Series: Cynsters Next Generation #7
Published by self-published on March 14, 2019
Genres: Historical Romance
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Also in this series: By Winter's Light, The Greatest Challenge of Them All
Also by this author: A Match for Marcus Cynster, By Winter's Light, The Lady's Command, The Greatest Challenge of Them All
A notorious rakehell with a stable of fabulous Thoroughbreds and a lady on a quest to locate such horses must negotiate personal minefields to forge a greatly desired alliance—one someone is prepared to murder to prevent.
Stephanie Laurens returns to the second-generation Cynsters with a novel about Demon and Flick’s horse-mad daughter, Prudence. When the Cynster stables are offered the chance of a breeding arrangement involving the Anglo-Irish Earl of Glengarah’s collection of Thoroughbred horses, Pru, who is already in charge of the Cynster breeding program, talks her parents into letting her travel to Ireland to assess the horses and negotiate an agreement. Predictably, she shares a strong mutual attraction with the Earl, Deaglan, a formerly notorious rake now dedicated to his estate and his people. But a series of attempts to injure one or both of them suggests that someone doesn’t want the deal to go through.
Compared to Laurens’s early Cynster books, A Conquest Impossible to Resist is… bland. Despite several murder attempts, it lacks urgency and intensity: in the romance, in the murder plot, and (despite repeated mentions of the Cynsters’ need for breeding stock) in Prudence’s overall motivation. Deaglan’s motivation works a little better, but he’s a pale imitation of the larger-than-life rakes of the original generation. I don’t object to taking a break from the somewhat over-the-top alpha-male heroes usually favored by Laurens, and I’m happy to see an alpha male who is nonetheless willing to deal with the heroine as an equal—in fact, that part of the relationship was refreshing.
But overall, in the romance as in the rest of the book, there is far too much telling and not enough showing. It even spills into what should, in some scenes, have been dialog. In some places, there’s too much dialogue, but in others, the author tells you the gist rather than show you what was said… and invariably, what isn’t shown would have worked better as dialogue to bring the characters alive.
I think that’s my problem with the whole book, in fact. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but it never really came alive for me, never sucked me into its world so thoroughly that the world outside disappeared.
I could blame that on myself—on being too tired, distracted, and/or stressed with work to really get into the book—but just as a test, I started reading the first Cynster novel, Devil’s Bride, right after this one. The difference is clear and palpable: I could hear the wind rustle the leaves and the crack of thunder, see the golden stones of Somerset Place bathed in sunlight, feel Honoria’s reactions to Devil (physical and emotional.) Their dialog, body language and thoughts spoke volumes about who these two people are, conveying their feelings and personalities rather than just telling me about them. The writing pulled me out of myself and into Honoria’s world immediately, despite the fact that I’ve read the book at least five times before. Devil’s Bride isn’t perfect, for reasons that lie outside the scope of this review, but taken as a benchmark (it remains one of Laurens’s best and most popular romances), it casts A Conquest Impossible to Resist completely in the shade.
As a final and regretful note, this is not, by far, the first of Laurens’s recent books that lack her early spark. I have hung on a lot longer than I might otherwise, but I’m close to giving up on her. At this point, I’m reading out of habit and loyalty rather than any real excitement for the new books. Very few of her novels since leaving Avon are on my “keep and reread” shelf. And that saddens me.