3.5-4 stars(Library ebook)What makes this book different from the others in this series is Penny and Charles. In this case, they're childhood friends and sweethearts. When she was 16 and he 20, she was in love with him and deliberately seduced him, leading to a tryst in the hay. But that tryst didn't end well for either - Penny, because apparently Charles was a bit rough and losing her maidenhead very painful; Charles, because after the event, Penny was convinced he didn't love her and never could, so she avoided him.As we know by now, Charles is part of The Bastion Club - a club of ex-spies who are redundant now that Napoleon is defeated again. Each man is aristocratic, but not a first son, so none expected to be the lord of his family's lands. But because of the war and the epidemics that came about during and after the war, each man is now, unexpectedly, the titled heir to his family's land and wealth. So, of course, now that each is in London and the Season has begun, each of these more-than-eligible bachelors is being chased by erstwhile mamas looking for suitors for their unmarried daughters. Thus, the club formed; each man determined to marry but only to a woman of his own choosing - to a woman he can love. The bachelors decide to help one another out - to use their spying and intelligence capabilities to assist each other.In this third book, Charles is the spy/bachelor with a half-French ancestry. Charles spent most of his time in France before, during, and just after the Napoleonic wars, posing as a Frenchman. When he returned to London and after becoming a member of the club, Charles was besieged by his own mama and sisters, determined to help him make a match. In frustration, Charles hid himself in his family's country estate, and in doing so, made Lady Penny's acquaintance again. Soon after, Charles realized that his feelings were the same for her - lust, but deeper; Charles can see Penny as his lady, someone who can help him reconnect with life, with society, with people. He, of all the club members, has been the most on his own by the nature of his missions; he wants to feel connected again with the very things that he risked his life to save. And in Penny, he decides that he's found exactly what he's looking for. It's just a matter of time, determination, and planning.Except that there's a mystery afoot. Another excuse Charles had to leave London was to investigate the possibility that someone in his very own neighborhood was a spy for the French and is continuing to send message to France. It turns out that Penny's cousin, Nicholas Ambry, appears to be behind the whole thing, putting Penny and her family at risk; since her half-brother, Granville, died as a hero in the war, Nicholas has taken the title and the lands. If he's discovered to be a traitor, then Penny's sisters have little chance of marrying well or at all, and her family will be disgraced. So Penny decides she must become part of the investigation. This, after she's held back from Charles that she, too, is following a trail - uncertain of what she'll discover, but certain that Nicholas, her father, and probably her half-brother were all part of some spy-chain sending messages to France.Here's where the book gets tedious. The back-and-forth of will she tell him or not? And then once she does, the tension of her wanting to become part of the investigation. Along the way, Penny yields her passion to Charles, deciding that since she's 27 and off-the-shelf, why not? Even if he doesn't love her, she can give and take what he's offering - something to make her spinsterhood more bearable. Penny doesn't want for money or title/position, so she's not induced to marry Charles on a whim. She's held out for this long against the line of suitors, because she wants love.At least in this book, Charles acknowledges that the timing of their affair isn't the best; ideally, he should wait until the mystery is solved and the villain revealed. But he can't wait; it's part of his plan to win Penny. And he discovers that keeping her close at his side is the best way to show her how he feels and to learn how she feels. Each learns more about the other in every way, deepening their connection.What's tedious is that the book feels pages and pages longer than necessary while all this vacillating is going on. What seems to the reader to be weeks is, in reality, only 5 days. The extra pages are an excuse to delve into the sexual relationship developing and into the inner thoughts of Charles and Penny. Not all bad, but somewhat repetitious and unnecessary. We could have cut to the chase much quicker and been even more satisfied.Getting Nicholas to reveal the truth of what's been going on, and then deciding which of the five strangers new to the area is behind it and the gruesome murders of the English contact and 2 innocents takes forever.Interesting enough, Dalziel becomes intimately involved in this case. He's even present at "the end". We also see 2 other Bastion Club members, Jack (not Captain Jack) and Gervase, who come in near the end to assist Charles.Ms. Laurens has an obvious pattern to her stories - at least to The Bastion Club stories. An off-the-shelf miss determined not to marry but to take some passion offered by our mysterious Bastion Club member. Lots of kissing, heavy petting, and then "the act" follow during the seduction, while the two lovers attempt to solve the mystery. Somewhere in the middle, both recognize they're in love, but neither is willing to say it until the mystery is solved. Once the mystery is solved, the two fall into one another's arms, marry, and live HEA.And while I find there are too many pages - too much story - in these books, I will continue to read them.This book, while following the pattern, did have a fresher feel to it - something delightful in Penny and Charles rediscovering one another.