The Lady Chosen (Bastion Club Series)

The Lady Chosen - Stephanie Laurens 3.5 starsI liked this book better than "Captain Jack's Woman", probably because the Hero and Heroine weren't jumping on top of one another every couple of pages!The premise is that post-Waterloo, the spies are out of business and back in England. We are introduced to seven men who were previously employed as spies, mostly infiltrating enemy lands and enemy lines, posing as locals. All seven are master impersonators, fighters, and strategists. The seven haven't all met until they find themselves gathered in a back room of a local tavern, having escaped a pre-Season ball. They knew one or two of the group, but not all seven. Now, the seven find themselves now heirs to titles and lands; all are gentlemen, but most didn't expect to inherit, being second sons or cousins -- not directly in line for the titles. But the war took many men, and illness that swept through the country (influenza) took many more. So now all seven men are being sought as husbands by determined mamas and debs.The seven men band together to form The Bastion Club - the last bastion for these men to have a say in their own futures. They're determined to marry the women that THEY choose, not be trapped or tricked into marrying because they aren't fluent with the rules of the "ton". And these men understand the value of associates, information, and sharing. They agree to purchase a house in Mayfair, close enough to the action, but far enough away to be inconspicuous. The purpose is to have their own club, to have a place to meet/interview prospective ladies, and to help one another make the best possible marriage of each man's choosing.Since Trentham has a double stake in marriage (he must marry by July or forfeit the monies to the estates but still inherit the upkeep of 8 old tabbies) and his Town house and estates are the closest, he takes on the chore of getting the house fitted and set up. While looking out the new club's library window, he spots Leonore - the lovely miss from the townhouse next store. She looks older, no deb this one. But when Trentham runs into her - literally - she proves to be handsome and intelligent. And she ensnares him in a mystery....Seems that #14 (the Bastion Club is #12) has had at least 2 foiled burglary attempts in the past month -- after Leonora's uncle Humphrey refused to sell the property to an unnamed buyer. And Leonora has been accosted twice. Leonora thinks that either Trentham and his friends are part of the scheme or can help shed light on what's going on; after all, they likely have a share in the worry, since they're close enough to be potentially burgled, too. And the club has had at least one intruder, who took the impression of the house keys and seems to be interested in the club's basement.Trentham sets to work to find the source of the burglaries and learn why #14 is the target. In the process, he spends more time with Leonora, who, at 26 has determined never to marry. But that doesn't mean she's not interested in learning more about what goes on between men and women. In one of my favorite passages, Leonora wonders why only women on the eve of their wedding nights are told about these "secrets"; why should this information be withheld? She's now old enough to be "on the shelf"; why can't she be told? Trentham has had thoughts about Leonora - he's not sure if she's mistress material or not, but likely not, since she is a lady. But he doesn't rush to decide she's his candidate for marriage... not until Leonora decides to seduce Trentham past the kissing and light petting that he's engaged in with her. When she asks him to "initiate" her into the ways between men and women, Trentham loses his mind, body, and soul.While not being ready to admit he's in love, Trentham is determined to MARRY Leonora, which proves to be difficult, since she's set against marriage. She's convinced the attraction will fade now that they've completed the exploration; he says never. They agree that they'll continue to be lovers for the next month. At the end of that month, if the attraction has faded, Trentham agrees to stop pursuing her; if not, Leonora agrees to marry him.Now we wade into pages and pages of sexual exploration... and the mystery takes a definite back seat. While it's fun to explore Trentham's family of "old tabbies" and learn more about both Leonora and Trentham, it's almost exasperating that someone as connected and astute as he is cannot solve this mystery or make any significant progress! Here is where the author remembers that she's supposedly writing a Regency romance, so she feels obligated to treat us to the "ton" scenes of balls, fetes, nights at the theater, and so on... all just minor backdrops for Trentham's continued seduction of Leonora.When we finally get right down to it, the mystery is, indeed, intriguing. And more complex that it appears on the surface. But it's all kind of a hodge-podge at the end... the resolution is quite anti-climactic, unfortunately.So why the 3.5 stars? Because most of this book is not only fun and enjoyable, but good - well-written with fascinating characters from every strata of Regency London society. Obviously, there's a lot more coming, since this is the 1st in a long line of books. I assume we'll learn each of the 7 men's stories? "Captain Jack's Woman" is supposed to be .5 in this series; I'm not sure why, though - the only Jack mentioned is one of the 7, and his last name doesn't seem right to me. Guess we'll have to find out!