A leading voice in historical romance, Stephanie Laurens is known for her sensual tales that transport readers to bygone times. An who are our guides through England's high society? None other than the author's ever expanding Cynster family! Today, Stephanie releases another delectable novel, The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh which features a very determined Cynster sister and an absolutely unpredictable (and certainly roguish) marquess. If you are interested in learning more about this exciting title, read on as the author answers our questions about her newest release.
In your Cynster Sisters series there is a necklace originally belonging to the Scottish deity, The Lady, has prompted several of the previous romances. Is this necklace present in The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh?
Yes, indeed — in Mary’s case the necklace is a pivotal or directing element of the story. To recap, in the first scene of Henrietta’s story, And Then She Fell, we see Mary all but force Henrietta to wear the necklace, so it can work for Henrietta and then get passed to Mary —who wants the necklace so she can get on and confirm the identity of her own hero. Subsequently in the epilogue of And then She Fell, we see Mary receive the necklace from a successfully betrothed Henrietta at Henrietta and James’s engagement ball. And once she’s wearing the necklace, the first gentleman Mary directly interacts with is Ryder Cavanaugh, Marquess of Raventhorne — who Mary has no interest in whatever, because he is definitely not husband-material in her eyes. The opening scene in The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh follows directly from that, when we see Mary trying to use the necklace to confirm the gentleman she’s chosen as her one true hero. Sadly, as Angelica had warned Mary, the necklace doesn’t work like that. The Lady has a different idea of who Mary’s true hero is, and despite Mary’s dogged determination to have it otherwise, not even she can argue with destiny.
While Mary starts this story with a clear agenda, namely to secure “her hero,” Ryder, too, has an agenda of his own, one that seems emotionally the converse of Mary’s — was that conflict intentional, or a case of happy circumstance?
When I started Mary’s story, I knew that Ryder wanted Mary as his wife, but I didn’t understand why having Mary specifically as his marchioness was so important to him, not until I learned a great deal more about him and his background as I went deeper into the story. And yes, his selection of Mary as the wife for him is initially driven by a calculating, dynastic attitude. Ryder wants a wife who knows about establishing, nurturing, and holding together a major aristocratic family, and he recognizes that a Cynster miss, one who knows all about the sort of family that he wants to establish for the Cavanaughs, would therefore make him the best wife — and Mary is the last Cynster miss of her generation unwed. Because of their relative ages, Mary is the last chance for Ryder to capture a Cynster young lady as his bride. Once he realizes that, he sets out to capture her, whatever it takes. As fate would have it, capturing Mary takes rather more than he’d expected.
In many ways, the emotional storyline, the progressive step by step shifting of the two characters’ positions, is rather like a negotiation with Mary holding out for love, and Ryder trying to achieve his goal, but discovering that in order to succeed he has to surrender first this, then that emotional defense.
Mary and Ryder are very similar characters, both very strong, self-confident, and determined, yet both have a belief in a power greater than themselves — again, intentional, or did that evolve as you wrote?
That was an evolution, one intrinsic to these individual characters. Initially Mary believes categorically in herself and her own determinations and conclusions and decisions, but as the story progresses she learns to place her faith in The Lady, ultimately accepting and following the path that opens before her, trusting that The Lady will steer her correctly. Ryder, meanwhile, has throughout his life enjoyed “the devil’s own luck” and has long trusted in Fate to see him through. As it happens, both Ryder’s and Mary’s “fatalism” —meaning belief in the ultimate rightness of Fate or some similar guiding force of the universe — reflects views widely held in that historical period. Well-read persons tended to accept the “sling and arrows of fortune” and saw such events as preordained or in some way meaningful and fitting — as fated, as being an ineradicable outcome of who and what they were combined with their actions to that point.
Ryder outwardly presents as an uber-strong, archetypal alpha-hero, yet he seems to have a hidden and unobvious vulnerable side — is that a departure from your habitual story-norm?
I would say not, but I do see Ryder’s character as an ultimate — as the furthest evolution of this archetypal character that I’ve written to date. He is a man innately strong enough to be everything that an uber-strong archetypal alpha-hero normally is, and then he takes that strength, and the exercising of it, a step further — meaning into the emotional arena where uber-strong alpha males normally fear to tread and rarely do so willingly. I can’t really say more without getting into spoiler territory, but in my view, the alpha hero who will unflinching step up and over that emotional line, rather than try to hold the line and have to be dragged over it, is a rare specimen indeed, and one that speaks strongly to the evolving hero ideals of readers.
In your eyes, what makes Ryder the right man for Mary, and conversely, what makes her the right wife for him?
For characters such as this to believably form a long-term relationship, there has to be a great deal of equality on either side. For many of the couples I’ve written about, complementarity has been the predominant element binding them. On a social level, Ryder and Mary as a couple will also have a certain amount of complementarity, but on a personal level, it’s their equality — their equal internal strength, will-power, and also intelligence and ability to understand the true potential of their union — that allows them to feel their way into their marriage — to negotiate, to comprehend the other’s point of view, and to discuss and find solutions to the difficulties that naturally crop up, inherent to their marriage. Mary was such a strong, self-determined character from the outset that the only feasible mate for her was a man who was not just strong enough to match her, but to value her strength rather than feel threatened by it, a man who understood that together they could be stronger than either was individually, and who was willing to work to achieve the full potential of all they could be together.
At Mary and Ryder’s engagement ball, we see the necklace being passed on to Lucilla — will the stories continue into the next generation?
Yes, the necklace does lead us into the next Cynster romance, that of Lucilla and the man who waits for her, as she intimates, at some other time and in some other place. So the necklace will go back to Scotland with Lucilla, and about ten years down the track, she’ll take it out and wear it, and...that will be the last of the “necklace” stories, but naturally with Lucilla wed, then all attention turns to Marcus, her twin. During Lucilla’s story, while their parents are traveling elsewhere in the world, Marcus gets to hand over the ceremonial sword and the position of guardian of The Lady’s priestess to Lucilla’s fated match. And while he’d always felt that he’d been a stop-gap in the position of Lucilla’s protector, Marcus is then forced to face the question of what his true purpose in life actually is. The answer to that comes, as it often does, from a completely unexpected direction.
So yes, the Cynster Novels will continue on, first with the necklace, and then beyond.
If you are a Cynster fan from way back, or just checking out this historical family for the first time, we highly recommend Stephanie Laurens' The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh, out now. And for more gorgeous love stories, check out our Everything Romance Page!