A straight-laced Glasgow businessman is drawn back into clan politics and a romance with a woman from a neighboring estate.
Laurens (By Winter’s Light, 2014, etc.) returns to her popular Cynster series with this romantic mystery set in mid-19th-century Scotland. Thomas Carrick is looking for “the right sort of wife for a gentleman of the type he intended to become—a pillar of the wealthy business community.” But a plea for help from farmers on his uncle’s estate causes him to abandon Glasgow suddenly. His wastrel cousins are taking advantage of their father the laird’s lingering illness to plunder the clan’s coffers. Thomas is determined to set things right, even though it means encountering the witchy woman on the next estate, Lucilla Cynster, who has held him in thrall for many years. Lucilla, on the other hand, has been waiting for Thomas to figure out that a marriage between them has been preordained by the Lady, a local deity embodied by Lucilla’s mother. She believes Thomas is her consort, chosen by the Lady to be the future caretaker of Lucilla and her people. Together, they work to solve the mystery of recent foul deeds on Carrick land and have fabulous sex around the edges. The book falls prey to the annoying tics common in Laurens’ prose (can you really sigh inwardly, catch your mental breath, mentally blink or rock back on your mental heels?) but is a fairly successful example of cross-genre experiments in which classic mystery and historical romance and even fantasy tropes are combined. The solution to the mystery is wonderfully unpredictable, and both Thomas and Lucilla are flawed and likable characters.
A fun and fast-moving read, and better edited than many of Laurens’ past efforts. Highly recommended.