Restless and impatient, Marcus Cynster waits for Fate to come calling. He knows his destiny lies in the lands surrounding his family home, but what will his future be and with whom will he share it?
Of one fact he feels certain: his fated bride will not be Niniver Carrick. His elusive neighbor attracts him mightily, yet he feels compelled to protect her -- even from himself. Fickle Fate, he's sure, would never be so kind as to decree that Niniver should be his. The best he can do for them both is to avoid her.
Niniver has vowed to return her clan to prosperity. The epitome of fragile femininity, her delicate and ethereal exterior cloaks a stubborn will and an unflinching devotion to the people in her care. She accepts that she cannot risk marrying and losing her grip on the clan's reins to an inevitably controlling husband. Unfortunately, many local men see her as their opportunity.
Soon, she's forced to seek help to get rid of her unwelcome suitors. Powerful and dangerous, Marcus Cynster is perfect for the task. Suppressing her wariness over tangling with a gentleman who so excites her passions, she appeals to him for assistance with her peculiar problem.
Although at first he resists, Marcus discovers that, contrary to his expectations, his fated role is to stand by Niniver's side and, ultimately, to claim her hand. Yet in order to convince her to be his bride, they must plunge headlong into a journey full of challenges, unforeseen dangers, passion, and yearning, until Niniver grasps the essential truth -- that she is indeed a match for Marcus Cynster.
Very good book. I love the Cynsters stories and this one lived up to my expectations. We got to know Marcus somewhat in The Tempting of Thomas Carrick. He is the twin brother of Lucilla, who is heir to their mother as the Lady of the Vale. His role growing up was to protect and assist his sister, until such time as she marries. She has done so, leaving him now with no purpose. He does know that his future lies in the area where he grew up, and that Fate knows exactly who will share his life. He just needs the patience to wait for it to be revealed.
Niniver is the only daughter of the late Laird of Carrick. Thanks to various events outlined in the previous book (but mentioned in this one, so it can be read as a stand alone) and at the beginning of this one, she ends up as the Lady of Carrick, leader of the clan and the one with the responsibility of bringing the clan back from the brink of disaster. She is determined to stay unmarried, as any husband would expect to take over as leader, and that isn't possible. But when she has to spend valuable time fending off the attentions of unwanted suitors, she knows she needs help. Her neighbor, Marcus, had once told her that if she ever needed help, to ask and she is desperate enough to do so.
Thus starts the story of two people who are perfect for each other, but need to be convinced. Marcus has been attracted to Niniver for a couple years, but believes that Fate would not be so kind as to give him what he wants so easily. In many ways, he is right. He is reluctant to agree with the method of help she suggests, sensing that there could be pitfalls for both of them. Her method of convincing him was unique, but effective. It isn't too long before Marcus realizes that Niniver is the woman meant for him, but winning her hand isn't going to be easy. Because she is the head of the clan, he knows that he must be very careful not to diminish her in the eyes of her people. He can help and support, but he can't take over. For most men of this time period that would be an impossibility, but Marcus is a Cynster. He has been raised around strong and capable women and has enough confidence in his own manhood not to be threatened by her. The fact that his own father, and now his sister's husband, are in the same position has given him the perfect examples to follow. I loved being able to see his thoughts as he worked out the best ways to show her that he was the man for her. His sensitivity to her needs was outstanding. His only drawback was his reluctance to tell her of his feelings until he was sure that she felt the same way. That almost caused a permanent rift between them, until fate once again intervened.
Niniver had known Marcus all her life and had always been fascinated by him. But he is a Cynster, and far above her in her opinion, so she had never allowed herself to think of him as anything but a neighbor and friend. After the deaths of her father and older brothers, she is stunned to find that the clan considers her to be the logical successor to leading the clan. Though she has had no training (she is a woman, after all), she makes a vow to do whatever necessary to save the clan. She's reluctant to ask Marcus's help because she knows that she could easily fall in love with him, but he's really her only choice. Once she gains his consent, they are locked into spending quite a bit of time together. Niniver realizes that she was right to be worried about her heart, as she falls and falls hard. The last thing she wants is to become an object of pity, because there's no way he could feel the same way, so she buries her feelings deep so that he won't suspect.
I loved seeing the relationship develop. They had so much in common, such as their love of the dogs they bred and the lands they lived on. One of the best things about Marcus was that he understood Niniver so well and knew what she needed from him, even if she didn't yet realize it. There were wonderful scenes of him standing behind her as she dealt with various issues, there to support her but not interfere. The scene with two different tradesmen was a perfect demonstration. The scenes where he dealt with her unwanted suitors were really fun, especially the one who came to serenade her. The more time they spent together, the more their attraction grew, until they were no longer able to fight it. Marcus hoped that it would help her see what they could have together, but Niniver believed that only a short term affair was possible. When a misunderstanding has her believing that he is bowing down to pressure from the clan to marry her, she is devastated and sends him away.
There is one suitor who refuses to be chased away. He is desperate to gain Niniver's hand and everything that goes with it, even though she makes it plain that he has no chance. The things he does put her in danger, and nearly kill both her and Marcus. The final confrontation with him was quite intense in places, and very well done. The resolution was excellent and perfect for the life that Marcus and Niniver want going forward. The epilogue was great, and makes me wonder if Sebastian will be the next cousin to fall. I can't wait to see if I'm right.