The Laird (Captive Hearts)
Sourcebooks Casablanca / September 2, 2014 / $7.99 print and digital
He left his bride to go to war...
After years of soldiering, Michael Brodie returns to his Highland estate to find that the bride he left behind has become a stranger. Brenna is self-sufficient, competent, confident-and furious about Michael's prolonged absence.
Now his most important battle will be for her heart
Brenna is also hurt, bewildered, and tired of fighting for the respect of those around her. Michael left her when she needed him most, and then stayed away even after the war ended. Nonetheless, the young man who abandoned her has come home a wiser, more patient and honorable husband. But if she trusts Michael with the truths she's been guarding, he'll have to choose between his wife and everything else he holds dear.
In her most recent novel, The Traitor, Grace Burrowes accomplished the difficult challenge of rehabilitating Sebastian St. Clair, formerly a professional torturer in Napoleon’s employ. The Laird is a book for anyone who found The Traitor too-light-hearted. The story of Sebastian’s boon companion Michael Brodie and Michael’s long-estranged wife Brenna, The Laird details sensitively yet frankly with a very dark topic indeed: the sexual abuse of a child. Although Burrowes is not gratuitous in her handling of this topic, neither does she pull any punches. This has been your trigger warning.
Michael married Brenna when she was only sixteen, immediately before he left home to do his part against the Corsican. Even though—with what must have been superhuman restraint—he refused to consummate the marriage, as he didn’t want to risk leaving Brenna pregnant and alone, she begged him to take her with him. He declined that offer, too—he wasn’t taking his wife into any war zone—not realizing that his new bride was fighting her own private battles.
In fact, for years, Brenna had been enduring the perverted attentions of a very sick individual (I won’t spoil his identity here, but you’ll probably figure it out right away), who stuck around after Michael left, ostensibly to keep an eye on things. Then, Michael didn’t come home, even after Napoleon was routed, and letters were scarce. Of course, the mails were not as reliable then as they are now, and mail between Michael and Brenna was even less reliable than it might otherwise have been, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down.
Now he’s home, and Brenna is sitting on nine long years of suppressed rage and fear. Michael knows that he has some fences to mend, but he doesn’t grasp the extent of Brenna’s pain. He just knows that she’s acting cold, stand-offish, and modest to an almost ridiculous degree. Meanwhile, his estate seems to be falling apart. And worst of all, his youngest sister Maeve has unexpectedly arrived. She’s lonely and feels neglected. And the very worst person possible has noticed her.
Given its subject matter, The Laird will not be to everyone’s taste. However, those who do read it will enjoy Burrowes’ deft characterization and suspenseful plot—and will appreciate the opportunity to catch up with Sebastian and Milly from The Traitor, who appear on the scene at a particularly opportune moment to offer a shoulder and a listening ear to the beleaguered couple. And at the end, when Michael declares to his wife “I will fall in love with you every day for the next hundred years,” and she replies “I’ll fall in love with you every night, then. We’ll share the work,” it’s particularly satisfying; this couple, of all of Burrowes’ many happy pairs, has fought hard for their HEA, and their victory over the most malign forces seems especially hard-earned and nobly won.
Again, Burrowes doesn’t sugarcoat matters, and sensitive readers should be aware that there’s a scene near the end in which Brenna describes—delicately, but very specifically— the abuse she’s suffered. It’s deeply disturbing, and it ought to be. However, the book ends on a happy and hopeful note. Michael and Brenna’s suffering is intense, but that makes their eventual HEA all the more satisfactory.
Learn more about or order a copy of The Laird by Grace Burrowes, available September 2, 2014: