Four in Hand (Stephanie Laurens)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
What happens when a womanizing rake inherits not one, but four beautiful young women as his wards?  Four interlaced romance stories!  This is early, early Laurens (before she became famous for her steamy sex scenes and intrigue-filled subplots), and in many ways because it’s not overwhelmed by sex (almost none!) and villains, it’s actually a very quick, enjoyable read.  Each of the four sisters chooses a different (until now) confirmed bachelor/rake, and each goes about getting her man with a different strategy (and for all of the younger ones, there is definitely a lot of not just love, but active strategizing about how to get their man to the altar).  It’s a fun read that I picked up years ago, and returned to recently… I found it just as good, if not better, than I remembered.  It’s soothing, fun, escapist romance, uncluttered by too much sex!

Greater Detail:
Max Rotherbridge has not only inherited a dukedom, but also wardship over four beautiful sisters. Though he is immediately attracted to Caroline, the eldest (and most independent and managing) of them all, he realizes that he’ll need to watch over the other three and help each settle down before Caroline (being the mother hen type) will be able to give him her undivided attention.

This is a fun romp of a book — you’ve got the four beautifuls each with their own subplot: Sarah, the practical one who has the more dramatic/wilting flower type of love story, Arabella, the accomplished/hardened flirt who meets a man used to playing and winning that same game, and Lizzie, the youngest and most innocent of them all (who has very little time/description beyond that).

It’s a good natured cast full of aunts who offer sage advice and motherly wisdom, well-meaning matchmakers, and the Laurens trademark dominant male who tames his very own domineering woman, all in a race to the altar.  While each of the stories could have been developed a little more, I find that overall, this is a fun, lighthearted read that has a memorable cast. It’s nice to see the women each scheming in a different way (sometimes for the sake of random other debutantes they’ve met and taken under their wing) and there’s just something fun and comforting about the book as a whole. (Though truthfully, if you like Laurens for the steamy sex and unmask-the-villain subplots, you should look elsewhere).

Comparisons to Other Authors/Books:
So this is tough! Most Stephanie Laurens novels are more like Virginia Henley (lots of steamy, light of the mattress sex scenes) or Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick (lots of plot and villains).  But… this Laurens novel is less like other Laurens novels.  There’s way less sex, and perhaps because of that, there’s more of a sense of innocence and young love (even though these are supposed to be hardened bachelors we’re talking about).  I think that, for those of you who have read Laurens… it’s still well written (she’s got a great vocabulary) and interesting… just, well, Laurens for teenagers if you can imagine such a thing?

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Posted in Romance

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