The Lion's Bride

Pure Temptation

Sheik

To Love a Stranger

To Tame a Renegade

A Taste of Sin

 
A Touch So Wicked
by Connie Mason
(Avon, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-380-80803-X
****
A Touch So Wicked is a sizzling Highland romance set in the 1750’s following the battle of Culloden featuring a sexy hero, a saucy, smart heroine, appealing Fraser Clan members and a good story.

Damian Stratton, fresh from victory on the battlefield, accepts the title of Lord of Clarendon and master of the Misterly holdings in Scotland. His task is to take over this fiefdom and preserve the land for King George and in exchange he keeps the title and is given an heiress to wed. The heiress chosen by King George is a deceitful, but beautiful cousin to the King named Lady Kimbra. Kimbra hates the Scottish highlands, the people and everything but herself. She sees Damian as the way to gain a title and cement her influence in the London social whirl.

Damian, meanwhile, comes to Misterly to carry out the monarch’s order to send the old Laird’s daughter to a nearby convent, preventing her from marrying the chieftain of the rival Gordon clan. But said daughter, Elissa, has other plans. She hates the English for killing her brother and father at Culloden. She refuses to leave her ill mother and sister behind, so she convinces Damian to let her stay until they are healthy enough to travel. He reluctantly agrees in order to keep peace in the keep. He develops a fondness for Elissa’s mother, Lady Marianne and sister, Lora. He treats the clan like family and asks the clan members for their help in maintaining the smooth running of the day-to-day operations, convincing them that they will all benefit.

It is only Elissa that he cannot seem to influence. Her hatred blinds her to many of his strengths and kindnesses, while her guilt gnaws at her when she starts to see the good in Damian. Damian has been good to her mother and sister by defying the King and keeping them at Misterly. He is also earning the respect of her clansmen. Elissa’s internal battle leads to many confrontations and misunderstandings. It is through these many interactions that Elissa grows to love Damian, and he her. Damian interprets these feelings as sexual wanting, while Elissa refuses to acknowledge what they mean.

Theirs is a fragile relationship when Kimbra comes to Misterly to prepare for the wedding and tries to come between them. It is clear from the start that Kimbra and Damian will not suit, and that Kimbra is extremely jealous of Elissa. Her hope is to marry Damian, send Elissa to the convent and then convince Damian to return to London to live. Thankfully, both Damian and Elissa show their astuteness and see through her ploys. This is one of the story’s strong points, as author Mason recognizes that some heroines are meant to show some intelligence and not all men are ruled by what is in their pants. Bravo…the romance world needs more of this.

What truly adds richness to the book is the depth to the clan members and men at arms. I feel as if I know them and can sense their loyalty to Damian growing with each act of kindness and caring. Marianne is a strong woman who is ill and showing signs of depression due to the loss of her husband. She is cheered by Damian and reminded that she has two daughters to live for and protect. She offers Damian her friendship and allegiance, without giving up the loyalty she feels for her daughter. Elissa’s maid Maggie is a fine woman with a sense of humor and of honor. The side romances for these two ladies are well done without being at all distracting from the main story.

Unfortunately I feel the author succumbs to a common error when writing a historical romance…not knowing when to end the story. Conflicts abound between Damian and Elissa, between the Gordon clan and Damian, and between Kimbra, Damian, Elissa and the King. Too many conflicts coming together and having to be resolved too conveniently in the last 80 pages of the book left me feeling on the edge of tedium. Thankfully, the potency of the characters and the deep love they feel for each other rescues the romance and thus the book.

Sexy, smart, engaging, albeit full of conflict, don’t be afraid to pick up A Touch So Wicked on your next trip to the bookstore.

--Shirley Lyons


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