probably be their top choice. The enigmatic spymaster Dalziel has appeared throughout the Bastion Club series, and our curiosity has been piqued time and again. Who is he really? What will he do now that the war is over and his service to the country is at an end? Perhaps this anticipation was too much, or my expectations too high.
Dalziel must move beyond his sixteen years of service to the Crown and resume his role as Royce Varisey, disowned heir to the ducal estates of Wolverstone. Estranged from his family when he accepted his role in the war, Royce is finally going home to confront his father. Unfortunately, their confrontation will be one-sided. The former duke died just as Royce headed home and they never had the chance to talk again. The alternating grief and rage coursing through the new Duke as he takes over his birthright is nearly unbearable. He has no one to confide in except his parents' ward, Minerva Chesterton, who serves as the estate chatelaine.
While I truly enjoyed reading the final saga of this series, and was satisfied with the overall story, there were too many aspects of the book that are contrived. It seemed almost as though Ms. Laurens knew she had to write Royce's story, but had other loose threads to tie up and decided to do them all at one time. I could make a list here but suffice to say that as events just continued to “happen” so conveniently, I could feel my jaw clenching.
The fault of my displeasure is completely with the plot construction. Both Royce and Minerva are full-bodied characters who act honestly and within their emotional range. I liked both of them and wish I could have plucked them out of this book and put them in another one. One that was not so circumstantial.