Stephanie Laurens is practically a household name in historical romance circles, and her newest Cynster family novel gives us Henrietta's story. Henrietta, known in London circles as The Matchbreaker, brings her family's talent for solving mysteries and uncovering truths to the art of Matchmaking, which unfortunately sometimes leads to the end of relationships.
When her friend Melinda asks Henrietta to look into her flourishing courtship with James Glossup, they realize the relationship won't work. Melinda wants a love-match, and James is not in love with her. Melinda breaks it off, and James - who is also Henrietta's brother's best friend - is displeased, since he'd been depending on the marriage to fulfill a requirement for an inheritance that will maintain his family's estate and the many tenant families who live there.
Henrietta feels honor-bound to help James find a wife, and as the two spend time together, the more James realizes Henrietta is the woman he's been waiting for, and wants to spend his life with. Convincing her is another story.
Meanwhile, Henrietta is the victim of an odd series of accidents, and James becomes convinced that, for some inexplicable reason, someone is trying to kill her. Investigating the mystery brings the two closer, and heightens the emotional stakes of the romance. Now if they can both stay alive long enough to get to the altar, it's likely that lifelong happiness will be theirs.
As I understand it, this book hasn't gotten great reviews, which is a shame, but understandable to a degree. If you're a romantic suspense fan, then the 'mystery' in this book is a little weak and kind of random. And if you're a straight romance fan, then a lot of the typical 'internal conflict resolution' that you may seek is taken up by the mysterious misadventures that befall Harriet.
However, while the book doesn't fall easily into either category, I think it works very well for these characters. James isn't a high-drama kind of guy, and we don't see him falling willingly into the same kinds of antics that the Cynsters are famous for. And honestly, since he's convinced that love is not for him - hence his unwillingness to mislead Melinda regarding his feelings toward her - he kind of needs the dramatic push that Henrietta's suspicious accidents offer to truly know his own heart.
These, I think, are the most touching parts of the book. James realizing that he'd almost lost Henrietta forces him to examine how he feels about her. And once it's established that he loves her - which does come kind of early in the book - they must figure out who's trying to kill her so that their HEA is no longer threatened.
It's atypical for a storyline, but - to me at least - it makes sense, and therefore it works. Not perfect, perhaps, but still engaging and fun to witness. And watching the two fall in love, after years of not paying attention to one another since they've known each other so long, is a particularly sweet and satisfying romantic arc in my opinion, and one Laurens does well here. The characters are well-drawn and believable, and the dialogue sparkles between James and Henrietta.
I hope you'll give it a chance, and I'd love to hear what you think.
Avon has generously offered three copies of Stephanie Laurens' backlist title, The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae for a drawing from comments on this post.
Comment by 1pm EST Monday, April 8 to be entered.