A Scot in the Dark (Scandal & Scoundrel #2)
Avon Romance / August 30, 2016 / $7.99 print, $6.99 digital
A Scot in the Dark, the second entry in Sarah MacLean’s Scandal & Scoundrel series, follows Alec Stuart and his ward, Lillian Hargrove. Alec is the Duke of Warnick, a Scot who inherited the title after the 17 others in line for it before him died in a variety of unexpected ways. Most of them didn’t have families, so their properties and responsibilities all fell to him. Lily is one of those responsibilities, and after falling in love with the wrong man, she finds herself a pariah with no prospects.
The story begins when Alec is instructed to fix things and travels to London, finding a spirited young woman who is (justifiably) tired of men and rules. MacLean is a master of tension (she teaches workshops on it, I’m not exaggerating here), and the tension in the novel comes largely from a lack of trust between our main characters.
Alec was raised by a father who emotionally abandoned him after Alec’s English mother physically abandoned them to return to London (and then died shortly thereafter). Apparently she didn’t love her family enough to stay in the country, and Alec has spent his life either trying to win her approval or giving the metaphorical middle finger to England and wandering his Scottish estate barechested with two giant dogs for company.
Lily was orphaned as a girl, left to the previous Duke’s keeping, and then forgotten by almost all when he passed. Incredibly lonely, she finds solace in the arms of a painter who promises to love her always. He convinces her to pose nude for him, then humiliates her by entering the painting into a public exhibit. So now not only does Lily feel abandoned by everyone, but she can’t even trust her heart to guide her to a man she can trust with it.
While Alec fights his assumptions about English women and his powerful attraction to a woman he is supposed to protect, Lily is determined to free herself from him. She knows she has money coming to her and with it, freedom. Alec, however, is determined to find her a husband (and give the money to him in form of dowry). In his mind, a husband will serve as protection against society… and against Alec’s own desire for her. Yet when he finds a suitable candidate, Alec can’t quite convince himself to give her up. For her part, Lily is resolved to remain unmarried, as men have caused her nothing but misery so far. Can they find a way to trust each other after so many disappointments in the past?
Despite the high drama, the novel is packed with fun: two huge dogs, a merry game of cat and mouse through the Duke’s various properties in London, an art heist, fisticuffs, a DOG DRESS and discussions of the importance of a good solicitor.
If you've read Sarah MacLean's other books, you'll be excited to see cameos from a few well-loved past characters. That's pretty much where the similarities stop though. The Rules of Scoundrels series was fittingly full of dark secrets and intense appetites. This series seems to be more about longing and overcoming internal foes (insecurity, emotions, etc) despite the Scandals.
This book, like the others, is compelling, hopelessly romantic, fun, and sexy. While the steam might not be on high, the strong man giving his woman her freedom and his love is powerful.
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When not reading All of the Things, Suzanne is raising two small valkyries and trying to open a bookstore. Book, comic, and assorted other tweets at@suzannekrohn.