The MacGregor’s Lady
Sourcebooks Casablanca / February 4, 2014 / $7.99 print & digital
The last thing Asher MacGregor, newly titled Earl of Balfour, wants is a society wife, though he has agreed to squire Boston heiress Hannah Cooper about the London ballrooms. When he's met that obligation, he'll return to the Highlands, and resume the myriad responsibilities awaiting him there.
At her step-father's insistence, Hannah Cooper must endure a London season, though she has no intention of surrendering her inheritance to a fortune hunter. When she's done her duty, she'll return to Boston and the siblings who depend upon her for their safety... or will she? The taciturn Scottish earl suits her purposes admirably-until genuine liking and unexpected passion bring Asher and Hannah close. For if the Scottish earl and the American heiress fall in love, an ocean of differences threatens to keep them apart.
Torture. Torment. Delicious despair. Those words pretty much sum up The MacGregor’s Lady, the new installment in Grace Burrowes’ Victorian-set MacGregor Series. Burrowes throws obstacle after obstacle at Asher and Hannah, the long-suffering lovers at the heart of this story, until the whole thing turns into a regular old sob-fest near the end. However—without spoiling anything—I’d like to remind potentially hesitant readers that it’s always darkest just before dawn. Reading this book is ultimately a rewarding, if cathartic, experience.
To begin with, Asher and Hannah are in some ways a rather unlikely pair. In addition to being Earl of Balfour, Asher is The MacGregor, Laird of his Clan, although he hasn’t always held that title. In fact, until recently he was presumed dead, having disappeared into the wilds of Canada some years back. In Canada he married and had a son, only to lose both wife and child to smallpox. His inability to save the two has led him to renounce his previous avocation as physician, and while he’s happy enough to be home in Scotland among his boisterous Clan, he still grieves profoundly for his lost loved ones.
For reasons that were never entirely clear to me, Asher is being compelled by an elderly relative to escort Miss Hannah Cooper through a London Season. The American Hannah has absolutely no interest in marriage; her Life Plan is to wait until she comes into her (impressive) inheritance, then use her money to free her family from beneath her abusive stepfather’s thumb. As the story begins, she has just jilted one of her stepfather’s buddies quite publicly at the altar, and furious Stepdad is now demanding that she bag herself a noble and stay in England, where she won’t be able to influence her family quite so readily. Said stepfather—a piece of work if ever there was one—has even arranged for Hannah to be “ruined,” although not, thank Heaven, in quite the way you’re probably imagining.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, where this prickly pair is concerned. Even “complications” that would Be The Story in another book—he’s half Canadian Indian, she walks with a noticeable limp—are considered the least of anyone’s concerns here. But despite everything, Asher and Hannah find that they actually like one another. Friendship evolves into passionate love:
“I want you, Asher MacGregor. Now. I want to touch you.”
She heard him swallow… “I don’t mind that ye beggar my reason, Boston—not nearly as much as I should—but I canna allow ye to beggar my honor.”
This was some befuddling male allusion to his duty as her host, or his lordly obligations, or some blighted obstacle Hannah would not tolerate. “I am not a virgin. I am ruined, do you understand me? I have no virginity to protect, and I want you”…
He shrugged out of his clothing with a twitch of his broad shoulders, leaving him wearing only firelight, shadows…And a smile.
“Look your fill, Hannah Cooper, because your expression tells me whoever the blessed fool was you bestowed your favors on, he didna pleasure you properly.”
Suffice it to say that Asher is fully prepared to pleasure Hannah properly (and vice versa, for that matter). But Hannah stands firm in her resolve to return to the States and rescue her family, while Asher’s duties lie with his own family in the Highlands, and the bitterest heartbreak is a virtual certainty.
Burrowes, bless her heart, makes us wait…and wait…and wait until these sad, stubborn survivors find their way to their HEA. And the wait is absolutely excruciating for the reader AND the characters:
…Asher straightened his arms, letting a cooling draft of air between them. “Ye’re all right?”
She brushed his hair back from his brow, needing to imprint the sight of him on her memory forever. The muscles of his chest and arms were exquisite, but the warmth in his gaze – the love and longing, the tenderness – made her turn her head.
“I will be.” Sometime, years and years hence, she would be. She would tell her nieces of the great love she’d known in the Highlands – the love she’d lost. “I will be.”
His smile was crooked and sad, confirmation that he knew she was lying. He settled closer, bringing Hannah the scent of man and heather. “Ye must not cry, Hannah. Ye’ll break my heart all over if ye cry.”
Of course, all this angst only makes the eventual resolution all the sweeter. When Asher finally, finally decides “Enough, already” and leaps up and roars “TO THE MACGREGOR!”, bringing his brothers running (still in “various states of undress”—hee) to help him claim his Lady, I can almost guarantee that you’ll want to leap up, too.
One more thing: Longtime Burrowes fans will be delighted to encounter some old friends who just happen to be on hand to help save Hannah’s reputation at a key moment. I won’t give anything away here, except to say that the appearance of these individuals provides a much-needed glimmer of light just as the situation is beginning to turn very dark indeed.
Overall, if you like Burrowes and/or Scotland or if you just need a good wallow, you will not want to miss this book. Have a box of tissues on hand, though.
Actually…make that two.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of The MacGregor's Lady by Grace Burrowes, available on February 4, 2014: