Beauty Queen

The Dangerous Gentleman

The Devil's Love

The Hazards of Hunting a Duke

      Highlander in Love

The Ruthless Charmer

The Secret Lover

Wedding Survivor

Wicked Angel
 

 
Highland Scandal
by Julia London
(Pocket, $7.99, PG 13) ISBN 978-1-4165-4710-5
*****
Wow! Highland Scandal is a wonderful love story with very believable characters and just enough heartfelt romance.

We meet Jack Haines, the Earl of Lambourne, on a very bad day.  He’s running from the Prince’s men, suspected of carrying on an affair with Princess Caroline.  The Prince means to hold Jack up as an example of what will happen to anyone who crosses him. To ensure Jack’s caught, the Prince has set a bounty on his head that anyone would find attractive and then Jack will hang for adultery.

Unfortunately for the scoundrel Jack, he never went to bed with the Princess, but his bad reputation has paved his way to the noose.  So he finds himself running through Scotland, trying to find a place to hide.  In short order he’s caught - but not by the royal guard.  A Highland laird named Carson Beal has a strange offer to save Jack: he must handfast his niece Lizzie, an old custom of a marriage to last a year and a day, unless both partners agree to make it a lifelong commitment.  Jack is convinced that Lizzie must be an ugly old shrew, but he agrees as he has no appealing options.

Jack meets Lizzie, her beautiful eyes spitting fire as they are handfasted.  As soon as they are deposited in the castle bedroom after the ceremony, Lizzie jumps from the window and is soon returned to Jack by the crowd of merrymakers. Jack is intrigued by the lovely, spirited woman he’s been tied to, but he soon learns that Lizzie is a force of nature with a strong will and fierce devotion to her family. She’s disgusted that Carson has forced her into this false handfasting, and convinced that he’s only done it to ruin her chance at a legitimate marriage with her sweet beau, Gavin Gordon.  Gavin was willing to marry her, even with her pitiful dowry of Thorntree, the small acreage her father left her. Gavin was also willing to support and accept Lizzie’s crippled sister Charlotte, who had been injured in a riding accident that Lizzie feels responsible for.

Now, Lizzie’s stuck with a handsome, enticing, careless rake who cares nothing for her or her family; he’s ruined her prospects and she fully intends to escape. Jack must keep her at his side to save his neck, as Carson expects them to stay handfasted for the set period.  As they are contained together, Jack begins to appreciate his high-spirited partner, and also the damage that he has unintentionally wrought in her life. Lizzie is charmed and seduced by the wry, irreverent Earl, who is totally unlike anyone she’s ever known and surprisingly tender towards her and her sister.  Just as they form a close bond, Gavin Gordon shows up to save Lizzie from Jack and she’s suddenly unsure what she wants.  Jack has begun to suspect that Carson is after something from the handfasting, more than just preventing Lizzie’s marriage to a Gordon, and an old land ownership law begins to unearth a clan secret that will cause Jack to risk his life to prove his love.

Highland Scandal is a must read for the summer.  From page one, the plot is interesting and involves the reader completely.  When Jack and Lizzie meet, they have a connection that continues throughout the book at a slow simmer until it boils.  Their attraction, while seductive and telling, is underscored by a very sweet romance that helps to support it and make it ever more believable.  Lizzie’s inner conflict when Gavin returns as the white knight to save her from her bad Earl is heart-wrenchingly described. 

There is also an unexpected side love story between the angry, crippled Charlotte and the laird’s henchman, Newton.  While they are certainly an unusual pair, the depth of their relationship and caring is a beautiful complement to the drama unfolding between Jack and Lizzie.

Both lead characters in Highland Scandal are engaging. Jack is a complex man, charming and deep.  He takes care not to hurt anyone around him, while entertaining them with tales of his harmless, formerly rakish lifestyle.  Lizzie is a spitfire, determined to have what she wants from life, as soon as she decides what that may be. 

What a joy to find a love story so well-written, so emotionally touching and captivating. Pick up a copy of Highland Scandal and enjoy. 

--Amy Wroblewsky 


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