Monday, June 5, 2017

Lord of the Privateers - Stephanie Laurens (Mira - Jan 2017)

Series: Adventurers Quartet (Book 4)

Unstoppable determination

Widely known as the lord of the privateers, Royd Frobisher expects to execute the final stage of the rescue mission his brothers have begun. What he does not expect is to be pressured into taking Isobel Carmichael -- his childhood sweetheart, former handfasted bride and current business partner -- with him. A force of nature, Isobel has a mission of her own: to find and bring a young cousin safely home. And along the way, she hopes to rid herself of the dreams of a life with Royd that still haunt her.

Unfinished business

Neither expects the shock that awaits them as they set sail, much less the new horizons that open before them as they embark on a full-scale rescue-assault on the compound deep in the jungle. Yet despite the support of his brothers and their ladies, Royd and Isobel discover that freeing the captives is only half the battle. To identify and convict the conspirators behind the illicit enterprise -- and save England from political disaster -- they must return to the ballrooms of the haut ton and hunt the villains on their home ground.

Unforgettable love

But having found each other again, having glimpsed the heaven that could yet be theirs, how much are Royd and Isobel willing to risk in the name of duty?

Fantastic conclusion to the series. At the end of the previous book, A Daredevil Snared, Royd had just arrived in London, to begin his part of the mission to rescue the captives. He was accompanied by Isobel Carmichael, a woman from his past, deemed "Trouble" by Roy's brothers. As this book opens, we get the background of why Isobel is with him. Isobel has been tasked by her grandmother to go to Freetown and discover the whereabouts of a missing cousin. Royd is the only person she trusts to get her there, in spite of, or maybe because of, their history.

Royd and Isobel grew up together, haunting the shipyards of Aberdeen. He is the oldest of shipping family, and she the likely heir to her family's shipyards. As they grew older, they realized that they were each other's perfect match. Isobel's grandmother didn't believe Royd was good enough for Isobel and insisted on a year's handfasting before they could marry. They'd been handfasted for three weeks when Royd left on a voyage, expecting to be gone one or two months. What Isobel didn't know was that Royd undertook secret missions for the Crown, and this was one of those. Months went by without hearing from him, and no one would tell her where he was. When he finally returned, after thirteen months away, she was so furious and hurt she slammed the door in his face and refused to see him, declaring their handfasting over. When repeated attempts got him nowhere, Royd accepted it. Their personal relationship may have been over, but their professional one remained, so they saw each other frequently over the next eight years.

I enjoyed Royd's reaction to Isobel's appearance. He has come to realize that his feelings for her have never died and is determined to win her back. He looks at the voyage to Africa as the perfect way to make a start on that. Isobel is more interested in trying to root out her feelings for Royd and move on. But the first leg of the journey (early in the book, so not a spoiler) brings a shock to them both. Stowing away on board was Isobel's almost eight year old son - the son Royd knows nothing about. He is, of course, shocked and angry, but he is a mature and controlled man. I loved how he waits for Isobel's explanation of what had happened. Both of them agree that they have made mistakes that led to those actions, and the best thing to do is to accept and move on. However, it only reinforces Royd's determination to win Isobel back to his life.

I really liked Isobel. She is tall, beautiful, stron-willed, capable, and just as determined as Royd. She is a talented ships' designer and has had a successful business relationship with Royd in spite of their past. However, she does suffer from some insecurity, in believing that a man wouldn't want her for herself, just for her inheritance. This is part of what played into the ending of their relationship years earlier. She's also honest enough with herself to know that her feelings for him haven't gone away.

Their relationship throughout the book is one of getting to know each other again. Royd has to learn to accept that trying to protect Isobel by keeping things secret is a bad idea. I loved watching him go from protector to partner, discovering that sharing it all makes their relationship so much richer. Isobel has to learn to trust Royd again, and believe that he won't shut her out of any part of his life. That trust becomes easier as the mission continues and Isobel is fully included. Not that it comes easy for Royd. His internal battles are obvious, but so is his knowledge that it is the only way to win the battle for her heart. Isobel fought it longer, more hesitant to risk her heart again, until she could no longer deny her feelings for him. It does take a crisis for her to finally let go of her fears, but the rewards were worth it.

The main story is the mission to rescue the captives, shut down the mine, and find a way to bring the backers to justice. As such, it is more than just Royd's mission. He is the leader, but others must also be involved. Caleb and Katherine were still among the captives, waiting and planning for their rescuers to arrive. Declan and Edwina, and Robert and Aileen, are also part of the rescue mission, along with others from the Frobisher fleet. Their planning is painstakingly detailed, with success depending on everything going right, and everyone doing their parts. There is a terrific scene between Royd, Isobel, and Admiral Decker that had me laughing out loud and feeling a teeny bit (but not too much) sorry for Decker. I also loved seeing the power of the Frobisher women as they worked together.

The lead up to and rescue itself were an exciting read. The increasing tension as all the parts moved into place had me turning the pages as fast as I could read. As is likely in any kind of confrontation, there's always something that could go wrong, and there are several places where all could fall apart. When all was said and done, the rescue went amazingly well. The first two objectives were achieved: captives rescued and mine shut down. They even managed to catch some of the ones they needed. But the biggest fish are still back in London, and there our adventurers must go to bring their mission to a successful close.

This was also an exciting part of the book. Traps must be prepared and every contingency planned for. I loved that the bait in the trap was thought of by the ladies, and Isobel was the perfect person to do it. I loved seeing not only the Frobishers and their ladies, and the Wolverstones, but so many others from previous stories. Having Devil and some of the other Cynsters, as well as members of the Bastion Club and those from the Black Cobra mission involved increased the intensity as the final confrontation neared. The resolution was extremely satisfying after another heartstopping encounter.

The epilogue was marvelous, wrapping up the series perfectly for each couple. There is also a hint that we may not be entirely done with the Frobishers, and I can't wait to see what's in store.

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