MIRA, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7783-1782-1
Historical Romance, 2015
It has been a while since I read a book by Stephanie Laurens, so it is with some curiosity that I pick up The Tempting of Thomas Carrick. It’s part of the “new generation” series of the Cynsters, and god knows, there are so many of them by now that it’s a marvel that they hadn’t procreated their way onto the throne of England. This one moves to Scotland – so watch out, the Cynsters are coming to take over that place too!
The problem with this book is that, like Jayne Ann Krentz after a while, it’s pretty clear that the author has run out of steam when it comes to romance. That’s understandable. After a thousand books, writing about the same old things in the same one-sentenced paragraphs featuring the same hero and heroine in the same repertoire of emotional and boinking situations can really wear down one’s muse. But Stephanie Laurens decides to switch up the mystery instead, and add in a dose of paranormal woo-woo around some druidic prophecy insisting that the hero and the heroine must get married, and the whole thing feels as passion-free and dreary as a meal consisting of solely sawdust.
Thomas Carrick has always been attracted to Lucilla Cynster, who lives in the estate next to the one he grew up in, but he’s too manly for finer feelings, et cetera, so he stays away from her and the place he grew up at for a long time, becoming a wealthy self-made man in the process. Now, however, he is summoned back to Carsphairn by his uncle’s tenant. Apparently Manachan Carrick, who ran the place like a benevolent tyrant, has retreated into his bedroom due to ill health for a while now. His sons who are running the show are apparently not doing something right if the tenants have to write letters to Thomas asking him to go back and help. Thomas goes back and, along the way, seeks Lucilla’s help. The two of them stumble right into what seems like a plague or something causing a family to fall ill. This “illness” claims the life of the local healer, at the same night that her sister was found dead in Carrick Manor, apparently due to an accidental fall down the stairs.
Clearly, something is not right, so Lucilla decides to investigate. Thomas, when he’s not infantilizing Lucilla and demanding that she leaves at once for her own safety (all the author’s heroes do this, so nothing new here), decides to poke his nose around on Manachan’s behalf. Meanwhile, it’s apparent that the poor children of Manachan have never any chance to begin with, as the man focuses only on the eldest son, ignores the rest of his children, and then favors Thomas, his nephew, over his eldest son – no wonder that fellow is resentful and sets about doing everything his father and Thomas won’t think of doing.
Oh, and Lucilla is convinced that Thomas will marry her – the Lady has decreed thus, and kids, get happy with herbs if you wish but don’t believe everything you see, hear, or feel under the influence as gospel, okay – and Thomas has no problems boinking her from Monday to Sunday with some overtime as well, but he will not marry her, no, no, no. He is so determined to be his own man that he not only walks out on a genteel woman he’s ruined so terribly, he also turns his back to his ill and probably dying uncle. Later, he’d go, oh, the sex is so good, the love is so great, so he must go back to her, but it’s clear by that point that this is one twit who has no problems throwing childish temper tantrums every time things don’t go his way.
The romance is pretty much dead, as the characters are far more interested in the mystery than in one another. The only reason it’s love is because Lucilla keeps blabbering about the Lady decreeing this and the Lady touching that. There are some love scenes here, but they are written in a mechanical “he pulls her skirt down masterfully like an alpha male; she feels an explosion in her hoo-hah” manner, I can feel the author’s boredom emanating from each lifeless thrust and moan. I’m told these two are in love, but they seem more in love with the mystery to me. Even then, the mystery just drags on and on long after I’ve correctly deduced the villain and how this person does everything as well as what this person would do for the grand denouement. I don’t know why the author made her story this long when the mystery stops being interesting after 150 pages and the romance is never interesting in the first place.
Also, the villain’s machinations are straight out of Wil E Coyote’s handbook, relying on hilarious stunts like pushing gargoyles over the balcony in hopes of hitting the heroine dead or planting a poisonous snake in some bushes while hoping that the heroine would wander close. Would any of these machinations work in real life? Won’t it be easier to just hire some thugs to kill the heroine while she’s running around the place like a hippie dipstick? Oh, and our “smart” good guys don’t even bother to question or detain the villain’s very obvious accomplice once the villain is unmasked.
The Tempting of Thomas Carrick is more of an interminable witless bore than anything resembling a temptation.