**I was provided an Advanced Reader Copy by the publisher in exchange for my honest review**
Title: The Tempting of Thomas Carrick
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Series Info: A Cynster Novel (Cynster Next Generation, #1)
Release Info: Available in Print and e-Book on February 23, 2015 (Harlequin MIRA)
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Thomas Carrick is determined to make his own life in the bustling port city of Glasgow, far from the demands of the Carrick clan, eventually with an appropriate wife on his arm. But disturbing events on his family’s estate force Thomas to return to the Scottish countryside—where he is forced to ask for help from the last woman he wants to face. Thomas has never forgotten Lucilla Cynster and the connection that seethes between them, but to marry Lucilla would mean embracing a life he’s adamant is not for him.
Strong-willed and passionate, Lucilla knows Thomas is hers—her fated lover, husband, protector, mate. He is the only man for her, just as she is his one true love. How can he ignore a bond stronger than reason and choose a different path? She’s determined to fight for their future, and while she cannot command him, she has enticements of her own to wield when it comes to tempting Thomas Carrick.
Within the first 100 pages of The Tempting of Thomas Carrick we encounter two unexplained deaths, a family felled by a mysterious illness, shady goings-on with Carrick clan farms, and a Fated couple with opposing relationship goals.
Lucilla Cynster is the heir to her mother’s position as Lady of the Vale, healer and figurehead for the worshippers of a local ancient Celtic deity, known as the Lady. Lucilla’s serene confidence and faith in the Lady’s prophecy that Thomas Carrick is her Fated mate is tested by Thomas’ stubborn refusal to embrace love and his Fate at Lucilla’s side as her consort, her protector and future manager of her family’s ancestral estate, the Vale. Thomas clings to his plan to embrace the quiet, comfortable life as a Glaswegian businessman, which includes finding a wife he will be in no danger of falling in love with – basically, any woman who isn’t Lucilla Cynster. Unfortunately for Thomas’ master plan, but fortunately for readers, his connection to and passion for Lucilla cannot be tamed, especially once she sets her mind to fanning the flames of their desire.
Thomas and Lucilla work well together trying to sort out the problems facing his clan, including the ailing health of his uncle, laird of clan Carrick. Despite his efforts to push Lucilla away, Thomas comes to rely on her intelligence and partnership in dealing with his family’s mysteries. The chemistry between the protagonists is palpable and their communication is open and mature. Thomas is honest with Lucilla regarding his future plans and she pursues a relationship with him knowing he has no intention of making their bond permanent. The problem is, Thomas isn’t being honest with himself. Lucilla must learn to let Thomas embrace his free will and he must learn to accept his true self. The journey to making these revelations is satisfying – and beyond steamy.
The novel faltered for me once it dropped the threads of the mysterious deaths and nefarious ‘accidents’ that occurred at Carrick Manor. Once Thomas and Lucilla escape to her home, the Vale, they leave their investigations into the Carrick clan secrets behind. Hopefully the unresolved questions will be addressed in the second Cynster Next Generation novel, A Match for Marcus Cynster, featuring Lucilla’s twin brother Marcus and Thomas’ cousin Niniver Carrick.
The mystical undertones of the Lady added an interesting layer to this charming tale of Fated love and acceptance.
Q&A with Author Stephanie Laurens:
The Cynster series has been going strong for years! What do you think is key to the success and longevity of the series?
From an author’s point of view, it’s simple enough—figure out what story elements drew readers to the stories in the first place and then work to keep delivering what readers clearly want. This doesn’t mean “tell the same story only differently.” It does mean delivering the same experience around the same core values, which for the Cynster series were a) a certain style of romance with a certain type of hero and heroine, and b) family. Consistently delivering to readers what readers want and expect of a particular series is the key to continued success and longevity.
This book is the first of the Cynster Next Generation Novels, and will be followed by Lucilla’s twin brother, Marcus’s story in June. Are there more Cynster Next Generation Novels to come?
Yes, indeed! As By Winter’s Light was in essence a pivotal volume, shifting focus from the original Bar Cynster generation to the lives of their near-adult children, and within the tale of By Winter’s Light were the seeds of Lucilla’s romance, then her book had to come first, in The Tempting of Thomas Carrick. And within Lucilla’s story lie the seeds of Marcus’s story, and as he is her twin, his book, A Match for Marcus Cynster, had to come next. It will be released on May 26, 2015.
But at the end of The Tempting of Thomas Carrick, and even more definitely at the end of A Match for Marcus Cynster, we catch up with the other Cynsters now facing up to the challenge of marriage and finding a suitable spouse. We see and appreciate that all is not going to be smooth sailing for such very robust individuals, neither the males nor the females. There are at least 6 more Cynster Next Generation novels to come—the romances of Devil’s three children, Sebastian, Michael, and Louisa, and those of the remaining “older group”—Prudence, Christopher, and Antonia Rawlings. After that…well, I’m sure that by the time I finish Louisa’s tale, we’ll know a lot more about Annabelle, Juliet, and Therese. And I already know what Calvin and Carter get up to, which should prove a lot of fun. Lots more to enjoy!
Readers first met Thomas Carrick in the Cynster holiday special By Winter’s Light. Did his earlier meeting with Lucilla described in that book affect the pair’s actions in this book?
That earlier meeting in By Winter’s Light sets the stage for Thomas and Lucilla’s romance. Both of them leave that first encounter with the knowledge that the other could be their future spouse. Lucilla is ready to accept that Thomas is her fated future husband, lover, and consort, but Thomas, having experienced a complementary visceral connection to Lucilla, concludes that, as he wishes to avoid love, then she is someone he would be wise to avoid.
So from the instant they part after that first encounter, they are set on opposing tracks—Lucilla expecting and waiting for Thomas to return to her side and claim her hand, and Thomas doing his level best to stay far away.
It’s a standoff, until the actions at the start of The Tempting of Thomas Carrick force—literally force—them together again.
Lucilla’s position as healer to the Vale community, and, indeed, all people under The Lady’s protection, features strongly in this book. How common were such healers?
Despite the rise of more formal medicine and the doctors who practiced it, traditional folk healers—those we might now term homeopathic healers or herbalists—were not uncommon into the late 1800s in England. In country areas, they would almost always be the first consulted, even by those living in the larger, wealthier houses. The history of herbal remedies is very deep and broad throughout the British Isles, and the more isolated the community, the greater the distance from a major town, the more likely that the people would turn first to the local “healer.” Midwifery and the treatment of common ailments remained largely the province of such healers even into the 1900s.
That said, as mentioned in this book and the next, in this period, when it came to interacting with the apparatus of law and order, for instance in formally reporting a death, the “doctor”—meaning a man formally trained in the western medical tradition—would be the one sent for.
About Author Stephanie Laurens:
#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens began writing romances as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career when her first novel was accepted for publication, and with entirely becoming alacrity, she gave up writing about facts in favor of writing fiction.
Laurens’s novels are set in the time period of the British Regency, and her settings range from Scotland to India. Laurens has published fifty works of historical romance, including 29 New York Times bestsellers. All her works are continuously available in print and digital formats in English worldwide, and have been translated into many other languages. An international bestseller, among other Stephanie’s email contactsaccolades Laurens has received the Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA Award for Best Romance Novella 2008, for The Fall of Rogue Gerrard.
Her continuing novels featuring the Cynster family are widely regarded as classics of the genre. Other series include the Bastion Club Novels and the Black Cobra Quartet. For information on upcoming releases and updates on novels yet to come, visit Stephanie’s website.
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Excerpt from The Tempting of Thomas Carrick:
Somewhat to his surprise, she made no demur at his taking control; instead, she walked beside him, courtesy of the narrowness of the corridor rather close, her velvet riding skirt brushing the material of his trousers. Once he was sure she was, indeed, consenting to leave the scene, he eased his grip, then released her altogether.
He would have increased the distance between them, but there was no space.
Lucilla found herself dealing with a rather odd fracturing of her awareness. On one level, she was increasingly exercised over the matter of the Burns sisters’ deaths, and very conscious of the tug of duty on that score, yet simultaneously her sensual awareness was reveling in Thomas’s nearness. In his touch, however brief.
The toe of her riding boot hit something, and she stumbled. “Oh!” She pitched forward—
Thomas caught her and hauled her upright. Hauled her to him.
She ended in his arms. Locked against him, her palms flat against his chest.
The first thing she registered was the heat of him, the warmth that seeped through the layers of fabric and sank into her.
Into her flesh, feeding her senses.
They came alive on a giddy rush of anticipation.
She raised her gaze to his eyes. In the same instant registered the sudden tension that had gripped him, that had turned taut, resilient muscle into granite and steel. The arms that held her so securely felt less malleable than iron.
But it was his eyes that most gave him away; the gold-flecked amber burned.
She didn’t stop to think. To question.
To give him time to snap his shields back into place.
The Lady might help and create the chance, but it was up to her to seize it.
Stretching up on her toes, she barely paused to whisper “Thank you” before she pressed her lips to his.
For one instant, her confidence wavered. What if he didn’t respond?
Then she sensed it—a sharp hitch in his breathing, a leaping, uncontrollable, barely reined impulse to seize.
She’d felt that reaction in herself—she recognized it in him.
All doubt evaporated. All caution fell.
She pressed her kiss on him, sure, certain.
Stepping boldly into him, she slid her hands up his chest and over his shoulders, savoring the heat and the strength beneath her palms, then she reached further, to his nape, and slid her fingers into the thick, heavy locks of his hair.
The feathery touch caught her, steadied her.
All her senses alive, she turned her mind from conquest to persuasion.
Drawing one hand from the silk of his hair, she placed her palm against one lean cheek and gave herself over to the communion of the kiss.
Thomas was lost, his anchor gone, swept away by a tide of ferocious yearning. His, but equally hers. Her longing had poured into him, inciting a response he had no hope of reining back. Of taming. Of restraining.
He wanted her; he always had.
But the part of him that wanted her—still, regardless—was the part of him he normally kept leashed, controlled. Hidden.
It hadn’t been her kiss, the sharp and shocking pressure of her lips against his, that had shattered the chains, that had broken the lock and flung wide the doors of his inner prison.
It hadn’t been the searing heat of her touch as she’d slid her hands up his chest and over his shoulders, an evocative, provocative come-hither act that yet had felt curiously innocent.
Even her fingers tangling in his hair—he was more than experienced enough to set all such temptations aside.
But the feel of her palm, her fingers, lightly riding against his cheek…
It was as if by that touch she’d tamed him. Slayed all resistance and claimed the man he truly was.
He’d always known she was dangerous. That she and she alone could rule him.
He hadn’t wanted that. He still didn’t want that. Yet…
Her lips tasted of a heady blend of rose and nectar. He couldn’t resist the temptation to sip.
Just a little. A bit.