The Honorable Miss Mary Cynster always gets what she wants. As the last unwed Cynster of her generation, she is determined to remain in charge of her life and of the man she will marry. At the very bottom of her list of potential husbands is Ryder Cavanaugh, the daring and devastating Marquess of Raventhorne, an overwhelming and utterly unmanageable lion of the ton. But destiny has a different plan.
Ryder needs Mary as his wife, not just because she is delightful, fiery, and tempting, but because he values all she could be. When fate and circumstance hand him the chance, he claims Mary as his marchioness…only to discover what he truly desires is not just to take her hand in marriage, but to capture her heart.
To start with, ignore the somewhat misleading title. Ryder Cavanaugh has Mary Cynster in his sights from the beginning — as a wife, not a mistress. He may be described as “unmanageable”, but he doesn’t come across that way, at least not in his dealings with Mary. He is certainly a typical Laurens alpha-male hero: intelligent and sensual, with a strong personality and deep-seated protective tendencies. It was fun to watch him try to deflect Mary from her original matrimonial target, his younger half-brother. It’s soon clear that young Rand is not at all the right person for Mary, but it takes Ryder a while to persuade her to consider him seriously instead.
There’s plenty of chemistry between Ryder and Mary, who is as bright, strong-willed, and self-assured (not to mention stubborn) as you would expect a Cynster daughter to be. The first portion of the book plays upon that chemistry as Ryder pursues her without letting on that he’s doing so. Mary, in turn, rather stubbornly clings to the conviction that he is not the “hero” she’s looking for. The romantic tension in this sections is well-written, and I really enjoyed the interplay between the two.
This being a Stephanie Laurens romance, there are of course complications of the mysterious and dangerous sort. Someone appears to be trying to kill Ryder, and he doesn’t know who or why — though the first attempt very nearly succeeds.
I’m trying to avoid spoilers as much as I can, but I will say that after the midpoint of the book, there is less romantic tension, because it’s largely been resolved. The chemistry between Mary and Ryder is still strong, but the tension or suspense in the book after that point is based more on the threat to their lives from a still-unknown enemy than on any misunderstanding or lack of harmony between the two of them. That surprised me; Laurens usually maintains at least some romantic/sexual tension between the hero and heroine until close to the end of the book. That doesn’t mean there’s no heat, though; there are several very steamy scenes.
It may not be evident to Ryder who is trying to kill him (or them), but I spotted the villain right away, which lowered my suspense level considerably. It was so obvious that I kept waiting for someone unexpected or unknown to show up with a motive. Nonetheless, Laurens managed to surprise me toward the end of the book (though not necessarily with whodunnit), and the events leading up to the denouement definitely keep me turning the pages.
Overall, I enjoyed Mary’s story, even if it was a bit less suspenseful than I would expect from a Stephanie Laurens romance. Long-time Stephanie Laurens fans should find plenty in The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh to please them. New readers might want to start with some of the earlier entries in the various Cynster series; while The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh could stand alone, I think it helps to know something about the Cynster family before you read it.
Rating: 3.5 stars
About the author: Stephanie Laurens was born in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and raised in Australia. She trained as a biochemist; she and her husband spent four years in Great Britain working as research scientist before returning to Australia. One night, she ran out of her favorite romances, and decided to write her own. Once her books were selling well, Laurens left the world of scientific research to write full-time. She is the author of around 40 historical romances, most set in the Regency and post-Regency era, and has contributed to a number of anthologies as well. Most of her books are related in some way to her Cynster series.
Category: historical romance
Series: Cynster Sisters duo #2; Cynsters #20
Release date: June 25, 2013
Book source: ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss (thank you, Avon!)