Saturday, November 2, 2013

Saturday Review: One Night with the Laird

One Night with the Laird
By Nicola Cornick
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: 
October 29, 2013

They meet as strangers at a masquerade ball in Edinburgh and share one night of passion so powerful that neither of them can forget it. Both will be horrified when they discover the identity of their nameless lover.

Lady Mairi MacLeod is a beautiful widow with enormous responsibilities. Her husband, who inherited an impressive fortune from a nabob grandfather, left it all—the four homes, a dozen businesses, assorted bonds and investments, and various philanthropic ventures—in his widow’s control. But even these responsibilities are less weighty than the secret Mairi must protect, one that could plunge her and her aging in-laws into ruinous scandal and leave a mark on the proud MacLeod name. Mairi can hardly believe that the one night she surrenders to the temptation to add color and excitement to her life that the man she chose for her lover turned out to be Jack Rutherford, a rake she despises. “He was arrogant, self-assured, deplorably confident, all too well aware of his charm and the effect it had on every woman he met.”

Jack Rutherford was almost destroyed by the cost of loving and losing after the deaths of mother and sister, deaths for which he holds himself responsible. Only the intervention of his grandmother saved him from the abyss into which guilt, grief, and alcoholism were leading him. Having achieved sobriety and with a self-earned fortune, he makes certain his relationships with women are limited to satisfying sexual encounters from which he walks away with an untouched heart. He berates himself when three months after a single night with the seductive beauty he knows only as Rose, he still thinks of her, still desires her.

Jack is dismayed when his cousin Robert, Marquis of Methven, asks that Robert escort Lady Mairi MacLeod to Methven for the family house party to celebrate the christening of the second son born to Robert and his wife, the former Lady Lucy MacMorlan, in the three years of their marriage. Jack is not fond of family gatherings at best, and he and Lady Mairi have been at odds since she haughtily rejected Jack’s invitation to become his mistress shortly after the two met. Jack is convinced that Mairi is “too rich, too beautiful, and too clever.” But since he is convinced that Mairi will refuse his escort, he consents to Methven’s request that Jack make the offer. He is unprepared to discover that the scornful Mairi is the runaway lover whom he has been unable to forget, and he is furious when Mairi makes clear that the night they shared was an aberration that will not be repeated.

To everyone’s surprise, including his own, Jack comes to the rescue when Mairi’s enemies threaten her safety, to the point of pretending that he is betrothed to her. But once they are thrown into one another’s company, the explosive chemistry between them ensures complication neither is seeking. Jack and Mairi’s only chance for happiness lies in defeating the enemies plotting against Mairi and the defenses that two people scarred by past experiences have mounted to protect themselves.

One Night with the Laird is the second in Cornick’s Scottish Brides series, following The Lady and the Laird (Lucy and Robert’s story). It is a more sensual and more suspenseful story than the first book. Cornick’s deft touch with characterization is evident as both Mairi and Jack emerge as fully dimensional, sympathetic characters whose happiness readers root for. Some readers will be pleased to see that Jack’s armor against love is substantial enough not to be melted by lust, however hot the flames. His awareness that he loves Mairi comes slowly without his understanding the changes until late in the story. Others may think the HEA happens too abruptly.

If anyone offers a prize for the most sensual opening chapter in mainstream romance in 2013, One Night with the Laird deserves to be a leading candidate. And the sizzle (including one scene of the type that seems to have been added to oral sex as a necessary scene for a steamy rating) doesn’t end with the opening. Villains also abound, and the cardinal offender may come as a surprise. This is a solid addition to a strong series. I prefer the first book to the second, but my preference is a matter of personal taste. Readers who like their stories darker and sexier will likely prefer this second offering. While readers familiar with the first book will enjoy a richer context for Jack and Mairi’s story, the second book can be read as a standalone.

Claimed by the Laird, the story of Christina, the third MacMorlan sister, is scheduled for release in August 2014.

I am slowly coming around to careful consideration of the suggestion that readers would find a sensuality rating on romance novels useful. While some of my favorite romance authors write hot, I prefer not to be surprised by the sensuality level. What do you think?


Deborah Stein said...

I think more and more it comes down to whether the sensual scenes are adding to what I know of the character relationships and that same quality can usually also be seen elsewhere in the book. I have no problem with a rating system but in books where sensuality is gratuitous I tend to skip the scene--and am less likely to read the next book. On the other hand I just read Kinked and normally I wouldn't like the kind of sensuality that book contains but because it's not only perfect for the characters but also hard to imagine them having any other kind it worked for me

Janga said...

Deb, I think every time I make an unqualified claim about what works for me in fiction, I read a book that shows me the right writer can make me change my mind.

I confess that I skip a lot of sex scenes too--not just the gratuitous ones but also the generic ones that could be plugged into a dozen other books with just a change in the characters' names.