by Stephanie Laurens

1999 Reissue
ISBN: 0-0-373-83539-6
Reviewer Graphic Button Harlequin
Mass Market Paperback

In the first pages of this book, Stephanie Laurens tells her readers that this is the second novel she ever wrote. Well, if you’re a Regency fan, this will be a rare treat, and if you’re a Stephanie Laurens fan, it’s a must-read!!

Ms. Laurens spins an imaginative tale around Max Rotherbridge, devilishly handsome rogue, who has recently inherited an Earldom. Along with it, he has inherited the guardianship of four incredibly beautiful sisters!!! It’s a big surprise to Max when he finds out, and an even bigger surprise to Caroline Twinning, the eldest sister, who expected an elderly and corpulent gentleman, not a totally gorgeous man with eyes that tie up her heartstrings!!

The phrase “Regency romp” might well have been designed for this novel. Ms. Laurens effectively manages to keep the “four-in-hand” straight, although here they are not horses, but girls! Each sister becomes an integral part of the story, which is rare – usually the focus would be on one romance, and the others would get another book all to themselves. It’s probably easier that way, and certainly proved effective with Ms. Lauren’s Cynster series, to which this is clearly a precursor. But here, each girl becomes an individual to the reader, Sarah, Arabella and Lizzie all have roles to play and heroes to grapple!! It is a tribute to Ms. Laurens' skill that she handles the reins of these stories so well – never tangling them, but keeping them running in perfect synchronization! By the middle of the story, we feel as if we know these girls, and are deeply involved in their machinations – occasionally, we feel much like Max himself, bewildered by the intricacies of their plotting, but charmed by their good intentions.

Of course Max himself has plans – they involve Caroline, nakedness and preferably a bed!! This is again an indication of the sensuality to come in Ms. Laurens’ later novels – here the love story is handled delicately with a mere whisper of heat – the sexual adventures of the girls are lightly glossed over and even Caroline, who finds herself inevitably drawn to Max, has a wonderfully romantic encounter with him that will be easily expanded to the explosively sensual lovemaking enjoyed by the Cynsters!

A charming Regency, a clear indication of a growing talent, and a must for Laurens fans! Don’t miss it.

Reviewed in August 2002 by Celia.

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