The Masterful Mr Montague
Confession time. Stephanie Laurens is my guilty pleasure. The romance is overblown, the heroines ‘spirited’ and the heroes – all in tightly fitting, Mr Darcy-style trousers – are dark and brooding. I therefore sat down to her latest, The Masterful Mr Montague, with a sense of anticipation. I was also intrigued. Montague, as fans will know, is the ‘Man of Business’ to some of the languid lords and sexy spies of Laurens’ previous books. ‘Accountants Can Be Sexy Too’ seemed to be the unwritten subtitle: a new twist on her existing formula.
The novel starts promisingly. Montague has everything except a wife and family. Enter Violet, whose elderly mistress has an interesting financial puzzle for him to solve. Said mistress is promptly murdered, and Scotland Yard, in the form of Stokes and Adair (both previous Laurens’ heroes) are called in. The ‘murder’ storyline is entertaining, if a bit convoluted and far-fetched. As all romance fans know, though, the necessary murder/investigation/puzzle is only ever really a vehicle for the fun bit – the love story.
This is where it becomes disappointing. Instead of Montague and Violet, Laurens chooses to concentrate the love story on the Adairs and their rather sentimental, too-modern attempts to adapt to married life and parenthood (whilst still maintaining fulfilling careers and an active sex life).
Sadly, this means the fun parts of the romance novel – the ‘will they won’t they?’ the ‘obstacles placed in the path of true love’, the building sexual tension – are missing. Montague and Violet’s romance is never really developed properly and comes to a rather rushed conclusion at the end of the book. As a result, although good fun, this isn’t one of her best. Existing fans will enjoy, but I suggest that new readers look to her back catalogue first.