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Publisher's Summary

Sebastian Cynster knows time is running out. If he doesn't choose a wife soon, his female relatives will line up to assist him. Yet the current debutantes do not appeal. Where is he to find the right lady to be his marchioness? Then Drake Varisey, eldest son of the Duke of Wolverstone, asks for Sebastian's aid.

Having assumed his father's mantle in protecting queen and country, Drake must go to Ireland in pursuit of a dangerous plot. But he's received an urgent missive from Lord Ennis, an Irish peer - Ennis has heard something Drake needs to know and insists Drake attend an upcoming house party at his Kent estate so he can reveal his information face-to-face.

Sebastian has assisted Drake before and, long ago, had a liaison with Lady Ennis. Drake insists Sebastian is just the man to be his surrogate at the house party - the guests will imagine all manner of possibilities and be blind to Sebastian's true purpose.

Unsurprisingly, Sebastian is reluctant, but Drake's need is real. And with only more debutantes on his horizon, Sebastian allows himself to be persuaded.

His first task is to inveigle Antonia Rawlings, a lady he has known all her life, to include him as her escort to the house party. Although he's seen little of Antonia in recent years, Sebastian is confident of gaining her support.

Eldest daughter of the Earl of Chillingworth, Antonia has abandoned the search for a husband and plans to use the week of the house party to decide what to do with her life. There has to be some purpose, some role, she can claim for her own.

Consequently, on hearing Sebastian's request and an explanation of what lies behind it, she seizes on the call to action. Suppressing her senses' idiotic reaction to Sebastian's nearness, she agrees to be his partner in intrigue.

But while joining the house party proves easy, the gathering is thrown into chaos when Lord Ennis is murdered - just before he was to speak with Sebastian. Worse, Ennis's last words, gasped to Sebastian, are "Gunpowder. Here."

Gunpowder? And here? Where?

With a killer continuing to stalk the halls, side by side Sebastian and Antonia search for answers, and all the while the childhood connection that has always existed between them strengthens and blooms into something so much more.

©2017 Stephanie Laurens (P)2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mischasmom
  • 21-03-2017

S-T-R-U-G-G-L-E-D

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

No, it was not time well spent. I was easily distracted and forgot to pay attention due to the narrator. Minutes would go by and I would miss how we got to the next chapter.

What did you like best about this story?

I loved the story, the character development and the underlying mystery. It was a nice change of pace for a traditional historical romance. It will be fun to see the adventures unfold with this next generation of Cynsters.

What didn’t you like about Matthew Brenher’s performance?

I'm sure he is a very nice man and the timber of his voice is beautiful. JUST NOT FOR A HISTORICAL ROMANCE!! He would be great for a text book. Or a non-fiction book about the government. His voice did not inflect one iota of emotion as the story unfolded. There was no excitement, no passion. Just monotone. His female voices were H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E they all sounded like drag queens. His male voices were great but there was absolutely no emotion behind them. I listen to audiobooks while cycling, working out and knitting and was so easily distracted because he did not keep me engaged. I have listed to hundreds of audiobooks and this was absolutely one of the toughest narrations I've ever suffered through. I'm so sorry Mr. Brenher to be so hard on you. Your voice is beautiful but just not for this genre!

What would have made this romance irresistible?

A different narrator. And actually reading it on my own.

Any additional comments?

I love Stephanie Laurens and enjoyed all the Cynster novels so am looking forward to the adventures of the next round of Cynster kids. Any chance you can get Simon Prebble back? No one can read a passionate love scene like Simon. I use "conflagration" in a sentance when possible and that I owe to Simon lol ;)

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • KJO
  • 17-03-2017

My last one

Would you be willing to try another one of Matthew Brenher’s performances?

No. It detracts from the story and the characters. I find my self having to go back and reconstruct sentences and phrases to get the intended meaning.

Any additional comments?

I own several Laurens books read by different people. I returned one read by Brenher because his reading completely destroyed the lead character. I kept others simply because I wanted the audio version, but I'm done. When the next book in the series comes out, I will get a print or kindle version. I don't trust the narrators any more. No more 'foppish' Barnaby Adair, Scottish Richard Cynster or Dalziel mispronunciations for me.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Daphne L. Brown
  • 10-03-2017

This book breaks my heart!

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I would recommend the actual book, I would never recommend the audiobook as it ruins the story. When Simon Prebble retired I was so sad because no one can touch his narration of a Stephanie Laurens novel. I saw in interviews and newsletters that she was excited that the recording company had found a new narrator. I didn't like the first couple of times he narrated her books, but I love her writing so much, especially this series: I kept buying them. I can't take it anymore. Matthew Brenher cannot read a book of this genre. He may be brilliant in others but not for these books. He needs to feel the story more himself and not worry about enunciating the preciseness of the "Queen's English" that he is so obsessed with. He is a reader, not an actor or a narrator. It just makes me shudder with pain at how poorly these books are read to me. I wanted so much more.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Tied between Sebastion and Antonia. Who wouldn't love them both, look at the history their father's had: LOL. These are exactly the children I would have expected to see sired by Devil and Chillingworth.

What didn’t you like about Matthew Brenher’s performance?

He's too technical a reader with a complete lack of passion or feeling. He focuses more on expressing every syllable with no passion. There is no excitement during this book. It's stale.

What would have made this romance irresistible?

Simon Prebble or someone such as Patrick Lawlor. If you are going to perform a book, then do it; perform it!

Any additional comments?

I have never before listened to a book without having read it, I am now sorry I did. The book - which I was tapping my toes waiting for, left me feeling cold. I hate that, because this is one of my 3 all time favorite series!

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • MickeyMarie
  • 14-02-2018

who told this man he could be a narrator

This book was totally ruined by a man reading it with no skill whatsoever. Whoever told Mathew Brenher he could read romance novels doesn't know what they are doing.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Maine Knitter
  • 05-01-2018

Nothing redeeming about this

Was this really written by Stephanie Lauren's? Where is the writer responsible for the early Cynster novels? The writing here was stilted and boring. The narration was horrible. I hate to give this such a poor review but I couldn't listen much past the first chapter.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • karen
  • 04-03-2018

Boring and too much inner dialogue

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

you would really have to love either the author or narrator to like this book. I hoped that it was a "reboot" of the Cynster series, but it is NOT.

What was most disappointing about Stephanie Laurens’s story?

The way the H/H just looked at each other and "fell in love". I recently read a Lisa Kleypas book where the main characters talked to each other and you could feel their love growing. I loved the kind of novel where the author takes you along the road to the HEA. In this book it just comes out of no where....or it happened years ago and there is no romance to them coming together now. I felt a little cheated to not understand why the H/H liked each other.

How could the performance have been better?

This book had a lot of terms like "framework", "communication strategy" and "engagement". It was a "how to project manage your regency romance". The narrator sounds like a prof, so maybe it's a good fit, as he reads this like my old science teacher.
The biggest problem with the narrator is that he makes the heroine ( only 29) sound like my 80 year old aunt. It makes the audio sound weird and hard to be drawn into the story.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Lady by His Side?

There was too much internal dialogue. Even during a love scene, they just keep up the internal dialogue/descriptions, but don't say anything romantic to each other. This has always been an issue with SL, as she can't write dialogue. If not for the Romance Package I would not have read this novel.

Any additional comments?

Don't bother, but reread an older SL and insert different names. At least this book does not have those ridiculous nicknames!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 27-07-2017

Holy (or Wholly) Overused Adjectives and Adverbs!

Would you try another book from Stephanie Laurens and/or Matthew Brenher?

I have listened to and read many books from Stephanie Laurens. There was no real build up of the relationship between Sebastion and Antonia, but what was more disconcerting, was the overuse of descriptive words (lists really) when they were becoming physically or emotionally close. It detracted from the scene and didn't help to develop the emotional connections. If you've seen the Friends episode where Joey presides over Monica and Chandler's wedding, you know what I mean (giving and receiving, receiving and giving, and giving to receive...). Narration was just okay, in my opinion. It didn't really draw me in. I had to keep reminding myself to pay attention, especially in the earlier parts of the book.

Would you recommend The Lady by His Side to your friends? Why or why not?

Not likely. There are other Stephanie Laurens books I would recommend. This one was only a lukewarm read/listen for me.

Do you think The Lady by His Side needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

It can be read as a stand alone, but.... since there is a mystery afoot, you will not find the full resolution to the mystery in this installment of the trilogy.

Any additional comments?

I will likely listen at least the next book in the trilogy. Hopefully, it will inspire me to listen to the third book in this trilogy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • 15-03-2017

😒

I fully expected better, since I own all the originals from the bar Cinster, because he is DEvils son, I wish his Tory was better or at least as good as Devils was, once upon a time, and I really is SImon Prebble, as the narrator, maybe the story would be better capture by his narration, and I hope in the next installment they address if the Dowager is still alive, and at least make her French accent convincing, when Prebble narrated his stories at least Francesca sounded saultry Matthew makes her sound nasal and just argh, I think next time I'll just buy the book and not waste my credit, I do love Stephanie Lauren's stories, but this one 🤔I'll re serve and wait and see what happens next, but please bring Simon Prebble, if not him some else, Mathew is good but for,these stories.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Customer
  • 12-03-2017

Where is Stephanie Laurens?

Worse book and narrator. Cheated this must have been a ghost writer. Dead on arrival should have been the title. How could you do this to a Cynster? Can not convey the level of disappointment after waiting so lo n g for one of my favorite families to come back after such a long hiatus. I would rather you bury them than do such injustice. Do you realize that well written books stay with the reader whether a historical romance or a Pulitzer prize. If this is how you think of your loyal fans don't write again I am sure you have enough money don't degrade us or your self. If this was a ghostwriter then find someone who first of all has respects for your body of work. Talent someone who knows your characters and takes them seriously. This book was simply awful. The narrator voice had no inflection just monotone. I fell asleep more than once.



















3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Completly disappointed
  • 29-04-2018

Was unable to listen to the story

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Better narration. A person who understood the story and could punctuate in the appropriate places. Perception was that this person wasn't familiar with what he was reading...it was just really bad..and i can be forgiving. He has a great voice and may be great for other types of books, but i don't think historical romance is his cup of tea.

What was most disappointing about Stephanie Laurens’s story?

Don't know cause i couldn't bear listening to it

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Matthew Brenher?

Barbara Rosenblatt, Davina Porter...any number of narrators

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

disappointment

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 16-03-2017

very disappointing

I found this book boring from start to finish! both characters lack lustre and considering he was Devils son a big disappointment!
I won't bother with the next book in the series.
also the narrator was terrible. his tone and slowness made me dislike every character!
sorry not a good word to say about this book which is a shame as I loved her earlier books.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful