In my review of The Lady Chosen, I said that A Gentleman's Honor was my first Stephanie Laurens book, and that I had liked it enough to go to my local library and get a few more books. I think it was actually The Promise in a Kiss, the prequel to the Cynster series that convinced me to invest more heavily in her backlist.
With the passage of maybe fourteen years, do I still like this book enough? If I had read it today, would I see more books by this author? When I went to Goodreads to add a review, I saw that I had rated it as five stars. I've reduced that by two now.
I do still like this book. The strength of the mystery carries it past some of the issues I have with the romance. As always, reviewing and critiquing the leads in a Laurens book is fraught with issues. Anthony Blake is very nearly interchangeable with Tristan Wemyss from The Lady Chosen, though I think I like Tristan a bit more. Though both were reluctant to discuss emotions, Tristan did it more easily and more quickly. And I don't know that Leonora would have put up with nearly as much nonsense as Alicia did. So in that case, I do think there's enough of a difference.
The romance is...fine. I liked it at first because Tony doesn't really ever balk about keeping Alicia in the loop or working with her which is always nice. But Tony does things and takes for granted that Alicia will follow his lead--that she understands where they're going, and I don't ever blame Alicia for not knowing the endgame. I do kind of hold her responsible for not speaking up sooner. I'll go into detail in the spoiler section, but suffice to say -- the romantic conflict after a certain point becomes artificial and once an issue can be solved if your leads just talk about it--then it's really not a conflict.
The plot is good and it gives us the hint of the final traitor we'll be chasing until the last book in the series. Dalziel shows up here more as a stronger lead, though I'm never sure how I feel about him until we get to his book. I like him thus far, and I'm interested in tracking how that goes and how his continual presence affects his book which is the conclusion of the series.
As always, Laurens uses the rest of the Bastion Club sparingly, and this is one of the reasons why I like her work. I've never noticed her putting in characters for the hell of it, even if they're useful. Jack and Kit from Captain Jack's Woman show up, and I notice they're still pissing me off, but they play a good role and I understand why they're there. That's the mark of a good author. Laurens knows how to plot a series and connect it without making the reader kind of want to smack herself repeatedly. (See Mackenzies and McBrides).
This is a good entry into the series for the most part, though the romance is less satisfying than I like, the other elements carry it enough for me to like it.
Let me get my Jack Hendon bashing out of the way. By the time this book opens, they've been married for several years. They have two sons. He has basically neutered Kit so that she doesn't look at all like the woman we met in Captain Jack. (And she was the best part of that awful book). They come to town to help with an aspect of the investigation, and Kit wants to be told what's going on.
She's not asking to participate in anything, and she's not looking to do anything remotely as insane as she did in her story. She just wants to be privy to the details of what's going on. She's left her sons behind to help Tony, and she's just trying to be included.
AND JACK TRIES TO KEEP HER OUT OF IT. He doesn't want to tell her. And she thinks it's charming. My beautiful Kit, he's ruined you. And the only reason Tony doesn't critique him or push back on Jack's reluctance is he owes Kit a favor.
Fuck both these guys up and down. Kit deserves the same respect Tony gives Alicia, and it's complete bullshit. But hey, Jack is still an asshole who doesn't value his wife, so there's points for continuity. Stay awful, Jack, it's comforting.
That out of the way, my biggest problem is the romance.
Tony decides very early that Alicia is the wife he wants, but Alicia doesn't get that message until maybe 90% of the way through the book. She's posing as a widow, she's been told noble men don't marry widows, that they prefer virgins, and nothing Tony does gives her any reason to believe otherwise. He seduces her all over the ton and never mentions marriage. There's no reason why I think Alicia should have known Tony was planning to marry her.
But then Alicia allows Tony to move her and his entire family into his home--and she just thinks the ton is accepting his mistress living there openly because he's well-born and popular. She worries about his reputation if her secret comes out, but what about the reputation of her sister and her brothers? For whom she is lying to the rest of the world about?
I don't believe Alicia would ever move her family without some kind of true motive. Tony could have easily protected her in other ways and the Alicia you meet earlier the book would have resisted. I think a more interesting conflict would have been Tony convincing Alicia to marry him as part of the move, and then spending the rest of the book working through that.
Instead, Alicia assume she's his mistress, and that's...just okay. She continues to be okay with it until Tony's mother tells her that he had always meant to marry her. I like Tony's mother. She's supremely irritated by her idiot son, and tells Alicia not to let Tony off lightly.
With the danger over, Alicia packs up her brood and starts for home, and Tony follows. They have a reunion in the rain that I'm supposed to like, I guess, but I don't know. It's too little too late.
I liked Alicia, but I couldn't help but want her to be stronger and stand her ground more. I liked Tony, but he should have been more open and leaving less to question. He knows at some point that Alicia isn't clear on his objectives, and he still leaves her twisting in the wind. It really makes it difficult to root for him or them as a couple
A Gentleman's Honor
Overall Response In my review of The Lady Chosen, I said that A Gentleman's Honor was my first Stephanie Laurens book, and that I had liked it enough to go to my local library and get a few ...