Interview with Stephanie Laurens - The Tempting of Thomas Carrick
Please welcome to the blog #1 NYT bestselling international Australian romance author Stephanie Laurens. She's here today talking about her latest historical romantic suspense, The Tempting of Thomas Carrick, part of her Cynster series of books. Enjoy!
Publication date: 2/24/2015
Format: Mass Market Paperback
#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens returns to Scotland with a tale of two lovers irrevocably linked by destiny.
Thomas Carrick is driven to control all aspects of his life. The wealthy owner of Carrick Enterprises, located in bustling Glasgow, he is one of that city's most eligible bachelors and intends to select a wife from the many young ladies paraded before him. He wants to take that next step along his self-determined path, yet no one captures his eye, nor his attention not the way Lucilla Cynster did.
Read an excerpt:
April 1848 Glasgow
Good morning, Mr. Carrick." Thomas looked up from furling his umbrella and smiled at Mrs. Manning, the middle-aged receptionist seated behind her desk to one side of the foyer of the Carrick Enterprises office.
Mrs. Manning held out a commanding hand. "Let me take that for you, sir."
As the door to the stairwell swung closed behind him, Thomas strolled across and dutifully handed over the umbrella.
Mrs. Manning's thin lips curved approvingly as she took it; despite her habitually stern demeanor, she had a soft spot for Thomas. The company offices occupied the front half of the first floor of a building on Trongate, close to the bustling heart of the city, and the widowed matron ruled over her empire with a firm but benign hand.
"You have no meetings scheduled this morning, Mr. Carrick—just the discussion with the Colliers late this afternoon." Mrs. Manning glanced across the room. "And nothing's come in this morning that falls to you."
Opposite the reception desk, a long polished counter ran along the wall, and there were numerous pigeonholes set in the wall above. Before the counter, Dobson, the general clerk, was quietly sorting letters and deliveries; an ex-soldier and man of few words, he nodded in acknowledgment when Thomas glanced his way.
Turning back to Mrs. Manning, Thomas murmured, "In that case, I'll take the opportunity to go over last month's accounts."
"You'll find them on the bureau behind your desk, sir."
The foyer was paneled with fine-grained oak. The half-glassed door through which Thomas had come bore the company name and logo—the outline of a steamship superimposed on a square crate—in exquisitely wrought gilt signage. Round marbled-glass bowls suspended by heavy chains from the stamped-metal ceiling shed the steady glow of gaslight upon the scene. The ambiance was all restrained prosperity—the sort that was so assured no one thought to make anything of it.
Yet it wasn't old money behind Carrick Enterprises. Thomas's late father, Niall, had started the import-export business thirty-five years ago; as a second son with no inheritance, Niall had had to make his own way in the world.
In that, Niall had been joined by his brother-in-law, Quentin Hemmings. Although Thomas's father had died long ago, Quentin was still very much a part of the day-to-day running of Carrick Enterprises.
As Thomas headed for the open door leading to the inner offices, Quentin appeared, filling the doorway, his gaze on a sheaf of papers in his hands.
Almost as tall as Thomas, Quentin exuded the air of a gentleman of ample means quietly yet definitely satisfied with his lot—and, indeed, marriage, family, and business had all treated Quentin well. His brown hair might have been thinning somewhat, yet his face and figure remained that of a vigorous man still engaged with all aspects of life.
Sensing an obstacle in his path, Quentin glanced up. His face lit as his gaze landed on Thomas. "Thomas, my boy. Good morning." Quentin brandished the papers he held. "The contracts with Bermuda Sugar Corporation." Quentin's hazel gaze sharpened. "There's just one thing "
Fifteen minutes later, after having agreed that Quentin should seek further assurances as to delivery dates from Bermuda Sugar, Thomas finally stepped through the doorway and strode down a narrow corridor. Lined with offices on the side overlooking the street and with storerooms on the other, the corridor ended at an imposing door that led into a large corner office—Thomas's. Quentin's office lay at the other end of the corridor, filling the other front corner of the building.
Thomas was five paces from his door when another tall gentleman stepped out of the adjacent office, papers in hand—Thomas's cousin Humphrey, Quentin's only son; he glanced up, saw Thomas, and halted, grinning.
When Thomas paused alongside him and arched a laconic brow, Humphrey's grin turned puckish. "You are going to have to choose which of Glasgow's finest you favor, and soon, or the situation will descend into feminine war. And when it comes to hostilities, ladies are more inventive than Napoleon ever was. There will be blood on the ballroom floors—metaphorically speaking, at least. Mark my words, young man!"
Thomas chuckled. "Where did you hear that? Or should I say from whom?"
"Old Lady Anglesey. She collared me and bent my ear over you and your peripatetic interest. Luckily," Humphrey went on, "I was clinging to Andrea's arm and she acted as my shield, but I was nevertheless conscripted as a messenger." Andrea was Humphrey's intended, although they were not yet formally engaged.
Along with Humphrey, Thomas had accompanied Quentin and his wife, Winifred, to a society soirée the previous evening. Considered one of the most eligible bachelors in Glasgow, Thomas was a target for the matchmakers, and even more for enterprising young ladies attracted by his appearance and persona as much as by his wealth.
Thomas heaved a sigh. "I suppose I'll have to choose sometime, but I keep hoping I'll find someone like Andrea." Someone who fixed his interest and held his attention. Someone with whom he felt a real connection.
"Ah, well." Still grinning, Humphrey clapped Thomas on the shoulder. "We can't all have the luck of the gods."
Thomas laughed. He glanced at the papers in Humphrey's hands.
Humphrey promptly waved them. "Rosewood headed for Bristol." Excitement tinged his tone. "I think I can persuade the company that Glasgow would be a better destination."
"That would make a nice addition to the mahogany we've coming in." Thomas nodded. "Let me know if you pull it off."
"Oh, you'll hear—you'll definitely hear." With another wave of the papers, Humphrey took off down the corridor, no doubt to consult with one of their brokers about how best to wrest—not to say steal—the deal away from the Bristol merchants.
Thomas stepped into his office. He shrugged out of his greatcoat and hung it on the stand behind the door, then closed the door and walked to his desk. He didn't immediately round it and sit in the chair, but instead he paused before it. His fingertips lightly brushing the desk's smooth surface, he gazed out of the corner window. The bustling thoroughfare of Trongate stretched before him, thronged with carriages and pedestrians going about their business; the calls of drivers and the cracks of their whips came faintly through the glass. From the left, through a gap between two buildings, the glint of fleeting sunshine reflecting off the pewter waters of the Clyde drew his eye.
This office, this place—Thomas had elected to make this the center of his life. He intended to craft an engaging life around his position as half owner of Carrick Enterprises, and the next step along the path to his goal was to select a suitable wife. The right sort of wife for a gentleman of the type he intended to become—a pillar of the wealthy business community with a supportive wife on his arm, with children attending the right schools, and a house in the best quarter. Perhaps a hunting box in the Highlands. He had it all reasonably clear in his mind.
Except for one thing. The first thing.
No matter how many young ladies of good family, passable or better beauty, and impeccable social credentials his aunt steered his way, he simply didn't—couldn't—see any of them as his.
Not while Lucilla Cynster still stood so vibrant and real in his mind.
By deliberate design, he hadn't set eyes on her for more than two years; he'd hoped the inexplicable grip she seemed to have on his psyche would fade if it wasn't fed—if his eyes didn't see her, if he didn't hear her voice, if his awareness wasn't teased, abraded, and impinged on by her nearness. Yet it hadn't.
He didn't even have to close his eyes to conjure her in his mind, with her emerald-green eyes slightly tip-tilted in a finely featured face haloed by fire-red hair; the colors of her eyes, soft pale pink lips, and that flaming hair were rendered even more vibrant by the unblemished ivory of her alabaster complexion.
Every other young lady he saw paled in comparison. They were insipid. Colorless.
And not just in appearance; Lucilla's vibrancy extended to her soul and was something that marked her, in Thomas's experience, as unique.
She attracted him, captured his senses, and commanded his awareness at some level beyond understanding. His understanding, at least.
She was considered a witch of sorts; it wasn't hard to see why.
For instance, there he was, standing and thinking of her when it was quite definitely the last thing he wanted, much less needed, to do.
Brusquely shaking his head, shaking all thoughts and visions of Lucilla from the forefront of his brain, he rounded the desk and sat in the comfortable leather chair behind it. If trying to focus on which young lady might be suitable as his wife was hopeless, at least he could deal with business—one aspect of his life in which thoughts of Lucilla rarely intruded.
He spent the next hours reviewing the company's past month's trading. All was going excellently well; along with the port, trade of all sorts was booming, and the company was well placed to reap the harvest his late father and Quentin had long ago sown. Although Quentin was still fully active in the firm, Thomas and Humphrey saw themselves as the ones to grow the company into the future, something Quentin openly encouraged.
Business was good. It was absorbing, too.
A tap on his door had him glancing up. "Come."
The door opened, and Dobson entered, a small sheaf of letters in his hand. "Mail, sir. Just got in."
"Thank you, Dobson." Thomas set down his pen, leaned back, and stretched his arms over his head.
Dobson set the letters on the tray on the corner of Thomas's desk and, with a taciturn nod, retreated, closing the door behind him.
Thomas lowered his arms, relaxed for a moment, then sat up and reached for the letters. There were five. Sorting through them, he found three notifications from the company's bank, detailing payments made. One thick envelope was from a shipping captain Thomas knew, who occasionally reported on prospects he came across in far-flung ports that he thought Carrick Enterprises might be interested in pursuing. That missive in his hand, Thomas was reaching for his letter knife when his gaze fell on the last letter in the pile.
The plain envelope was addressed to Mr. Thomas Carrick, with the "Carrick" heavily underlined. Across the corner opposite the post-office stamp was scrawled: Bradshaw, Carrick.
Setting aside the captain's letter, Thomas picked up the one from Bradshaw and squinted at the stamp.
Frowning, Thomas lifted the letter knife and slit open the envelope. There were two sheets inside. Sliding them out, he smoothed the pages, then leaned back in his chair and read.
And grew increasingly puzzled.
The missive was, indeed, from Bradshaw, a farmer on the Carrick estate. Thomas's paternal uncle was Manachan Carrick—The Carrick, laird of the clan. Thomas had been born at Carrick Manor, on the estate, although that had been an accident of sorts, a twist of fate. He'd spent several summers there with his parents while they'd been alive; after their deaths when Thomas was ten, he'd spent a full year at the manor, embraced, nurtured, and supported by the clan. He owed Manachan and the clan a great deal for that year, but as time had passed and he'd healed and returned to normal boyhood life, Manachan and Quentin, his co-guardians, had decided that Thomas would be best served by going to school in Glasgow and living with Quentin and Winifred and their children. And so he had.
Thomas had still visited the Carricks every summer, spending anything from a few weeks to a few months with Manachan's four children and other children of the clan, but even more with Manachan himself.
Thomas had been—and still remained—closer to Manachan than even to Quentin, whom he saw every day. Even when much younger, Thomas had intuitively realized that Manachan and Niall had been close, and with Niall's death, Manachan had transferred that degree of closeness, of connection, to Thomas, Niall's only child.
Quentin, Winifred, and Humphrey were Thomas's Glasgow family, yet Manachan was the family closest to his heart. Thomas understood Manachan and Manachan understood him, and that understanding sprang from something deep in their bones.
It was precisely that understanding that made Brad-shaw's letter so difficult to comprehend.
Not the details—they were plain enough. Bradshaw—
Thomas could easily picture the burly man; he'd met him on and off over the years—wrote that, despite the season, by which he meant the planting season, being so advanced, no seed stock had as yet been supplied to any of the estate's farmers.
Frown deepening, Thomas looked unseeing across the room while shifting his mind from shipping times and the effect of the seasons on transport, and delved into his memories to recall the impact of the march of the seasons on the land. The Carrick estate lay in the western lowlands, in Galloway and Dumfries. It was already late to be sowing, surely?
Refocusing on the letter, Thomas read again Brad-shaw's plea that he—Thomas—should intercede with Manachan over the matter of the seed supply.
"Why can't Bradshaw speak with Manachan himself?"
That was what Thomas couldn't understand. If there was a problem on the estate, then as laird of the clan, Manachan was the person to take that problem to. He always had been, and Thomas had never known any of the clan to feel the least reluctance over approaching his uncle. For all his fearsome reputation outside the clan, within it, Manachan was held in high esteem and, indeed, affection. He might be a cantankerous old bastard on occasion, but he was theirs, and to Thomas's certain knowledge, Manachan had served the clan faithfully and had never, ever, let them down.
Manachan would fight to his last breath for the clan.
That was the role of the laird, one Manachan had been born to; it was the principle on which he'd lived his entire life.
Admittedly, Manachan was now ailing somewhat and, over the past year, had allowed his eldest son, Nigel, to assume some of the day-to-day running of the estate. But Thomas couldn't imagine Manachan not keeping his hand on the tiller, much less not keeping abreast with all that was going on in the clan.
Thomas had learned of the change in estate management via letters, several from Manachan—although, now Thomas thought of it, none in recent months. A brief missive had come from the estate's solicitor, and one from Nigel himself. Also a note from Nolan, Manachan's second son, and one from Niniver, Manachan's only daughter, inquiring when Thomas next planned to visit. None of those communications had spelled out the change, but rather had alluded to it.
Thomas hadn't visited Carrick Manor for the last two years—the years during which he'd been trying, and failing, to steer his life forward—for the simple reason that Lucilla Cynster lived at Casphairn Manor, in the Vale of Casphairn, which abutted the southern border of the Carrick estate.
Ever since his fifteenth birthday, whenever he'd visited, he had—one way or another—run across Lucilla. Sometimes just to see, on other occasions to interact with. He would never forget the Christmas Eve they had shared, trapped by a blizzard in a tiny crofter cottage.
The last time he'd been at Carrick Manor, they'd met at the local Hunt Ball and had chatted and waltzed—and it seemed he would never forget that experience, either.
Hi Stephanie welcome
to The Reading Frenzy.
Your Cynster Novels look tempting, please tell my readers about your latest
novel, The Tempting of Thomas Carrick.
The Tempting of
Thomas Carrick is a neo-Gothic tale of passionate romance laced with mystery,
set in the uplands of southwestern Scotland.
Thomas Carrick is
driven to control all aspects of his life. The wealthy owner of Carrick
Enterprises, located in bustling Glasgow, he is one of that city's most
eligible bachelors and intends to select a wife from the many young ladies
paraded before him. He wants to take that next step along his self-determined
path, yet no one captures his eye, nor his attention…not the way Lucilla
Thomas has avoided his clan's estate because it borders Lucilla's home, but
disturbing reports from his clansmen force him to return. His uncle, the laird,
is ailing, a family is desperately ill, and the healer is unconscious and
dying. Duty leaves Thomas no choice but to seek help from the last woman he
wants to face.
Strong-willed and passionate, Lucilla has been waiting for Thomas to return and
claim his place by her side. She knows he is her fated lover, husband,
protector, and mate just as she is his one true love. Though his return wasn't
on her account, Lucilla is willing to seize whatever chance Fate hands her.
Thomas can never forget Lucilla, or the connection that seethes between them,
but to marry her would mean embracing a life he does not want.
Lucilla sees that Thomas has yet to accept the inevitability of their union.
But how can he ignore a bond such as theirs—one so much stronger than reason?
Lucilla is as determined as only a Cynster can be to fight for the future she
knows can be theirs. And while she cannot command him, she has powerful
enticements she's willing to wield in the tempting of Thomas Carrick.
These are referred to
as the new generation of Cynsters. Who came before?
The first six
Cynster books deal with the stories of the six cousins known to the ton as the
Bar Cynster. The cousins are close in age and friendship. The novels in the
Cynster series thereafter are stories about other members of the Cynster
family, extended family, and close friends.
The Tempting of
Thomas Carrick is the first book of the second generation of children within
the Cynster family, specifically children from the original six cousins.
How are the novels in
the series connected?
The novels are
connected by Cynster family, their extended family and their friends.
Stephanie, do you
come to the US for fan/author events? I generally visit
the US each year for the Romance Writers of America Annual Conference, which is
held in a different city each year. Within the conference there is the
"Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing that I participate in. Fans
can come and have their books signed by hundreds of romance authors.
Thanks so much for
visiting today and answering my questions.
Good luck with the new novel!
New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens originally began writing as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career; she has been writing historical romance novels for more than 20 years. Currently living outside Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two cats, she spends most of her days writing new stories in her signature 'Errol Flynn meets Jane Austen" style. Visit her online at www.stephanielaurens.com.
Today's Gonereading item is: A collection of Jane Austen gifts