"Seduction wasn't about tempting a lady to surrender to her lover’s desire.It was all about inducing her to surrender to her own.She had to want him.She had to come to him.And she would."Some series are just begging to die a peaceful death, I'd say the Cynster series has had its run. This is what...the 18th, 19th, or 20th book in the Cynster series? It certainly feels a lot longer and there are so many that I have honestly lost count. At least with the Bridgertons, the series thankfully ended with the last sibling. With the Cynsters, we have to read about brothers, sisters, cousins, friends of the family, first cousins once removed...ok, I'm exaggerating a bit, but just a bit. I feel like in 50, 60 years or so, my own grandchildren will be reading about Honoria and Devil's grandchildren, in the 235th installment of the Cynster series. At the rate this family is breeding, it certainly wouldn't be a far stretch of the imagination. The family tree in the beginning of each book is so branched off, it's beginning to look more like a family forest.Lest I go too far off tangent about this franchise, this latest installment is not all that bad. It's certainly better than its predecessor, the staid, dull, and preeminently boring pair of Henrietta and James. Mary and Ryder have more fire in them. Infortunately, they have the tendency to get on my nerves. This book is filled with numerous Regency tropes, with neither originality nor the outstanding writing needed to make them memorable. The ridiculously large cast comprising of the rest of the Cynster family also makes this a challenge to read. It feels, at time, like taking a comprehensive test. There's so many details to memorize, so many characters whose background we're expected to know, and frankly, my dear, I don't give a fuck about most of the Cynster family. The Cynster name threatens to overpower the story itself.I liked the characters, but I felt like the book just dragged on for far too long for what it eventually delivered. There is a thin subplot of danger, as there usually is in a Stephanie Laurens HR, but like the others, it's nothing but fluff to add verbage to the book, and the whodunnit is so obvious as to not even require much mental effort at playing armchair detective on the reader's behalf.Lady Mary is a believer in the magical Necklace, imbued with some Scottish spirit or another that will supposedly signal her to her love. And man, she is Determined, with a capital D, to get hitched. Mary, for some reason is desperate to find her One Twoo Wuv; she pretty much strangled tied it onto her elder sister's Henrietta's neck in the previous installment of this series to get her wedded off so it would be her turn to get married. She is out for blood, I mean, marriage, and her unfortunate target is Randolph Cavanaugh, the half brother of Ryder Cananaugh, Marquess of Raventhorne. Ryder is not fond of the scheme...mainly because he wants her for himself.Randolph is unsurprisingly, not fond of the idea of getting married just yet. He is but 24, she is 22, Ryder tries to talk some sense into Mary, namely that while Ryder is physically mature, he's mentally immature, and not prepared to settle down, preferring instead to hang out with his friends and chill. Regency men, as it turns out, aren't too different from men of any other era. But nope, our illustrious Lady Mary will not listen. Mary is utterly convinced she is the one for him. She single-mindedly corners him for dances, arranges for dalliances in dark corners, and Rand is just not interested.She'd engineered such an interlude in a perfectly acceptable way, and offered it up to Randolph—her hero—and he was balking?No---worse---he was backing away!She was, indeed, starting to see the light. Randolph and his ilk were frightened of young ladies like her.Young ladies seeking a husband.Mary, get it into your head, girl, he's just not that into you.As much faith as Mary has in ZEE NECKLACE and its magical powers, she's just not ready to listen to what it has to say about Rand. Which is: nothing. Zero. No sparks whatsoever. She's hypocritical. She's determined to use the Necklace to find her true love, but doesn't listen to what it has to say; instead, she's more bent into getting it to tell her what she wants to hear. Naturally, things don't work out the way she plans. Mary is a force to be reckoned with. She should be a prize. She's got the beauty, breeding, and dowry to make her a success on the market, Furthermore, she is the last eligible Cynster of this generation (please let this be the last Cynster novel, please please please) and that is a catch on its own."You are the last chance for any of the major families to ally themselves with the Cynsters in this generation. It’ll be a decade or more before your cousins’ children, the next generation, come on the marriage mart. Consequently, no matter what you might wish, you are, indeed, a prize in that regard."However, she's not altogether successful. Why? She scares off most men. Her single-minded desperation, her intimidation; the men can smell desperation a mile away. Why is she so determined to have Rand even if her attraction to Ryder is so much stronger? "She held no illusions regarding her own strength; Ryder possessed a will stronger than hers. She would never be able to manage him; no woman ever would.Randolph, on the other hand, was entirely within her scope; he would suit her very well."Mary is nothing if not determined. If Rand is not the man for her, she will find the hero who is. Still, Mary is not without her ounce of common sense. "Her instinctive reaction to Ryder's interference was to redouble her efforts and even more adamantly forge ahead on her predetermined path, to cling even more tenaciously to her direction. But she was growing too old to react thus blindly to opposition; she hoped she was growing wise enough to acknowledge that sometimes she might not be entirely correct in her assumptions."Ryder is a typical rake, not along the legendary lines of Devil, Lucifer, and the likes of the Cynster men, but he's one regardless. Who is ready to settle down. He is out--not to thwart Mary's attempts at Rand, but rather, to secure her for himself. He is ready to do his duty, and he realizes that Mary, in all her willfulness, her intelligence, her determination, is the right one for him. The harder problem is to get her to realize it. "'I've already told you---Rand is not the man for you.' I am. But she would need to come to that realization on her own. In her own time, in her own way. He understood strong characters—like her, like him; they didn't accept others interfering in their lives, and in personal matters didn't readily accept the assessments of others as correct. Neither he nor she would be led. It wasn't a matter of trust, but more one of inviolable self-determination. In that respect, he understood her well, so would give her time—understood the value of giving her time—to reach the right conclusion on her own."The writing is well-done, the plot is old and recycled, and this is not the worst of the Cynster books by any means. It just dragged on for me after the initial clash-filled beginning, and things seem to fall in place too easily, so that the story just felt like it slowed down to a snail's pace. The mystery is thinly contrived, the coincidences and murder plots fall through too easily. It can be read as a standalone, but I wouldn't recommend it. There is much name-dropping of characters from the previous books, and with the numerous Cynster cousins and their spouses, it can be an enormous task to keep the names straight. A reader diving headfirst into this without first reading the other books would just be confused out of their minds.