(Scottish Brides, #3)
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)
He will expose her as the criminal he seeks, or seduce her as the woman he desires…
An old maid—that’s all Lady Christina McMorlan, daughter to the Duke of Forres, is to society now that she’s past thirty. She hosts her father’s parties and cares for her siblings, knowing she’ll never have her own home and family. She has no time to pine, however. By night, she’s The Lady, head of a notorious whiskey-smuggling gang that supports her impoverished clan. They’re always one step ahead of the revenue man—until Lucas Black shows up.
Rejecting his title and the proper society that disparaged his mother, Lucas earns his living running a successful gambling house. He’s also a spy, charged with bringing down the Forres Gang. He thinks The Lady’s just a bored society spinster. She thinks he’s a lost child playing at rebellion. And when the truth comes out, it’s not just their love on the line…
The perfect combination of intrigue, passion and romance.
This is the third and final book in Nicola Cornick’s enjoyable Scottish Brides series
Lady Christina is the eldest of the MacMorlan sisters and, at the age of 33, considered to be the ‘old maid’ of the family…the dutiful daughter, keeping house for her father, the Duke of Forres. While he selfishly indulges in his academic studies, Christina also runs the estate and cares for the welfare of her father’s tenants. None of her family suspects that, at night, she becomes The Lady, leader of a successful whisky smuggling gang.
I love Christina’s dual personality…the staid spinster who is easily overlooked and the brave woman who is willing to risk her life to support and protect her people from those who would exploit them. Her family see her as a passionless woman but, in her youth, she had been wild and reckless but sacrificed her own happiness to take care of her father and younger siblings after her mother dies.
When Lucas’s half-brother, Peter, is murdered whilst on a trip to Scotland, Lucas is determined to bring the murderer to justice. The Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, is convinced that the infamous Kilmory smuggling gang are involved and Lucas volunteers to go to Castle Kilmory and, posing as a footman, infiltrate the smuggling gang and discover the identity of his brother’s murderer.
I do love a hero who has had to drag himself up by his bootstraps and Lucas did that and more. The legacy of being the illegitimate son of a Scottish laird and a Russian princess and his anger over his father’s abandonment of himself and his mother has fuelled Lucas’s determination to succeed. The hardships he endured taught him to be hard, strong and ruthless. Now he runs the most prestigious gambling salon in Scotland, rejecting the title and lands inherited from his father. Emotions have no place in his life…they weakened a man.
Lucas is totally unsuited to this role as footman, more used to giving orders rather than taking them. His irreverence results in some amusing exchanges with Christina and this is one of my favourites, when they are discussing plans for her father’s grotto:
“Here you have them, Mr Ross. I hope they will give you an idea of what my father has in mind.” Her gaze fell on the top book and she bit her lip, recoiling slightly. “Oh, my goodness! I assume papa does not intend his statues to be quite so overendowed.”
“I now have a mental image of the garden grotto as a woodland glade in which satyrs ravish innocent maidens,” Lucas said, enjoying her discomfiture. He was sure that for a moment her gaze had flickered to his groin as though comparing him to the preposterously huge men in the book.
“Pray remove that image from your mind, “Christina said sharply. “We do not require you to use your imagination, Mr Ross. Not at all.”
It was easy to sympathise with Christina’s insecurities about herself…a complexion that had lost its youthful sparkle and a chin that was showing signs of sagging (I know the feeling well) and I loved that Lucas saw her as beautiful and desirable.
His hand closed over hers and she froze, catching her breath. Her face was in profile and he could see the curve of her lips and a pulse beating in the delicate hollow of her throat. Beneath his hand her fingers trembled. The awareness shimmered beneath them like a heat haze.
The romance was perfectly paced…an intoxicating mix of heart-warming tenderness and delicious sensuality. I could feel the deep emotional connection between Christina and Lucas which made their love for each other both genuine and believable. I enjoyed seeing how Lucas’s love for Christina enables him to come to terms with his painful past.
There was an interesting cast of secondary characters; the merciless excise man, Mr Eyre, who is a vicious adversary, the selfish Duke of Florres, Christina’s father and Gertrude, Christina’s viper-tongued sister-in-law. Robert and Lucy (The Lady and the Laird) and Jack and Mairi (One Night with the Laird) are on hand to lend their support.
There is plenty of drama and excitement and the identity of Peter’s murderer came as a big surprise. The one thing that I could have wished for was a charming Epilogue with a glimpse of the future. Yes, I’m a real pushover for all those cute children.
A captivating and sensual love story and a satisfying finish to this enjoyable series.
REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: HOT
Read September 2014