The Lady and the Laird
By Nicola Cornick
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Release Date: July 30, 2013
Lady Lucy MacMorlan is a perfect lady, a perfect daughter to her father, and a perfect sibling to her surviving brothers and sisters, but perfect Lucy harbors some secrets that would seriously jeopardize her reputation for perfection. Few people know that she was the author of a series of erotic letters she had been paid to write for her brother Lachlan and his friends, resulting in their scandalous success at their amorous escapades. Nobody knows the reason Lucy is so devoted to the memory of her older, scholarly fiancé that she has refused to consider another suitor since his death. Nobody knows what Lucy does with the money she makes from her letter writing. It’s her need for funds that persuades Lucy against her instinct to write more letters for Lachlan. This time the letters are not for an opera dancer but for the young woman betrothed to Robert, Marquis of Methven.
Robert, Marquis of Methven, is furious that his promised bride has left him waiting at the altar and eloped with Lachlan MacMorlan. It’s not that Methven loves the girl, but he does love his land and feel responsible for those who dwell on it. Thanks to his estrangement from his grandfather, his absence from Scotland at his grandfather’s death, and the terms of a fifteenth-century treaty, he stands to lose half his ancestral lands to a man who will exploit and abuse his clansmen. Marriage to Lord Brodie’s daughter and a legitimate heir from their marriage would have fulfilled the treaty terms, but the list of other women who would satisfy those terms is nonexistent. Then his lawyer informs him that Lady Lucy MacMorlan, as a descendant of the original Earl of Cardross, will fulfill the terms as well. And Methven knows that he will make Lucy his bride, but he has no idea of the trials that await him on his journey to that goal.
Readers who like intelligent heroines will find much to like in Lucy who even as a sixteen-year-old preferred reading books to dreaming about her future husband. Who would ever imagine all that the proper daughter of a duke was learning from those books she read--erotic poetry and swordplay and all sorts of things that would later prove useful. Some may think that some of her choices suggest that she could have used more pragmatism mixed with her book learning, but people, even smart ones, do make foolish decisions when driven by their fears. And Lucy is convinced that marriage and passion and pregnancy lead to certain death, an irrational idea but an understandable one given her experience. When her love for Methven grows stronger than her fear, it’s a real test of that love’s power as well as evidence that Lucy has healed enough to leave behind the broken, terrified adolescent that she has been behind her carefully cultivated image of perfection.
Methven has the leader’s sense of responsibility for his people and the protectiveness of his woman that are conventionally primary alpha characteristics, but he delights in Lucy’s strengths and is incredibly tender when that quality is what she needs. He is also willing to admit that he is wrong. In other words, he is a complex, compelling, satisfying hero.
Cornick also provides some interesting secondary characters. Lucy’s sister Mairi and Methven’s cousin Jack are excellent foils for the protagonists and promising future leads. Lucy’s godmother is amusing, and I adored Methven’s fierce grandmother. But my favorite part of the book was the Highland Ladies Bluestocking Society. I wanted to join them. I did find the villain flat, but I find that a common weakness in historical romance fiction.
The Lady and the Laird is the first of Cornick’s Scottish Brides series. I look forward to Mairi and Jack’s story, One Night with the Laird, which will be released on October 29. The story of Christina, the eldest MacMorlan sister who is already a spinster, may prove to be the most fascinating of the three.
I’m not a reader who reaches for a romance just because it’s set in Scotland, but I have read several Scottish romances recently, with mixed results. I wonder if more are being written than usual. Are you a fan of Scottish romances? Why do you think they are so much more popular than romances set in Ireland?