Genre: Historical Romance (Early Victorian)
The secrets behind the wedding veil
For penniless widow Ainsley McBrayne, marriage is the only solution. She’s vulnerable yet fiercely independent, so shackling herself to another man seems horrifying! Until handsome stranger Innes Drummond tempts Ainsley to become his temporary wife.
Once married, Ainsley hardly recognizes the rugged Highlander Innes transforms into! He sets her long-dormant pulse racing, and she’s soon craving the enticing delights of their marriage bed. She has until Hogmanay to show Innes that their fake marriage could be for real…
This is only the second book I have read by Marguerite Kaye but she is already on my must-read list of authors. She writes with such emotional depth and her characters are so finely drawn that I couldn’t help but be captivated by this ‘marriage of convenience’ story.
Fourteen years ago, to escape his father’s iron rule, Innes Drummond left his home in Scotland, to forge a life of his own in England. He is now a successful engineer but, when his father dies, Innes discovers that the only way he can take control of the family lands from the trust set up by his father is to marry – an institution he abhors. But fate intervenes when he meets a young woman in the solicitor’s office who may be the perfect candidate for his bride.
Ainsley McBrayne’s late husband was weak and a spendthrift and constantly undermined her self-esteem and made her feel inadequate sexually. Now she has gained her independence, Ainsley has no desire to be under anyone else’s control ever again. But with all her husband’s debts to clear and her entire inheritance now in a trust for her first child, things are looking pretty dire. However, the gentleman she meets in the solicitor’s office may have the perfect answer to all her problems…a temporary marriage of convenience.
“…we are of one mind on another thing, which is our determination to make our own way in life. If you let me pay your debts, I can give the freedom to do that, and you’ll be freeing me to make up my own mind on what to do – or not – about my inheritance.”
What seems most improbable – two complete strangers meeting by chance and agreeing to such an arrangement – seems totally believable to me because of Ms Kaye’s ability to create an immediate chemistry between Innes and Ainsley through their dialogue.
Ghosts of the past still haunt Innes and all his feelings of guilt and inadequacy come to the fore again when he returns to Strone Bridge. He believes that, after what happened all those years ago, he doesn’t deserve to find love or happiness. He has to put the past to rest and Ainsley is instrumental in bringing this about. It is satisfying to see Innes slowly accept his responsibilities as laird and come to care for the land and the people.
Innes helps to restore Ainsley’s self-esteem and self-confidence and shows her that she is a desirable woman. I enjoyed seeing her challenge Innes for not seeking her opinions when making decisions. I liked the idea of Ainsley having a secret existence as “agony aunt” Madame Hera (Ms Kaye’s research confirms that agony aunts existed as far back as the 17th century), something her husband knew nothing about and couldn’t control. It gave her an element of freedom. I love this analogy in one of her letters.
I applaud your wish to explore new territory, as you call it. No matter how enthralling a favourite wee-thumbed book might be, no matter how satisfying the conclusion, it is human nature to wish to read other volumes, provided you are prepared to find some of them less – shall we say enthralling.”
It’s obvious from their first meeting that there’s a definite spark between them and I like that, as mature adults, they are not afraid to explore their physical attraction. I think that the temptation for two people who are attracted to each other and living so closely together would find it difficult not to succumb to their physical desires. The love scenes are vivid, sensual and passionate but never overly explicit.
There was a hint of a possible romance between Ainsley’s friend, Felicity Blair and Innes’s friend, Eoin Ferguson and I’m wondering if they will get their own story.
I love Ms Kaye’s style of writing and here are some of my favourite quotes.
Directly across, the Isle of Arran lay like a sleeping lion, a bank of low. Pinkish cloud that looked more like mist sitting behind it and giving it a mysterious air. In front of them stretched a crescent beach, the sand turning from golden at the water’s edge to silver where the high dune covered in rough grass formed the border.
It was like one of those seventh waves, building from the swell, scooping up memories and guilt and remorse, hurtling them at him with an implacable force.
“Debauchery and chastity belts – who’d have thought that conversation over breakfast cups could be so interesting.”
“I assume that you and Mr Drummond have not been ships that passed in the night.”
Ainsley flushed. “Well I know now that palpitations are not necessarily the prelude to a fainting attack.”
Ms Kaye delivers a captivating and emotionally satisfying love story which I can definitely recommend.
REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: HOT
Read November 2014
My sincere thanks to Marguerite Kaye who provided me with a copy of her book in return for an honest review.