Friday, March 6, 2015

To Marry a Scottish Laird - Lynsay Sands (Avon - June 2014)

Series: Highlands (Book 2)

Highlander Campbell Sinclair is no stranger to battle, so when he sees a lad attacked by bandits, he jumps into the fray. He didn't count on being stabbed. Grateful to the boy for nursing him back to health, Cam offers to accompany Jo safely to his destination. But when he accidentally comes across the lad bathing in the river, Cam discovers that Jo is actually Joan . . . with the most sinful of curves.

Joan promised her mother that she would deliver a scroll to the clan MacKay. But traveling alone is dangerous, even disguised as a boy. When a Scottish warrior lends his aid, she is more than relieved . . . until he surprises her with lingering kisses and caresses that prove her disguise hasn't fooled him. As their passion ignites, will the secrets of the scroll force a wedding . . . and lead to a love she's never known?

Good book. Joan was given a scroll by her mother, who was on her deathbed, to deliver to the lady of Clan MacKay. Knowing that it wasn't safe for a woman to travel alone, Joan disguised herself as a boy. Even so, she was attacked and beaten by some men who were attempting to rob her. Cam came across them just in time, and jumps in to save her, but is injured in the process. As a healer trained by her mother, Joan returns the favor by nursing him back to health, all the while attempting to maintain her disguise.

Cam was returning home after six months away. He had lost his wife and child when she died during childbirth, and he feels guilty because of it. He is determined that he will not marry again and put another woman into that kind of danger. Unfortunately, his mother is equally determined that he will marry again, and has been inviting eligible young women to visit. He left home to get away from them, and is hopeful they are all gone by now. Rescuing the young lad was no trouble except for his injury, and when he discovers the boy is delivering a message to a neighbor of his, Cam offers to escort him.

The first couple days went well as Cam found Jo very easy to talk to. They developed an easy friendship as they traveled. Then he discovered that Jo was actually Joan, a beautiful young woman, and he's suddenly thinking of her in a very different way. One night the temptation becomes too much to handle, and he shows Jo that her cover has been blown. The passion that he introduces her to overtakes her common sense and soon they are indulging themselves frequently. A journey that should only take a few days stretches out over a couple weeks. Cam enjoys her company in all ways, and wants to take her home with him.

Joan fears what will happen when they reach their journey's end. Cam has made no secret of the fact that he does not wish to marry again. Not that she expects it, as she is a commoner and he is a nobleman. Neither does she wish to become his mistress, having to watch him cave in to pressure and marry someone else. Joan also carries her own fears of childbirth, having witnessed many tragedies as a healer. In order to protect her own heart, she tells Cam that she will not go on to his home with him.

When they reach their destination and Joan delivers her message, her life takes a surprising turn. The laird and lady (see An English Bride in Scotland) deliver the news that she is family, and suddenly she is thrust into a whole new world. Just as she begins to accept that idea, she is informed that she and Cam will marry. She knows his views on marriage and feels that he is being forced to do something he doesn't want to do. She also feels that she is not the woman he needs, as she has not been raised that way. Meanwhile, Cam is quite willing to marry Joan, as it keeps her with him, but feels she is being forced since she had made clear that she wanted to end their relationship.

I liked both Cam and Joan. Joan is a smart and resilient woman who thinks well in a crisis. I loved seeing her deal with Cam, both in and out of her disguise. Her fears are understandable, given what she's seen, and she does her best to protect herself. The attraction she feels to Cam turns pretty quickly to love, leading to her need to distance herself. When the marriage happens, she feels unworthy of him but is determined to become what she thinks he needs. Cam is a good man at heart, who is dealing with his tragedy the best way he can. Joan has become more important to him than he realizes at first. I liked the friendship that developed between them first, and continued even after he knew she was a woman. But his bias against marriage keeps him from thinking about her that way, until forced to do so by her new identity. He is hurt by her previous decision to part ways with him, not realizing why she felt that way, and doesn't want to force himself on her. One of the things I liked best about him was the way he tried to make her see that she didn't need to change for him, he liked her just the way she was. It takes a crisis for them to be able to admit their feelings for each other and get their happy ending.

There was some suspense in the story after Cam brought Joan home to the houseful of wife wannabes, They were all disappointed, but one was particularly nasty. There were several attempts made on Joan's life, and it became obvious that someone wanted her out of the way. There were a couple of interesting twists until the culprit was revealed. Once again, Joan's quick wits saved her, with Cam's arrival helping to finish it all.

The were also some excellent instances of LS's trademark humor. I liked their discovery by Laird MacKay, and his reactions. Their arrival at Sinclair and facing down the group of women was pretty funny. But the best came in the epilogue with Joan trying to hide her labor from Cam, and what happened when he discovered it.

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