#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens returns to Scotland with a tale of two lovers irrevocably linked by destiny.
Thomas Carrick is driven to control all aspects of his life. The wealthy owner of Carrick Enterprises, located in bustling Glasgow, he is one of that city's most eligible bachelors and intends to select a wife from the many young ladies paraded before him. He wants to take that next step along his self-determined path, yet no one captures his eye, nor his attention not the way Lucilla Cynster did.
Thomas has avoided his clan's estate because it borders Lucilla's home, but disturbing reports from his clansmen force him to return. His uncle, the laird, is ailing, a family is desperately ill, and the healer is unconscious and dying. Duty leaves Thomas no choice but to seek help from the last woman he wants to face.
Strong-willed and passionate, Lucilla has been waiting for Thomas to return and claim his place by her side. She knows he is her fated lover, husband, protector, and mate just as she is his one true love. Though his return wasn't on her account, Lucilla is willing to seize whatever chance Fate hands her.
Thomas can never forget Lucilla, or the connection that seethes between them, but to marry her would mean embracing a life 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 theirsone so much stronger than reason? Lucilla is as determined as only a Cynster can be to fight for the future she knows can be theirs. And while she cannot command him, she has powerful enticements she's willing to wield in the tempting of Thomas Carrick.
A neo-Gothic tale of passionate romance laced with mystery, set in the uplands of southwestern Scotland
A Cynster Second Generation Novela classic historical romance of 122,000 words.
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The Tempting of Thomas Carrick
By Stephanie Laurens
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2014 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All rights reserved.
April 1848 Glasgow
Good morning, Mr. Carrick." Thomas looked up from furling his umbrella and smiled at Mrs. Manning, the middle-aged receptionist seated behind her desk to one side of the foyer of the Carrick Enterprises office.
Mrs. Manning held out a commanding hand. "Let me take that for you, sir."
As the door to the stairwell swung closed behind him, Thomas strolled across and dutifully handed over the umbrella.
Mrs. Manning's thin lips curved approvingly as she took it; despite her habitually stern demeanor, she had a soft spot for Thomas. The company offices occupied the front half of the first floor of a building on Trongate, close to the bustling heart of the city, and the widowed matron ruled over her empire with a firm but benign hand.
"You have no meetings scheduled this morning, Mr. Carrick—just the discussion with the Colliers late this afternoon." Mrs. Manning glanced across the room. "And nothing's come in this morning that falls to you."
Opposite the reception desk, a long polished counter ran along the wall, and there were numerous pigeonholes set in the wall above. Before the counter, Dobson, the general clerk, was quietly sorting letters and deliveries; an ex-soldier and man of few words, he nodded in acknowledgment when Thomas glanced his way.
Turning back to Mrs. Manning, Thomas murmured, "In that case, I'll take the opportunity to go over last month's accounts."
"You'll find them on the bureau behind your desk, sir."
The foyer was paneled with fine-grained oak. The half-glassed door through which Thomas had come bore the company name and logo—the outline of a steamship superimposed on a square crate—in exquisitely wrought gilt signage. Round marbled-glass bowls suspended by heavy chains from the stamped-metal ceiling shed the steady glow of gaslight upon the scene. The ambiance was all restrained prosperity—the sort that was so assured no one thought to make anything of it.
Yet it wasn't old money behind Carrick Enterprises. Thomas's late father, Niall, had started the import-export business thirty-five years ago; as a second son with no inheritance, Niall had had to make his own way in the world.
In that, Niall had been joined by his brother-in-law, Quentin Hemmings. Although Thomas's father had died long ago, Quentin was still very much a part of the day-to-day running of Carrick Enterprises.
As Thomas headed for the open door leading to the inner offices, Quentin appeared, filling the doorway, his gaze on a sheaf of papers in his hands.
Almost as tall as Thomas, Quentin exuded the air of a gentleman of ample means quietly yet definitely satisfied with his lot—and, indeed, marriage, family, and business had all treated Quentin well. His brown hair might have been thinning somewhat, yet his face and figure remained that of a vigorous man still engaged with all aspects of life.
Sensing an obstacle in his path, Quentin glanced up. His face lit as his gaze landed on Thomas. "Thomas, my boy. Good morning." Quentin brandished the papers he held. "The contracts with Bermuda Sugar Corporation." Quentin's hazel gaze sharpened. "There's just one thing ..."
Fifteen minutes later, after having agreed that Quentin should seek further assurances as to delivery dates from Bermuda Sugar, Thomas finally stepped through the doorway and strode down a narrow corridor. Lined with offices on the side overlooking the street and with storerooms on the other, the corridor ended at an imposing door that led into a large corner office—Thomas's. Quentin's office lay at the other end of the corridor, filling the other front corner of the building.
Thomas was five paces from his door when another tall gentleman stepped out of the adjacent office, papers in hand—Thomas's cousin Humphrey, Quentin's only son; he glanced up, saw Thomas, and halted, grinning.
When Thomas paused alongside him and arched a laconic brow, Humphrey's grin turned puckish. "You are going to have to choose which of Glasgow's finest you favor, and soon, or the situation will descend into feminine war. And when it comes to hostilities, ladies are more inventive than Napoleon ever was. There will be blood on the ballroom floors—metaphorically speaking, at least. Mark my words, young man!"
Thomas chuckled. "Where did you hear that? Or should I say from whom?"
"Old Lady Anglesey. She collared me and bent my ear over you and your peripatetic interest. Luckily," Humphrey went on, "I was clinging to Andrea's arm and she acted as my shield, but I was nevertheless conscripted as a messenger." Andrea was Humphrey's intended, although they were not yet formally engaged.
Along with Humphrey, Thomas had accompanied Quentin and his wife, Winifred, to a society soirée the previous evening. Considered one of the most eligible bachelors in Glasgow, Thomas was a target for the matchmakers, and even more for enterprising young ladies attracted by his appearance and persona as much as by his wealth.
Thomas heaved a sigh. "I suppose I'll have to choose sometime, but I keep hoping I'll find someone like Andrea." Someone who fixed his interest and held his attention. Someone with whom he felt a real connection.
"Ah, well." Still grinning, Humphrey clapped Thomas on the shoulder. "We can't all have the luck of the gods."
Thomas laughed. He glanced at the papers in Humphrey's hands.
Humphrey promptly waved them. "Rosewood headed for Bristol." Excitement tinged his tone. "I think I can persuade the company that Glasgow would be a better destination."
"That would make a nice addition to the mahogany we've coming in." Thomas nodded. "Let me know if you pull it off."
"Oh, you'll hear—you'll definitely hear." With another wave of the papers, Humphrey took off down the corridor, no doubt to consult with one of their brokers about how best to wrest—not to say steal—the deal away from the Bristol merchants.
Thomas stepped into his office. He shrugged out of his greatcoat and hung it on the stand behind the door, then closed the door and walked to his desk. He didn't immediately round it and sit in the chair, but instead he paused before it. His fingertips lightly brushing the desk's smooth surface, he gazed out of the corner window. The bustling thoroughfare of Trongate stretched before him, thronged with carriages and pedestrians going about their business; the calls of drivers and the cracks of their whips came faintly through the glass. From the left, through a gap between two buildings, the glint of fleeting sunshine reflecting off the pewter waters of the Clyde drew his eye.
This office, this place—Thomas had elected to make this the center of his life. He intended to craft an engaging life around his position as half owner of Carrick Enterprises, and the next step along the path to his goal was to select a suitable wife. The right sort of wife for a gentleman of the type he intended to become—a pillar of the wealthy business community with a supportive wife on his arm, with children attending the right schools, and a house in the best quarter. Perhaps a hunting box in the Highlands. He had it all reasonably clear in his mind.
Except for one thing. The first thing.
No matter how many young ladies of good family, passable or better beauty, and impeccable social credentials his aunt steered his way, he simply didn't—couldn't—see any of them as his.
Not while Lucilla Cynster still stood so vibrant and real in his mind.
By deliberate design, he hadn't set eyes on her for more than two years; he'd hoped the inexplicable grip she seemed to have on his psyche would fade if it wasn't fed—if his eyes didn't see her, if he didn't hear her voice, if his awareness wasn't teased, abraded, and impinged on by her nearness. Yet it hadn't.
He didn't even have to close his eyes to conjure her in his mind, with her emerald-green eyes slightly tip-tilted in a finely featured face haloed by fire-red hair; the colors of her eyes, soft pale pink lips, and that flaming hair were rendered even more vibrant by the unblemished ivory of her alabaster complexion.
Every other young lady he saw paled in comparison. They were insipid. Colorless.
And not just in appearance; Lucilla's vibrancy extended to her soul and was something that marked her, in Thomas's experience, as unique.
She attracted him, captured his senses, and commanded his awareness at some level beyond understanding. His understanding, at least.
She was considered a witch of sorts; it wasn't hard to see why.
For instance, there he was, standing and thinking of her when it was quite definitely the last thing he wanted, much less needed, to do.
Brusquely shaking his head, shaking all thoughts and visions of Lucilla from the forefront of his brain, he rounded the desk and sat in the comfortable leather chair behind it. If trying to focus on which young lady might be suitable as his wife was hopeless, at least he could deal with business—one aspect of his life in which thoughts of Lucilla rarely intruded.
He spent the next hours reviewing the company's past month's trading. All was going excellently well; along with the port, trade of all sorts was booming, and the company was well placed to reap the harvest his late father and Quentin had long ago sown. Although Quentin was still fully active in the firm, Thomas and Humphrey saw themselves as the ones to grow the company into the future, something Quentin openly encouraged.
Business was good. It was absorbing, too.
A tap on his door had him glancing up. "Come."
The door opened, and Dobson entered, a small sheaf of letters in his hand. "Mail, sir. Just got in."
"Thank you, Dobson." Thomas set down his pen, leaned back, and stretched his arms over his head.
Dobson set the letters on the tray on the corner of Thomas's desk and, with a taciturn nod, retreated, closing the door behind him.
Thomas lowered his arms, relaxed for a moment, then sat up and reached for the letters. There were five. Sorting through them, he found three notifications from the company's bank, detailing payments made. One thick envelope was from a shipping captain Thomas knew, who occasionally reported on prospects he came across in far-flung ports that he thought Carrick Enterprises might be interested in pursuing. That missive in his hand, Thomas was reaching for his letter knife when his gaze fell on the last letter in the pile.
The plain envelope was addressed to Mr. Thomas Carrick, with the "Carrick" heavily underlined. Across the corner opposite the post-office stamp was scrawled: Bradshaw, Carrick.
Setting aside the captain's letter, Thomas picked up the one from Bradshaw and squinted at the stamp.
Frowning, Thomas lifted the letter knife and slit open the envelope. There were two sheets inside. Sliding them out, he smoothed the pages, then leaned back in his chair and read.
And grew increasingly puzzled.
The missive was, indeed, from Bradshaw, a farmer on the Carrick estate. Thomas's paternal uncle was Manachan Carrick—The Carrick, laird of the clan. Thomas had been born at Carrick Manor, on the estate, although that had been an accident of sorts, a twist of fate. He'd spent several summers there with his parents while they'd been alive; after their deaths when Thomas was ten, he'd spent a full year at the manor, embraced, nurtured, and supported by the clan. He owed Manachan and the clan a great deal for that year, but as time had passed and he'd healed and returned to normal boyhood life, Manachan and Quentin, his co-guardians, had decided that Thomas would be best served by going to school in Glasgow and living with Quentin and Winifred and their children. And so he had.
Thomas had still visited the Carricks every summer, spending anything from a few weeks to a few months with Manachan's four children and other children of the clan, but even more with Manachan himself.
Thomas had been—and still remained—closer to Manachan than even to Quentin, whom he saw every day. Even when much younger, Thomas had intuitively realized that Manachan and Niall had been close, and with Niall's death, Manachan had transferred that degree of closeness, of connection, to Thomas, Niall's only child.
Quentin, Winifred, and Humphrey were Thomas's Glasgow family, yet Manachan was the family closest to his heart. Thomas understood Manachan and Manachan understood him, and that understanding sprang from something deep in their bones.
It was precisely that understanding that made Brad-shaw's letter so difficult to comprehend.
Not the details—they were plain enough. Bradshaw—
Thomas could easily picture the burly man; he'd met him on and off over the years—wrote that, despite the season, by which he meant the planting season, being so advanced, no seed stock had as yet been supplied to any of the estate's farmers.
Frown deepening, Thomas looked unseeing across the room while shifting his mind from shipping times and the effect of the seasons on transport, and delved into his memories to recall the impact of the march of the seasons on the land. The Carrick estate lay in the western lowlands, in Galloway and Dumfries. It was already late to be sowing, surely?
Refocusing on the letter, Thomas read again Brad-shaw's plea that he—Thomas—should intercede with Manachan over the matter of the seed supply.
"Why can't Bradshaw speak with Manachan himself?"
That was what Thomas couldn't understand. If there was a problem on the estate, then as laird of the clan, Manachan was the person to take that problem to. He always had been, and Thomas had never known any of the clan to feel the least reluctance over approaching his uncle. For all his fearsome reputation outside the clan, within it, Manachan was held in high esteem and, indeed, affection. He might be a cantankerous old bastard on occasion, but he was theirs, and to Thomas's certain knowledge, Manachan had served the clan faithfully and had never, ever, let them down.
Manachan would fight to his last breath for the clan.
That was the role of the laird, one Manachan had been born to; it was the principle on which he'd lived his entire life.
Admittedly, Manachan was now ailing somewhat and, over the past year, had allowed his eldest son, Nigel, to assume some of the day-to-day running of the estate. But Thomas couldn't imagine Manachan not keeping his hand on the tiller, much less not keeping abreast with all that was going on in the clan.
Thomas had learned of the change in estate management via letters, several from Manachan—although, now Thomas thought of it, none in recent months. A brief missive had come from the estate's solicitor, and one from Nigel himself. Also a note from Nolan, Manachan's second son, and one from Niniver, Manachan's only daughter, inquiring when Thomas next planned to visit. None of those communications had spelled out the change, but rather had alluded to it.
Thomas hadn't visited Carrick Manor for the last two years—the years during which he'd been trying, and failing, to steer his life forward—for the simple reason that Lucilla Cynster lived at Casphairn Manor, in the Vale of Casphairn, which abutted the southern border of the Carrick estate.
Ever since his fifteenth birthday, whenever he'd visited, he had—one way or another—run across Lucilla. Sometimes just to see, on other occasions to interact with. He would never forget the Christmas Eve they had shared, trapped by a blizzard in a tiny crofter cottage.
The last time he'd been at Carrick Manor, they'd met at the local Hunt Ball and had chatted and waltzed—and it seemed he would never forget that experience, either.
Excerpted from The Tempting of Thomas Carrick by Stephanie Laurens. Copyright © 2014 Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Cynster family continues to grow and thrive through the wonderful writing talents of Stephanie Laurens. This is the story of Lucilla Cynster, lady-in-waiting to the Lady of the Vale. The Lady has informed her that Thomas is to be her consort, protector and husband. Thomas has a different idea of what his future is and consistently fights the pull towards Lucilla. However, he must have Lucilla's help saving a clan family and solving the mystery of what is occurring in the Carrick clan. Thomas is injured during this time and Lucilla uses his recuperating time to further her cause to make Thomas see what his future is fated to be. This story is filled with love, mystery and intrigue.
Many of Ms. Laurens' readers seem to like her purple prose and seemingly endless sex scenes. I've always tolerated those aspects of her writing for the sake of her strong characters and intriguing plots. This book was pretty weak on character development and left most of the plot intrigues unresolved. I will probably buy the next book to give her a chance to finish this one (which pretty much ended as a 300+ page prologue) but if she doesn't do better next time she'll be off my read list.
Enjoyed as always looking foward to next book
This book was another example of Stephanie Laurens ability to entertain the reader. The hero and heroine were perfect. The first book of the next generation of the Cynster stories proved to be just as good as their parents stories. If you like 19th century novels, this one has it all.
I love this family and am excited to read about the next generation.
I generally love anything Ms. Laurens writes. I did not fall in love with these characters. I was very hopeful because their interaction was the best part of By Winter's Light. Thomas could not feel his connection to "The Lady" These characters were not as dynamic as I expected from this writer. Perhaps she is tired of the Cynster Ffamily. I hope not..
Love this author
I have really enjoyed getting to know these complex charcters. I love her attention to small details and appreciate seeing the world through her eyes.
Not as intriguing as her usual books.
Nice story with blend of romance and mystery. Enjoyed it and look forward to the followon book which should conclude some open ended storylines.
4 stars-- THE TEMPTING OF THOMAS CARRICK is the twenty second installment in Stephanie Laurens’s The Cynsters historical romance series focusing on the Cynster family. This is Richard and Catriona’s daughter Lucilla Cynster, and Thomas Carrick’s storyline. Thomas and Lucilla’s attraction to one another began years earlier but their future and the storyline began to unfold in in the previous novel-BY WINTER’S LIGHT- the first installment focusing on the next generation. THE TEMPTING OF THOMAS CARRICK advances the series approximately eleven years. The premise of the storyline follows the investigation into a series of poisonings and mysterious deaths surrounding the Carrick clan. Thomas Carrick has not been to the family estate for a number of years and one of the reasons was to avoid his neighbor and the woman who is forever on his mind -Lucilla Cynster –a healer and a woman with connections to the ‘Lady’. Returning home to discover the Laird’s health deteriorating and his cousins all but ignoring the fate of the clan, Thomas and Lucilla will begin an investigation of their own into the happenings and circumstances surrounding the clan’s current demise. The attraction between Thomas and Lucilla has already been established. Their affiliation and interest in one another has spanned several years but Thomas’s need to set about his own independence found him in Glasgow while Lucilla remained in the Scottish countryside at the Cynster family estate. Upon his return, Lucilla will begin a slow seduction of Thomas with the knowledge that fate and the ‘Lady’ knows she and Thomas are meant to be. The secondary and supporting characters are numerous including all of Thomas’s cousins whom we have previously met in BY WINTER’S LIGHT. Their storyline and the ensuing problems at the Carrick Estate were beginning to unfold with the revelation that the Laird’s health was continuing to fail. Richard and Catriona (Scandal’s Bride/Cynsters #3) make a brief but strong appearance as well as Lucilla’s twin brother Marcus whose own future will began to unravel in A MATCH FOR MARCUS CYNSTER (Cynsters 23). THE TEMPTING OF THOMAS CARRICK is the first full length novel focusing on the next generation of Cynsters. Almost thirty years since the marriage of Richard and Catriona, Stephanie Laurens begins to focus on the now adult children of the original Cynster Clan. There are moments of mystery, suspense, romance and building love; the fate of Laird Carrick is almost a foregone conclusion as to the how; and some of the ‘incidents’ are duplications from previous stories. Many questions and concerns are left unanswered; the mystery surrounding the who and why still remains unsolved but saying that, the continuing saga of the Cynster family will hopefully see a resolution. Everything and everyone may not be all that it or they appear to be.
Every Stephanie Laurens fan knew at the end of “By Winter’s Light” (the short story of Daniel and Claire’s happily-ever-every) where Lucilla’s fate would lead. However, Laurens is such a great storyteller that we never quite know how the road will get us there. This story is purposefully not quite as satisfying as we might like it to be because the mystery is not wrapped up neatly in the end (not unlike the Bride’s series). The lure that gets Thomas to return to Carrick Manor and the mystery that keeps him there do not seem forced, but understandable, and it is what makes Thomas such a perfect hero. Lucilla is as strong and determined as we’ve come to expect from Cynster woman, so, of course, she’s perfect. The ending was unexpected, and it makes the May release of Marcus’s story seem just too far away. Reading prior Cynster books is not required to read and love this book, but is fun to read about them as bit players in this story!
What a wonderful book with lots of mystery that will continue with the next installment. Taking place in and around the Vale was an added plus. I can't wait for Marcus' story which is next.
This book is a thin plot with a mediocre attempt to "fatten" the plot of explicit sex. Ms Laurens is lucky to have gotten plublished.