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Opinions on Stephanie Laurens?
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Kelly B



Joined: 19 Apr 2007
Posts: 136

PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2008 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I knew I wasn't hallucinating it, but I've long since gotten rid of my Laurens books so I couldn't check. They actually lurked around outside the door, right? That's how I remember it. Whether she was willing or innocent or her family had already been approached about marriage, I still stand by my point that providing cover for the seduction of an unmarried woman at a public function doesn't exactly seem to fit with the social norms of the time. Given the hypersexuality that permeates Laurens' books, I don't really hold her up as an author I think of when I think "historical accuracy/authenticity of the period." I'm not saying that she does thing like date the Battle of Waterloo to 1803 or anything, just that she's created her own spin on the Regency world in order to further the story she wants to tell. As such, I don't see Devil (or whomever) as the product of a particular time so much as romance archetype 1B: domineering alpha. And all of that aside, I'm still going to bring my own experiences and biases and preferences to a book and react accordingly, as does just about every reader. That last sentence was basically a long-winded way of saying to each their own.
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2008 12:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kelly B wrote:
But Laurens isn't consistent with the time period.

... (snip) ...

Also, for me anyway, romance--particularly historicals--is fantasy. If I wanted to read totally true to life representations of relationships between men and women in the period, I wouldn't be picking up a romance novel.


Okay, where is the emoticon for crossed-eyes when one needs it? Laughing

Yeah, yeah, I read the rest of the discussion, too. And for the record, I like most of Lauren's books. Some more than others. My actual favorite for some odd reason is Simon's story. I also really liked Gabriel's. And one of the spy books. I forget the hero's name at the moment but it was the one where the heroine was rescuing the girls from bad circumstances.

I have never understood the reasoning that all Laurens plots are alike or that her heroines are all uniformly wimps. I'll give people that her heroes are alphas. I mean what else could one use to describe them? Tap, tap, tap? Nope, nothing else comes to mind. And no true jerks in the bunch either. Although I did at one point want to bop that adopted Cynster, Chillingsworth, over the head for pure pigheaded stubborness.

I guess what I'm saying is that, yeah, they're tough but I've read much worse and a lot less honorable at the same time. So I'm not sure what the problem really is. Blanket generalizations don't do it for me but if anyone wants to talk individual books and situations maybe then I can finally understand how, say, her plots are all the same.

What is her so-called repeated plot?

Or like the situation with Amanda or Amelia, whichever it was. I'd have to dig the book out, but if I'm remembering correctly, it wasn't all that different from what she'd already been doing. Without chaparones. What they were doing was getting proof that something was going on.

He was acting honorably.

Or are we opposed to trapping her into marriage?
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MarianneM



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 374
Location: Houston, Texas

PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2008 5:58 pm    Post subject: Note to BBmedos ... Reply with quote

Glad to see someone speak up for Laurens. I thought Chillngworth could be a somewhat of a pain too.

As I recall the book Kelly B cited, On A Wild Night or On a Wicked Dawn, the twin who starred as the heroine was being very much a Wild Child and chasing the hero all over the place. But the hero had gone officially to Devil, as head of the Cynster family [the Wild Child's father was out of town at that point] and declared his intention to marry the Wild Child, in front of the other members of the Bar Cynster who happened to be present. Devil had accepted his suit, in the name of the Child's father, who was, as we say in Texas "out of pocket." This somewhat vitiates the idea that the Bar Cynster guys stood around and kept the room safe while the accepted suitor ravished the Wild Child. I don't think it was really that way or, as I said above, I would have thought it was uncharacteristic of the historical time and of any gentleman of any time including our own. I'll check back this week on the book and see if that is really the way it eventuated.

MarianneM
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2008 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bbmedos wrote:

I have never understood the reasoning that all Laurens plots are alike or that her heroines are all uniformly wimps.


I didn't get the impression that any of her heroines were wimps. If anything, my impression was to the contrary, in that most of her heroines were older, reluctant to marry and have their existence legally subsumed into that of a husband, which was what gave them the ability to demand of the alpha-male heroes some equality, and get it. One ongoing theme is that he wants to protect her by keeping her out of whatever enterprise is afoot, whereas she wants to participate and succeeds in doing so.

Laurens has used quite a few cliches that many readers say they despise (for instance, the "virgin widow" in An Unwilling Conquest, which with a 1996 publication date is one of her older titles) and again in The Ideal Bride (Michael Anstruther-Wetherby) more recently.

The Cynster novel plots are really terribly alike. Plus the men are terribly alike, to the point that it's hard to tell them apart. Moreover, the dresses that the women wear when they are appearing at their best are remarkably similar as to the descriptions (she obviously favors gold/green combinations or various shades of purplish red, with a preference for plum).

The Bastion Club novel plots are more diverse. They naturally all end up with the hero and heroine having an HEA, but that's hardly something a reader can complain about in romance genre.


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lizlt



Joined: 07 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 7:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The Cynster novel plots are really terribly alike. Plus the men are terribly alike, to the point that it's hard to tell them apart.


I don't think the plots themselves are the same at all. You have (in no particular order): finding Tolly's murderer, becoming consort to the lady of the vale, dealing with a financial scam, proving the heroine innocent of murder, untangling a horse racing syndicate, stopping a crazy cousin, etc.

Laurens deliberately, though, casts her Cynster heroes as all alpha, all the time, which can seem similar. But she gives each of them their own unique area of expertise that flavors their books as well -- Demon with horses, Lucifer with jewelry, Gabriel with finances, to name just a few.

Now I will agree that some of her love scenes are very similar from book to book, but it's easy to skim over them if they seem a bit recycled. The Cynsters must all teach each other (sometimes I think they have a school or all go to the same prostitute for lessons) the positioning the woman in front of the mirror while the man stands behind her trick. And the putting the pillows under the woman's hips maneuver. Even so, I still find enough to enjoy in each of the books.
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MMcA



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
This somewhat vitiates the idea that the Bar Cynster guys stood around and kept the room safe while the accepted suitor ravished the Wild Child. I don't think it was really that way or, as I said above, I would have thought it was uncharacteristic of the historical time and of any gentleman of any time including our own.


Marianne, I agree with Kelly, that's the way I remember it. I had loved Laurens when she started writing, and that kept me buying the books for longer than I otherwise would have - but that scene was the one that stopped me buying her ever again.
Wasn't just that it was ludicrous for the era, or even that it's a really, really, really disturbing idea, but it also didn't seem internally coherent with the rest of the series - I couldn't imagine the family-orientated men who were so over-protective of the twins going along with the hero's plan.
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MMcA wrote:
Quote:
This somewhat vitiates the idea that the Bar Cynster guys stood around and kept the room safe while the accepted suitor ravished the Wild Child. I don't think it was really that way or, as I said above, I would have thought it was uncharacteristic of the historical time and of any gentleman of any time including our own.


Marianne, I agree with Kelly, that's the way I remember it. I had loved Laurens when she started writing, and that kept me buying the books for longer than I otherwise would have - but that scene was the one that stopped me buying her ever again.
Wasn't just that it was ludicrous for the era, or even that it's a really, really, really disturbing idea, but it also didn't seem internally coherent with the rest of the series - I couldn't imagine the family-orientated men who were so over-protective of the twins going along with the hero's plan.


I dug the book out and looked at the scene again yesterday evening.

Basically, the cousins figured out that h/h were making like rabbits in the room (this was another of the "find some privacy at a ton party" scenes between Martin Fulbridge Earl of Dexter (aka Dimbulb) and Lady Amanda Cynster (aka Ditz) that had been going on for quite some time) and stationed themselves outside to make sure that no one else wandered in on the h/h. They had all been present when Dexter formally offered for her.

The cousins' wives were also there, giving signals. I thought that their action was more along the lines of definitely trying to prevent a scandal, which would certainly have ensued if anyone else wandered into the room. The two inappropriately-behaving idiots, aka Dexter and Amanda, had already had several close calls, as when Lady Jersey was sent to the library at an earlier party, because of the activities of the prig who wanted to marry her.


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lijakaca



Joined: 28 Mar 2007
Posts: 341

PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I stopped reading Laurens after the twins' books. The Cynster heroes started running into each other and the twins annoyed me with their feistiness and lack of sense.

I also got tired of the endless lust-think and wondered whether the couples would ever have fallen in love without their sexual attraction showing them who their true love was.

I did enjoy Devil's Bride a lot, but I thought the implied notion that women, even independent intelligent ones like Honoria, no matter what they say about dreams, all really just want to settle down and raise a family, slightly offensive.

The setups always sounded interesting - the Lady who's in charge of a Vale, the masked lady asking for help - but the executions usually didn't work well for me.

My sister still loves the Cynsters and has all of Laurens' novels; once in a while I borrow one but usually just skim through it.

Different strokes, I guess.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bbmedos wrote:
I have never understood the reasoning that all Laurens plots are alike or that her heroines are all uniformly wimps. I'll give people that her heroes are alphas. I mean what else could one use to describe them?


The plots may be different, but they feel the same to me--because the heroes and heroines seem remarkably alike. For me, it took no more three books for the heroes to start running together like watercolours. (Well, I'll admit that Devil stands out for me.)

I agree, though, that the heroines are definitely not wimps! They're incredibly independent, strong, and often haughty. I don't know, but they just seem too perfect to me. As unreal (if not as annoying) as the angelic fairytale princess heroine who is loved by all and is surrounded by animated singing creatures. (I do like Honoria, though.)

lizlt wrote:
Laurens deliberately, though, casts her Cynster heroes as all alpha, all the time, which can seem similar. But she gives each of them their own unique area of expertise that flavors their books as well -- Demon with horses, Lucifer with jewelry, Gabriel with finances, to name just a few.


I'll admit that I never really noticed that--but of course you're right!

It may be my own fault for not reading more closely, but too much alpha-male-meets-alpha-female is just not my thing.
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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Location: Western Kentucky, USA

PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 12:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just some random observations because I don't have time at the moment to organize my thoughts.

I find it interesting that so many see her books as all so "alike" and yet so many also routinely think the twins books are the worst. And I say that in agreement. So, hmm, how can they all be the same, you know?

On top of that, I also find it curious that so many of us find the only two books about they female Cynsters to be the "worst" of the bunch. Another case of hero worship backfiring, maybe? Just a thought.

Someone mentioned that each of their occupations are different, which in turn affects the plots of each book, but the same is also true about their actual personalities and relationships as far as I can see. I mean I've always seen Devil and Honoria as somewhat of two titans battling it out, sure. Prototypes of aristocracy. Which is both a good and bad thing for Honoria because that's exactly what Devil uses against her to prove she belongs by his side. Always, though, they were managerial equals. In response to that relationship, it's true that some of the other stories may have suffered but then if they hadn't, they'd have been exactly the same story. No? Yes? See the conundrum?

The odd thing is that if the books were actually all the same, how come I do actively dislike some of them and absolutely loving others while being only so-so on even more? It's just illogical.

Repetitive love scenes, I can buy. Easily. Similarities in personalities between the cousins, I'll give you but only so far. They are after all cousins in a tightknit family. Even the girls fall within this and maybe to their detriment when it came to their stories being told. I think that may have even been the point Laurens was making. It ain't easy being a Cynster female looking for a mate because you can't do it the exact same way the male cousins do and yet the family motto and instincts are still there, bred into your very soul. To have and to hold. Exactly how?

But the exact same stories, over and over? If so, then why are most of my favorites within the latter extended group that aren't the main six Cynster couins because they're such different stories about men who contrast so nicely with the main Cynsters and yet echo various ones also? Various one, notice, not all at once.

I think I'll save the sex for a different post. Or thread.
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have been flipping through On a Wild Night, Amanda Cynster's story, and I'll be doggone if I can figure out what all the fuss is about.

One, while I think I've found the scene in question, the only Cynster who appears is Devil and he simply escorts Lady Jersey out of the room. Yes, maybe he was lurking outside of it but maybe not. Whatever.

Two, it's niggling in the back of my mind that something similar happened in an earlier book to one of the other herione's, i.e. in one of the male cousin's books, but I'm drawing a blank. Maybe because it happened to more than one.

It may not have been the exact situation but the point I'm getting at is that if this was the first time anyone felt Laurens deviated from societal norms in this area as to be offensive about it then I'm extremely confused as to why they'd still be reading her anyway. I mean it's not like the twins thought all these stunts up on their own. They had prior examples. Large looming ones. Including their own heroes. Duh.

Does that make any sense? Or am I just babbling to myself here? Confused

But again it's why I have to wonder about the male vs. female dynamic here. Yes, I know, societal norms say the females shouldn't be doing it. I get it. However, it only bothers readers when the male cousins get involved and give approval and cover?!?

Huh?

Because they should be worried about family?

Double huh?

When what they're actually trying to do is give the honorable man they approve of the chance to convince the stubborn miss time to see the light of day without having to order her to marry him?

Triple huh?

Like Cynster stories aren't ever about strategies as much as sex scenes.
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Kelly B



Joined: 19 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I raised the issue because I was told that I shouldn't judge Devil by modern standards, he's a product of his time and Laurens is thorough in her research and writes the mores and tropes of the time period and as such my silly PC-loving perspective shouldn't be brought to my reading experience of her books.

I fully admit to not totally recalling the scene--I read the book ages ago and long since gave it away. The point that I was trying to make that seemed to get lost in whether or not the twin was "ravished" or the exact processes leading up to this particularly sex scene is that Laurens is not a bastion of accuracy, especially when it comes to the sexual scenarios she dreams up. The sheer level of premarital sex alone in her books seems out of step with the mores of the time period. Thus, I don't apply one standard for her characterization and another for her plotting because she's willing to fudge on the accuracy and the standards and the details when it suits her story. That's fine--I enjoy lots of authors who do the same thing, but I don't give them a pass on character traits I hate because they are being "true to the period" in some areas and not others and the same goes for Laurens. I didn't think "Laurens is an accurate reflection of the time period" was a terribly solid argument given all of the premarital sex in her books and that was the point I was, apparently poorly, trying to raise.

So, to boil it down: I don't think Laurens writes books that can be held up as sterling examples of accuracy, so using "accuracy" as a reason to dismiss other people's interpretations and reactions to a character seems to be standing on pretty flimsy ground. I didn't quit reading Laurens because of her accuracy or lack thereof, I quit because I didn't care for her prose style and was inevitably bored halfway through any book of hers I tried. If she works for you, great. She doesn't for me. And, to borrow from Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.
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MMcA



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
But again it's why I have to wonder about the male vs. female dynamic here. Yes, I know, societal norms say the females shouldn't be doing it. I get it. However, it only bothers readers when the male cousins get involved and give approval and cover?!?


Hard to say, because it was quite some time ago, I didn't reread, and I may be misremembering.

So what I'm remembering is that the twin didn't want to get married, the hero was seducing her into getting married, and that her male relatives connived at this and stood guard outside a room at a party in which they knew the hero was seducing the heroine.

So basically, these men that through books and books have been presented as worthwhile men aren't respecting the heroine - from my pov, they're her family, and they should be on her side. My impression is that they weren't facilitating her sex life, they were accommodating someone who planned to use sex as a method to force or entice (can't remember which it was) her into marriage.

The only plausible reason for not respecting her refusal to accept the proposal is that they think they know better than her - which I can accept, as you can imagine men at the time would be brought up to feel women were the weaker sex. But if that's what they believe, then they're obligated to cherish and protect the heroine - and they don't do that.

Just something about a group of men colluding in a seduction - ick, ick, ick. And when they're close relatives, who've known the girl since a child - more ick. (And, for me personally, the thought of the male members of my family standing outside a room while I had sex - that's such a turn off.)

You're probably right, and there's some degree of double standards in my thinking. If it was the hero being seduced and his female relatives were outside, it might not have bothered me so much. I could make a rational case for that - there'd be less social stigma, less chance the hero was being physically coerced, and no chance of pregnancy. But I'm not sure my reaction to the scene was that thought through - I think there was just something about the scenario that I found really unpleasant.

However, I don't have the book any more, and if you say it didn't happen that way, I believe you. I read it some time ago, when it first came out, and I could well be misrembering, or confusing it with something else.
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MMcA wrote:
Hard to say, because it was quite some time ago, I didn't reread, and I may be misremembering.

So what I'm remembering is that the twin didn't want to get married, the hero was seducing her into getting married, and that her male relatives connived at this and stood guard outside a room at a party in which they knew the hero was seducing the heroine.


It took a while but I finally found the exact scene. I thought I had it earlier but it just wasn't ringing true with what people were saying. So I kept looking and now so much is clearer. They were in Horatia's conservatory. Anyone remember that from Devil's Bride? A family house. A family ball. So much clearer.

The only quibble I have is with the conniving. So, let me 'splain.

Quote:
So basically, these men that through books and books have been presented as worthwhile men aren't respecting the heroine - from my pov, they're her family, and they should be on her side. My impression is that they weren't facilitating her sex life, they were accommodating someone who planned to use sex as a method to force or entice (can't remember which it was) her into marriage.


Well, I think part of the problem is the assumption that she doesn't want to get married. Amanda does but only with love involved. Don't forget these two twins are Cynster females, not one of the other heroines from the previous books. They know the value of family and aren't silly enough to think they'll escape or even want to escape their family's dominant trait - marriage with love. They, however, choose to do the hunting for their mate, same as their male cousins, and find that happy state on their own terms.

Once that's clear in one's head, also remember that before the scene in question, the hero has a meeting with the Bar Cynster, the six already married male cousins, letting them know that the pair has already been intimate, i.e. she's already been seduced or seduced him, whichever is the appropriate description. And that she's also been involved in some other highly questionable activities that's been keeping him hopping to keep her out of and safe. At least from his point of view and probably theirs.

Quote:
The only plausible reason for not respecting her refusal to accept the proposal is that they think they know better than her - which I can accept, as you can imagine men at the time would be brought up to feel women were the weaker sex. But if that's what they believe, then they're obligated to cherish and protect the heroine - and they don't do that.


Not exactly. Dexter also tells them that he's asked her to marry him on multiple times and she's refused until he gives her the one thing she wants - well-known Cynster code for love, something all the Bar Cynster know and recognize immediately - and which Dexter freely admits he's currently reluctant to do after some astute questioning by Devil. Squirming like a fish on a hook for all to see. At which point, they warn him that if that's the case that all they can do is support and help but not directly intimidate her into marriage because all that would do is make things worse.

Quote:
Just something about a group of men colluding in a seduction - ick, ick, ick. And when they're close relatives, who've known the girl since a child - more ick. (And, for me personally, the thought of the male members of my family standing outside a room while I had sex - that's such a turn off.)


And from our standpoint that's probably exactly right but Horatia's conservatory has featured in several Cynster novels as a well-known scene of trysts. For everyone. One can view keeping an eye on the door as colluding in seduction or one can view it as watching their backs and keeping others away. Think of it this way, would they do the same if a male cousin was involved, do you suppose? I tend to think they would and have, when necessary. (Just can't remember the book at the moment.)

Quote:
You're probably right, and there's some degree of double standards in my thinking. If it was the hero being seduced and his female relatives were outside, it might not have bothered me so much. I could make a rational case for that - there'd be less social stigma, less chance the hero was being physically coerced, and no chance of pregnancy. But I'm not sure my reaction to the scene was that thought through - I think there was just something about the scenario that I found really unpleasant.


As far as they were concerned she'd already chosen her fate in one sense and they were protecting her in the only way they still can. Which becomes truly clear when one reads the rest of the scene after Amelia tells Amanda about them being there. It freaks Amanda out because the twins are both Cynster enough to know what it means.

Of course, at first she assumes that it means the male cousins are in this great conspiracy to help Dexter "win", too, and are basically just handing her over to him. Once she calms down, she realizes the ultimate choice is still hers. If she's Cynster enough to take it.

Or so she thinks. And around and around we go. Laughing
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Allyson



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, lots of people are very defensive about these books! I've noticed the tendency before on this board, that people get rather offended and put out by readers who aren't a fan of the overbearing hero, but Laurens seems to bring that out a lot...

If someone's read her books and doesn't care for them, why is that so problematic If I don't like a hero and find him too domineering, I get told I'm being too PC or modern, and the guy is just 'alpha', a term I've rather come to hate!

Read Devil's Bride. It was alright, didn't feel any huge compulsion to read further though.
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