The Elusive Bride
by Stephanie Laurens, historical (2010)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-179515-2


I don't know why this book is called The Elusive Bride, because Emily Ensworth is certainly not elusive. In fact, she is practically throwing herself at the hero and mentally willing him to shag her six thousand ways into a Cynster supernova and back. It is the hero, Major Gareth Hamilton, who is a bit elusive in that he waits awhile before showing the heroine his private parts. In fact, Emily describes him as "elusive" in her diary. But I guess a book called The Elusive Bridegroom may give readers the impression that the hero in this book falls short of a few inches of the usual Cynster average of thirty-two inches of hot cylinders boiling.

Emily first meets Gareth in India. I'd direct you to the review of the first book in The Black Cobra Quartet, The Untamed Bride, to catch up on the premise of this series if you are new to the whole thing. Anyway, Emily is the niece of the Governor-General of India. She falls into the whole Black Cobra mess when her entourage is ambushed by these cultists while she is on her way from Poona to Bombay. Colonel James McFarlane, who eventually perishes as he valiantly remains behind with some men to distract the cultists as Emily and her people flee, passes her a missive which contains Very Important Information about the identity of the Black Cobra. Emily passes the information to the Power Rangers of India, and meets Gareth, one of the Rangers.

Okay, imagine that you are a young lady who had been ambushed by bloodthirsty cultists and had seen a man stay behind to sacrifice his life for you as you flee for your life. What will you write in the diary immediately after? Prayers for the dead sod? A fervent wish to leave India? For Emily, it's nothing but prattle about how Gareth may be the one for her and therefore, she must contrive to spend more time with him so that she can be proven right. I tell you, it's like some creepy dingbat who doesn't care that the world is falling down around her as long as she can ride the hero like a demented sex-mad fiend.

Emily then single-mindedly pursues Gareth across India to England via Egypt and France, all the while with a mad determination to have Gareth. Occasionally, she decides that she wants to assist Gareth in avenging James too, which would be fine if we are talking about Wonder Woman here who can toss men aside with a flick of her fingers. But no, it's... Emily, our adorable bunny-boiling "Let's get physical... OR I WILL KILL YOU!" kneecap-axing romance heroine. Sigh.

Dangerous cultists? Near-death experiences? Whatever. Is Gareth the one? Will he be the one to make her bunny pot boil? That is more important to Emily. Except for an unexpectedly and uncharacteristically sober scene near the end, for the most part she has no fear, no concern for her safety, and no common sense.

Poor Gareth, he stands no chance against our demented heroine. He is, by the way, a slight deviation from the usual Cynster clone hero. He isn't saddled with ridiculous superlatives about his penis length, his towering height, or anything of that sort, and he is unexpectedly open with the heroine about the dangers they are in. There is not much "Woman, stay in the kitchen where it is safe and don't come out until I want to shag you!" nonsense from him. Unfortunately, Emily is one heroine who deserves to be made to stay in the kitchen until it's boink time, since she exists in this story to be a damsel in distress despite the author's lip service to Emily's independence and courage.

As for the plot, there are plenty of chases.

Described in such exciting short sentences.

And love scenes.

Where people peaked.

And crested.

It's amazing!

The world tilted and everything!

Really.

Not only do we get another encore appearances by the Cynsters (by now numerous enough to form their own X-Men type of organization), we also have ex-Guardsmen and more. They all band together with Gareth in England to form a band of superheroes that are more thunderous than the Thundercats and in possession of more voltage than Voltron. The bad guys, complete with Indian regalia and other trapping, are such bumbling idiots that there is no suspense whatsoever about how our League of Rods of Throbbing Power will smash the bad guys in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment. Seriously, it's more pathetic than the confrontation between drunk college students and overzealous soldiers in the musical version of Les Misérables, although this time we also have Emily lustily vocalizing I Boinked A Boy for ten pages or so to celebrate the moment. As for the Indians, the only good Indians are the willing servants of our Mighty and Amazing White People. Everyone else is a turban-wearing homicidal maniac.

Okay, to summarize, Gareth is a little less overbearing than the usual Cynster clone of this author. Come to think of it, he also has the most normal name. I actually laugh when I see "Lucifer Cynster" running around in this story. Has he legally changed his name from Alasdair to Lucifer? Still, the heroine is a demented mad bunny who is just ridiculous in her zeal to get her hands on Gareth's body without any regard to everything else around her. Put in the usual Cynster superhero nonsense as well, and I get an unintentionally entertaining really bad book in my hands. It's fun, but it's fun for all the wrong reasons. Make of that what you will.

Rating: 67


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