A Match Made in Scandal

Must Have Been the Moonlight

Wild and Wicked in Scotland
by Melody Thomas
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-112959-3
Thomas is quickly becoming an author I donít want to miss and this effort is one of her best. Wild and Wicked in Scotland is exciting, engaging and filled with sexy, romantic exploits and a strong plotline to boot.

Cassandra Sheridan is an American heiress in London ready to marry an earl who will soon become a duke. This will fulfill her motherís wish for acceptance into high society, and Cassieís inheritance of a shipping empire will fill the coffers of the ducal family. She is ready to do this because she is sure that the earl, a picture of whom she has carried around with her for years, will be someone she can love and be happy with.

Devlyn, Earl of Hampstead, is not ready to marry, although he will if he must. He is actually the second son, a twin born just a few minutes later. But his brother has gotten himself killed and he is set to inherit both the estates and the bride. However, at the moment, he is too busy even to attend his betrothal ball. He is embroiled in trying to prove the guilt of a man involved in a Russian consortium that is murderous, counterfeits English pounds and may even be involved in treason against the Crown.

Cassie is determined to live down the embarrassment of having the groom avoid the ball and she runs away, heading to Scotland and her best friend, Sally Ann. Sally Ann happens to be in Edinburgh with her brother, Braeden Maxwell, who is assigned as an aide to the Ambassador. In her rush, Cassie attracts the attention of some Cossacks and unknowingly leads them straight to Devlyn. They are seeking vengeance because Devlyn has killed the son of a Russian and stolen something that will incriminate him in much of the suspected activities.

The story details their journey across Scotland. Set in the late 1870ís, the journey reads almost like a story of people crossing the American West. This is one of the downsides. There is little to suggest that it is England and Scotland rather than, say, frontier Colorado.

But the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses. Cassie is a perfect balance of sauciness, bravery and schoolgirl vulnerability. She is afraid at times, but recognizes when to act bravely and when to behave. As she grows to know Devlyn and finds herself falling in love with the man rather than the picture, she acts like any woman who might find herself in this situation. At times, she is teary, but generally she is ready to deal with life as it comes. She is at times angry at the way Devlyn acts, and understanding that there is so much she just doesnít understand. She is a tad too accepting of her amorous nature, but this is a minor distraction.

Devlyn is a slightly tortured hero, but luckily does not wallow in all that doesnít go well for him. He has made some vows he is determined to keep, yet, finds himself vulnerable to Cassieís charms. He struggles, but his struggles seem realistic. He has not been an angel and is certain Cassie will be disturbed when she finds out the ďrealĒ kind of man he has been. Yet he moves past it and again, doesnít focus on this as a defining characteristic.

There are glimpses of some of Devlynís compatriots who might make good heroes if Thomas seems inclined to write this as a series. Braeden is one of those men. But the biggest thing that sets this apart is the intrigue that moves the story. There are many novels written about noblemen in service to the English crown. This plotline is one of the stronger ones I have read.

Wild and Wicked in Scotland doesnít completely live up to its name, but with Thomasís deft hand at writing two remarkable characters, it comes pretty close.

--Shirley Lyons

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