Series: Cynster (Book 23)
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.
Excellent book with trademark SL characters. Thomas was introduced at the end of By Winter's Light, as the neighbor who assisted during the big storm. It was obvious even then that his fate would be linked with Lucilla's. Fast forward ten years and that fate is about to come calling.
Thomas is part owner of a successful business in Glasgow. It keeps him busy enough that he rarely visits his uncle and the rest of the Carrick clan. When he receives two separate letters hinting at trouble, he goes home to investigate. Circumstances compel him to ask for help from Lucilla Cynster, a young woman he has done his best to avoid for years. There is an attraction between them that pulls him in a direction he doesn't want to go.
I really liked Thomas, but he was incredibly stubborn. He lost his parents when he was ten, spent a year living on Carrick lands with his uncle, then went to Glasgow to live with a different uncle. He grew up with a determination to keep control of his life and emotions. He knows what he wants and won't be distracted. From the first time he met her, he has been unable to forget Lucilla. But she's not the type of woman he's looking for and so he tries to avoid being around her. Even when he has to ask for her help, he does his best to keep distance between them, but it's really no use.
Lucilla is heir apparent to her mother Catriona (Scandal's Bride) as Lady of the Vale. She knows that her mate has already been fated and all she has to do is be patient. She continues serving the people of the valley while she waits for her man to see the truth. But her patience is running out.
A mysterious illness has Lucilla lending her abilities to Thomas and his clan. Forced into close proximity, the attraction between them flares even hotter. Thomas is determined to resist the chemistry and Lucilla is equally determined to take advantage of it. When they finally give in, it is more incredible than either expect. But each of them has a different goal. Lucilla is hoping that Thomas will finally realize that he belongs there with her. Meanwhile, Thomas is hoping that what they have will quickly run its course, freeing him from the hold she has on him.
The time that they spend together has Thomas slowly reconnecting with the land and people. He discovers a deep contentment that his life in Glasgow doesn't give him. But he still has that narrow focus on returning to his life there, When he realizes that everyone around him expects that he will be staying there, he panics, knowing that what he feels deep inside isn't what he had intended to do with his life. He gets angry, says some rather harsh things to Lucilla, and leaves for Glasgow, her words about his fate ringing in his ears. Lucilla's inner strength gets her through the confrontation. It was hard to see her faith waver, but she's determined to get through it. Meanwhile, his stubbornness has him going back to his old life, but he quickly sees that he has changed, and that she was right all along. I enjoyed seeing the misery he went through before he figured it out, as I felt he deserved it for being such an idiot. I really liked his conversation with Lucilla's father when he went back, and the advice he was given. I also appreciated the fact that Lucilla didn't make things easy on him.
The mystery itself wasn't what I'm used to in a Laurens book. The illnesses were man made and the motivation was pretty clear, though there was no proof. The attacks on Lucilla increased Thomas's protectiveness and gave him the motivation to investigate further. His uncle's directives made sense, but also seemed to put the mystery on the back burner for most of the last part of the book. It was brought forward again toward the end, and while the mystery seems to be solved, I felt like there wasn't a true resolution. I also suspect that there is more to it than appears on the surface. I'm assuming there will be more dealings with it in the next book.
I was a little sad that there wasn't more involvement from the other Cynsters. Her parents make only a brief appearance, Marcus is there but not a huge part of the story. I'm used to seeing a bit of interference when someone's being an idiot, or some combination of family members helping to save the day during the resolution of the mystery.