25 June 2013

The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh (Cynster Sisters Duo #2, Cynster #20)

Summary from Goodreads:

The 2nd in the Cynster Sisters duo, #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens thrills with this fantastic tale of a Cynster who'll stop at nothing for love.

Lady Mary has been waiting years for this opportunity. Not that her sister has thrown off her spinster ways and become betrothed, it's finally Mary's chance for true love. She knows exactly who she wants --and it's not someone as wild, unmanageable, and sinfully seductive as Ryder Cavanaugh.

Ryder Cavanaugh, Marquess of Raventhorne, had never met a woman who wouldn't happily fall at his feet--or into his bed...until Lady Mary Cynster. But Ryder has made some decisions about his life and he'll only succeed at being the man he wants to be with Mary by his side. And convincing her of that fact is just the kind of challenge he thrills at...

Miss Mary Cynster – the last, unmarried Cynster female of her generation – is on the hunt for her hero. The coveted necklace has at last been passed to her and she is certain she’s found a suitable candidate: Lord Randolph Cavanaugh, half-brother to the rakish, dangerous Marquess of Raventhorne. Rand is twenty-four, well-off, handsome, and eminently suitable. If only Ryder didn’t constantly stand in her way.

Ryder Cavanaugh, Marquess of Raventhorne, overhears Mary muttering to herself about heroes and Rand at Henrietta’s engagement ball. He immediately realizes Mary has set her matrimonial sights on Rand – and that the strong-willed miss will eat the reluctant Rand alive. When Mary throws all Ryder’s polished flirtation back in his face when all other women would have melted at his feet, he is immediately intrigued. This woman has the backbone and background to make the perfect marchioness. Ryder hadn’t quite intended to enter the marriage market at this time, but as Mary pursues Rand – conveniently placing herself in Ryder’s vicinity every time – he decides that it is high time he bring Mary around to the idea of Ryder as a husband.

Fate forces both their hands. Ryder is stabbed by footpads one evening and rescued by Mary just as he loses consciousness. She remains with him through the night to nurse him as Ryder fights for his life – only to be trapped by the arrival of his haughty step-mother in the morning. Ryder quickly turns the tables on the Dowager Marchioness of Raventhorne by announcing his engagement to Mary, who wisely plays along. After consultation with Mary’s parents, it is decided that there is nothing else to be done. Mary and Ryder will marry - they are well-matched in family background and fortune and the grande-dames of the ton favor the pairing – and decide how their marriage will work.

This being a Stephanie Laurens novel, the road to the Happily Ever After is not without bumps and potholes. Someone wishes Ryder and Mary dead in typical Laurens fashion and she doesn’t disappoint – intrigue abounds. The penultimate scene is expertly constructed to allow Ryder to bare his manly, barbarian heart and do what few Laurens heroes do: cry. I loved every word and welled-up right along with the characters. I have a soft spot in my heart for Laurens’ heroes – they are big and tough and prowling and dead sexy as hell. Ryder has been endowed with leonine aspects of his own, the tawny, lion’s-mane of hair that women love to run their hands through, and that Mary quite appreciates.

A weird spot, though, occurred when Mary very pointedly asked Ryder to consummate their marriage ahead of the ceremony. She is refreshingly frank about acknowledging that all the Cynster women anticipated their vows…but the very grown-up Mary contrasted strangely with the three-year-old toddler Devil cradled in Devil’s Bride. It was as if I felt a little motherly toward her character. I was quite pleased with the way the scene was structured to give Mary agency as regards her own sexual experience but there was a little “my baby is all grown up”. The major pay-off in this novel comes in the Epilogue. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but if this is truly the last Cynster novel Laurens ended her famous series on a wonderful note.

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