Review: A Scot in the Dark

Review: A Scot in the DarkA Scot in the Dark (Scandal & Scoundrel #2) by Sarah MacLean
Series: Scandal & Scoundrel #2
Published by Avon on August 30, 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

Raw, Powerful Story of the Scot Who Rides to Rescue of the Scandalous Woman Who Can Save Herself

“Of course, she was the instrument of her own saving.

She was magnificent enough to save herself and the world in the balance.

If only she could save him, as well.”

FINAL DECISION:  Simply awesome.  A book I will read again and again, I loved this story of a man who comes to save a damsel in distress and finds a woman who ends up saving him.  A story about embracing the human mistakes that we make and being worthy of love.

THE STORY:  Lillian Hargrove was reputed to be the most beautiful, perfect woman in England.  Perhaps for that reason, society is thrilled when it is revealed that Lillian has scandalously ruined herself by posing for a nude painting that will be exhibited in public.  At this moment, Alec Stuart, who had inherited the dukedom of Warnick, unexpectedly and unwanted.  Alec learned that he also had inherited a ward, Miss Hargrove.  Alec comes to London to save Lillian from her own foolishness.

OPINION:  I can’t speak highly enough of the beauty and power of these characters Lillian and Alec.  They both are highly damaged people as the book begins. Unwanted, ignored, rejected, they both make bad decisions in their lives that cause them shame even as both Lillian and Alec assert their independence.

“Flaws saw flaws.”

Like sees like and Alec and Lillian recognize in one another in their pain and flaws.  Alec recognizes Lillian first and his response to her “transgression” is more understanding than she expects.  I fell in love with Alec because he doesn’t judge Lillian in the way the world does.  Despite what one might expect from the storyline of this book the conflict between the characters is not about Lillian’s mistake in posing for the portrait or her sexuality.

As the story begins, Lillian seems like the stereotypical damsel in distress who is waiting for a man to come rescue her.  Appearances are not truth, however.  Although Alec comes to rescue Lillian in the ways of men, she neither wants nor needs to be redeemed by him.

“I am in the market for neither guardian nor savior.  Indeed, if the last few years have taught me anything, it is that I would do well to save myself.  Play my own guardian.”

Lillian is the heroine of her own story.  But she is not immune to needing Alec.  Lillian doesn’t need Alec to rescue her, but she does need him to believe in her, support her, show her an example of a decent and caring man.

Both Alec and Lillian desperately want love.  It leads them into their “scandalous” activities.  Alec and Lillian’s relationship allows them to accept their own failings and recognize that mistakes allow them the ability to recognize true love and the unfailing decency in one another.

What I loved about this book is that there is no magic wand, no pretending that the scandal did not happen.  These characters look beyond scandal, accept the mistakes themselves and each other have made, and find decency and love.

This book is deeply emotional and completely engaged in the relationship between these characters.  MacLean has a way of writing angst and pain that breaks my heart, engages my mind and makes my spirit soar when the happy ending arrives.

This book will end up on my favorite books of the year list.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of Sarah MacLean’s other books get some glimpses of some familiar (and perhaps unfamiliar) characters.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A SCOT IN THE DARK is the second book in the Scandal & Scoundrel series.  Although there are some appearances by characters from other books, this book operates as a standalone.  No prior information is necessary.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Top 10 Favorite Books of 2015

This list of ten books is not necessarily my best reviewed books of 2015.  Rather, these are ten books which stuck with me for one reason or another.

10. Pia Does Hollywood by Thea Harrison — This novella does exactly what I love.  It revisits characters from the series and moves their story forward.  This novella has a tight story line and reminds me how much I love Dragos and Pia as a couple.

9. The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean — A classic road story, this first book in MacLean’s new series ticks all the classic romantic tropes — two protagonists who start out hating and fighting one another but soon cannot help being attracted to one another, a highwayman, illicit nights spent on the road together, and a rake brought to his knees.

8. Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz — Perfect balance between romance and suspense in this story of the past that comes back to haunt the heroine. I loved the twists and turns of the suspense story and also the connection between the hero and heroine.

7. The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward — A book I was inclined to dislike merely because of its description which sounds like a 1980s Dynasty or Dallas description, I found the story of this rich family that is falling apart on all sides to be compelling.  These are not always likable characters but their development makes great drama. The story is a  sweeping and epic family drama with a lot of romance.

6. Luck be a Lady by Meredith Duran — I love these cross-class romances.  Here, the hero is a criminal mastermind and the heroine is a woman who wants nothing more than to be a strong business woman.  Challenging all her assumptions Catherine has about herself, Nick is clever, daring, rough and sexy.  Their interactions are what I remember most from this book.

5. Archangel’s Enigma by Nalini Singh — Nassir, Nassir, Nassir.  Cuddly as a cat and as dangerous as a viper, Nassir is such unique character.  His search for his mate is as singular as Nassir’s own nature.  I loved that we get to know so much about Nassir and yet he becomes more mysterious and compelling.  Mee-yow!

4. Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh — The only author with two books on my list, Nalini Singh has two diverse genres.  Rock Redemption is her contemporary series about the members of a rock band.  When Noah and Kit were introduced earlier in the series, readers discovered that Noah purposely destroyed any potential relationship between them by having Kit catch him having sex with a groupie.  How these two find a path together is my most heartbreaking and angst filled read of the year.

3. Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase — This book has a quirky relationship between a barrister and an aristocrat.  The two of them have a very bantering relationship with lots of arguments and discussions which draw them together.  I always love the sense of place that Chase novels have with many historical details.  Chase makes a stuffy lawyer very sexy.

2. Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt — Hot, hot, hot. This story between a sensualist and a woman who fears even being alone with a man is romantic and sexy while also being sweet and gentle.  Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series is one of my all time favorites and this book’s story is big and bold and sexy — and so is Asa Makepeace.

1. The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long — My favorite book of the year did something that is almost impossible — exceeded high expectations. The final book of the Pennyroyal Green series, this book tells the star-crossed lovers story of Lyon and Olivia whose families rival the Capulets and Montagues. Lyon and Olivia’s story has been a catalyst throughout the series and thus readers had high expectations for their story. This book was beautiful, emotional and one of the best closures of a series I have ever read.

Review: The Rogue Not Taken

Review: The Rogue Not TakenThe Rogue Not Taken (Scandal & Scoundrel, #1) by Sarah MacLean
Series: Scandal & Scoundrel #1
Published by Avon on December 29th 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 419
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Romantic Romp with a Woman in Men’s Livery, Highwaymen and Naughty Carriage Rides

“She hated him then. Hated him for involking the ridiculous moniker. For being just like all the others. For believing that she wanted the life into which she’d been thrust. For believing that life worth something. Worth more than the life she’d been born into. For refusing to see — just as the rest of London refused to see – that Sophie was different. And that she had been perfectly happy before. Before titles and town houses and teas and the trappings of the ton. Before those trappings had trapped her.”

FINAL DECISION: What romance reader can resist a bookshop buying hero? Decidedly lighter in tone than her Rules of Scoundrels series, THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN returns MacLean to her Love by Numbers series tone of hot encounters, humor and lighter drama. A delicious carriage journey through Northern England, King and Sophie sometimes experience the roadtrip from hell and at other times a great romantic journey toward love.

THE STORY: Sophie Talbot one of the Soiled S’s, daughters of a newly minted earl who themselves thrive in the world of scandal. When Sophie unintentionally causes a scandal by pushing her duke brother-in-law in a fishpond when Sophie catches him with another woman shaming his pregnant wife, Sophie is ruined. Running from the scene, Sophie seeks a ride to her home in Mayfair. She encounters Kingscote, the Marquess of Eversley fleeing from the window of a woman he has ruined and demands that he take her home. When he refuses, Sophie arranges to masquerade as an outrider for his carriage by buying the position and livery from King’s footman. But King isn’t going to Mayfair, he’s leaving London – but Sophie doesn’t realize it until it is too late.

OPINION: This book is a humorous romp until the tone turns serious towards the end of the book. Funny with crazy adventures and situations, this is a book that makes a reader smile and laugh. Even the serious parts are not too dark. Unlike the darker and grittier Rules of Scoundrels series, THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN is filled with light humor and farcical situations. It marks a return to the lighter tone of MacLean’s breakout book NINE RULES TO BREAK WHEN ROMANCING A RAKE.

The inspiration for this new series is the modern tabloid news which according to MacLean mirrors the scandal driven news of the 1830s when this novel is set. The scandal seeking and manipulating Soiled S’s are sisters whose names all begin with S mirroring some scandalous modern sisters whose names begin with K. The scene of Sophia’s scandal – attacking her cheating brother-in-law in public is inspired by a similar celebrity scandal. Historical readers can be assured, however, that while modern events might have inspired MacLean, the characters and events of THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN remain grounded in 1830s England.

What this book does is ask the question “who are the people behind the scandals?” Both Sophie and King have reputations which do not accurately reflect who they really are nor the pain and dreams of their lives. After Sophie suffers her disgrace, she decides to leave London and the ton and return to the village where she lived a common life until her father gained his titled when she was ten. Sophie believes that she will find a life there where she belongs and intends to open a bookshop. Searching for that sense of belonging, Sophie just wants to be known for who she is rather than who others expect her to be.

King’s reputation as the “Royal Rogue” also hides a great deal of pain and a good man using his reputation to protect him from women who might want more from him. And there can be no doubt that King is reluctantly a good man. In fact, by the time the final obstacle for this couple arrives, the pain and disillusionment that he experiences is difficult to read because he has been hurt before and barely recovered.

Filled with so many great tropes (highwaymen, Sophie dressed as a man, carriage shenanigans, pretend married couple, reluctant traveling partners, bickering and witty banter, forced marriages and disapproving fathers) but this book throughout makes the clear statement that these characters and this story is more than what might be expected.

Plus, you just have to love a hero who buys the heroine a bookstore and where books play such a seductive part of the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers of MacLean might recall that King and Sophie first danced in NEVER JUDGE A LADY BY HER COVER. The events of THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN take place in June 1833 soon after the events of the main narrative of NEVER JUDGE A LADY BY HER COVER. There are some small references to their first dance and other events in the Rules of Scoundrels series, but no appearances by characters from that series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE ROGUE NOT TAKEN is the first book in the Scandal & Scoundrel series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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four-half-stars