What happens when fate, love, and passion collide? The number one New York Times best-selling author Stephanie Laurens returns to Scotland with a tale of two lovers irrevocably linked by destiny and passion. Thomas Carrick is a gentleman driven to control all aspects of his life. As the wealthy owner of Carrick Enterprises, located in bustling Glasgow, he is one of that city's most eligible bachelors and fully intends to select an appropriate wife from the many young ladies paraded before him. He wants to take that necessary next step along his self-determined path, yet no young lady captures his eye, much less his attention - not in the way Lucilla Cynster does, even though she lives miles away. For over two years, Thomas has avoided his clan's estate because it borders Lucilla's home, but disturbing reports from his clansmen force him to return to the countryside - only to discover that his uncle, the laird, is ailing, a clan family is desperately ill, and the clan healer is unconscious and dying. Duty to the clan leaves Thomas no choice but to seek help from the last woman he wants to face. Strong-willed and passionate, Lucilla has been waiting - increasingly impatient - for Thomas to return and claim his rightful place by her side. She knows he is hers - her fated lover, husband, protector, and mate. He is the only man for her, just as she is his one true love. And, at last, he's back. Even though his returning wasn't on her account, Lucilla is willing to seize whatever chance fate hands her. Thomas can never forget Lucilla, much less the connection that seethes between them, but to marry her would mean embracing a life he's adamant he does not want. Lucilla sees that Thomas has yet to accept the inevitability of their union. But how can he ignore a bond such as theirs - one so much stronger than reason?
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Grrrr! Why can't I copy & paste from Goodreads? 3 1/2 stars as it's slightly better than average.
Setting: Scotland 1848 Genre: Romance Though it isn't absolutely necessary to read the rest of the series, it's helpful to read the first generation book that is about this Cynster's parents (Scandal's Bride). This is the first full length Cynster TNG (the next generation) novel. This one features Lucilla, the daughter of Richard Cynster and Catriona. She is apprentice to her mother, who is Priestess to the Lady of the Vale, a local deity who protects the estate which is, as far as I understood, the Vale itself. In this book we learn that the Carrick lands fall under the Lady's purview as well. Thomas Carrick is the orphaned nephew of Manachan Carrick. He was raised from the age of 8 by both Manachan and Quentin Hemmings, his maternal uncle who is part owner of Carrick Enterprises in Glasgow. The uncles agreed that, as Thomas was the heir to his father's portion of the business, he would be educated in Glasgow, but spend school holidays with Uncle Manachan. Since he was 8, Thomas has had a plan for how his life would develop: education in business, work at Carrick Enterprises with his maternal relatives, marry an appropriate lady, and have a family. There is simply no place in his plan for Lucilla Cynster. Lucilla, however, has plans that conflict with his. She has known for 10 years (since they met in the novella By Winter's Light when they were both 18) that Thomas would be her consort in the Vale, as her father is consort to her mother. And she's been waiting for him to come to her for every one of those 10 years. Although Thomas is attracted to Lucilla, he's been avoiding her to the point that he has not visited his family for the past 2 years. That's a pretty clear message, don't you think? Seems like The Lady could have lured a man who would accept his role before Lucilla was past prime child-bearing age. But no, it has to be Thomas. A letter from a farmer on the Carrick estate expressing concern about seed delivery, then another letter from another concerning the illness of the Bradshaws, bring Thomas back to clan lands. He finds the family very ill and dehydrated, and his clan's healer dying in the kitchen. He sends to the Vale for a healer and Lucilla shows up. She discovers that the illness the family is suffering is not just a common stomach bug. She decides to stick around at Carrick Manor to find out what killed the healer and check on Manachan, who has been feeling poorly for the past year. There is a series of "accidents" that lead to the death of the healer's sister and threaten Lucilla. Thomas tells her to go home, but she refuses. Hey, she's willing to risk death to get Thomas in her clutches. As you can probably tell, I don't like these characters. Lucilla is manipulative. Even though Thomas has told her his life plan, she disregards it and continues with her machinations. She doesn't come right out and tell him that she's known he was to be her consort for 10 years, but since he can refuse, she continues her manipulations . Thomas wants Lucilla physically, but is unwilling to pay the price. Does he reiterate his plan? No, that might bring the incentives Lucilla is doling out to a halt, and he really enjoys them. This goes further than the usual miscommunication trope that I'm not fond of, and there are scenes that border on the "stupid used as a plot device" which I hate even more. The mystery of who is perpetrating the murders and the accidents that seem aimed at Lucilla is mildly interesting, but there's not even an allusion to it in the last quarter of the book until right at the end. Also, By Winter's Light was a sort of prologue to this book, but the Thomas in that book doesn't resemble the Thomas in this one. There are set-ups in that novella that didn't get follow up. And, as with many of Laurens' books, it could have been tightened up and a couple of hours shorter. As for narration, Brenher is inconsistent, not so much from book to book in the series, He just doesn't have the range and pacing of some other narrators. Oh, and the accents! Every character spoke pretty much standard British English, even though all of them were born and raised in Scotland. Oh wait, I think a very minor character had a line or two, and he spoke with a country Scots accent.
Okay, I have a bit of a complaint about this series. Most of the books are from a male Cynster's point of view, so a male narrator is appropriate, perhaps preferred. [ I honestly have nothing against male narrators reading romance, nor females reading books with a major male point of view.] But with this series, it would have been so nice to have those books that have a female Cynster focus to have a female narrator. That's, I think, 6 books of the 21 in the series. It would have been a lovely difference. But that's just my opinion.