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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Book Review! A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean





A Scot in the Dark (Scandal & Scoundrel #2) by Sarah MacLean 
Genre: Adult (Historical Romance)
Date Published: August 30, 2016
Publisher:  Avon


Lonesome Lily Turned Scandalous Siren
Miss Lillian Hargrove has lived much of her life alone in a gilded cage, longing for love and companionship. When an artist offers her pretty promises and begs her to pose for a scandalous portrait, Lily doesn't hesitate...until the lying libertine leaves her in disgrace. With the painting now public, Lily has no choice but to turn to the one man who might save her from ruin.

Highland Devil turned Halfhearted Duke
The Duke of Warnick loathes all things English, none more so than the aristocracy. It does not matter that the imposing Scotsman has inherited one of the most venerable dukedoms in Britain—he wants nothing to do with it, especially when he discovers that the unwanted title comes with a troublesome ward, one who is far too old and far too beautiful to be his problem.

Tartan Comes to Town
Warnick arrives in London with a single goal: get the chit married and see her become someone else's problem, then return to a normal, quiet life in Scotland. It's the perfect plan, until Lily declares she'll only marry for love...and the Scot finds that there is one thing in England he likes far too much... 


A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean is the second book in the Scandal & Scoundrel series. Lily and Alec were at odds from the start. He didn't want to be there, and she definitely didn't want him there. These two have loads of chemistry though, so all that anger makes for some steamy scenes once they start to get over themselves. Lily's thoughts on women and society are ahead of her time. Of course, she's had a little help developing these beliefs with her own scandal brewing. Like the other books in this series, there's never a dull moment. You don't have to read the books in this series in order, but I definitely recommend that you do read them.



A ward. Worse, an English ward.

One would think Settlesworth would have told him about that bit.

One would think that among the dozens of homes and scores of vehicles and hundreds of staff and thousands of tenants and tens of thousands of livestock, Settlesworth would have thought it valuable to mention the existence of a single young female.

A young female who, despite her utter lack of propriety on paper, would no doubt swoon when she came face-to-face with her Scottish guardian.

Englishwomen were consummate swooners.

In four and thirty years, he’d never met one who didn’t widely, loudly and ridiculously threaten the behavior.

But Settlesworth hadn’t mentioned the girl, not even in passing, with a “By the way, there’s a ward, and a significantly troublesome one at that.” At least, he hadn’t mentioned it until she’d been so troublesome as to require Alec’s presence in London. And then, it was Your Grace this, and scandal that, and you must come as quickly as possible to repair her reputation in conclusion.

So much for Settlesworth being the best solicitor in history. If Alec had any interest in aiding the peerage, he’d take out an advertisement in the News of London to alert them to the man’s complete ineptitude.

A ward seemed the kind of thing a man should know about from the start of his guardianship, rather than the moment the damn woman did something supremely stupid and ended up in desperate need of rescue.

If he had any sense, he’d have ignored the summons.

But apparently he lacked sense, all told, and Alec Stuart, proud Scotsman and unwilling twenty-first Duke of Warnick, was here—on the steps of number 45 Berkeley Square, waiting for someone to answer the damn door.

He considered his watch for the third time in as many minutes before he set to knocking once more, letting all his irritation fall against the great slab of mahogany. When he completed the action, he turned his back to the door and surveyed the square, perfectly manicured, gated and just blooming green, designed for the residents of this impeccable part of London and no one else. The place was so damn British, it made his skin crawl.

Curse his sister.

“A ward!” Catherine had crowed when she’d heard. “How exciting! Do you think she is very glamorous and beautiful?”

When he’d told Catherine that, in his experience, beauty was the reason for most scandals, and he wasn’t interested in dealing with this particular one, his sister had insisted he immediately pack his bags, playing him like a fine fiddle, the baggage. “But what if she’s been greatly maligned? What if she’s all alone? What if she requires a friend? Or a champion?” She’d paused, blinking her enormous blue eyes up at him, and added, “What if I were in her place?”

Younger sisters were clearly a punishment for ill deeds in former lives. And current ones.

He crossed his arms over his chest, the wool of his jacket pulling tight across his shoulders, constricting him just as the architecture did, all ironwork and stone fa├žade. He hated it here.

England will be your ruin.

Next door, a gaggle of women exited number 44 Berkeley Square, making their way down the steps to a waiting carriage. A young lady saw him, her eyes going wide before she recoiled in shock and snapped her gaze away to hiss a whisper at the rest of the group, which instantly turned in unison to gawk at him.

He felt their stares like a blazing heat, made hotter when the oldest of the group—mother or aunt, if he had to guess—said loudly, “Of course she would have such a man waiting for an audience.”

“He looks veritably animalistic.”

Alec went instantly cold as the group tittered its amusement. Ignoring the wash of fury that came over him at the assessment, he returned his attention to the door.

Where in hell were the servants?

“She’s probably renting rooms in there,” one of the girls said.

“And other things as well,” came a snide reply. “She’s outrageous enough for it.” What on earth kind of scandal had the girl gotten herself into?

Settlesworth’s letter had been perfunctory in the extreme, apologizing for not apprising him of the existence of the ward and laying the girl at Alec’s feet. She is at the heart of a scandal. A quite unsurvivable one, if you do not arrive. Posthaste.

He might hate all things English, but Alec wasn’t a monster. He wasn’t about to leave the girl to the damn wolves. And, if the she-wolves next door were any indication, it was a good thing he was here, as the poor girl was already their meal.

He knew what it was to be at the hands of Englishwomen.

Resisting the urge to tell the women they could pile into their carriage and drive straight to hell, he raised his fist to pound once more.

The door opened in an instant and, after impressively recovering from his shock, Alec glowered down at the woman standing before him, wearing the drabbest grey dress he’d ever seen.

He imagined she was no more than five and twenty, with high cheekbones and porcelain skin and full lips and red hair that somehow gleamed like gold despite the fact that she was inside a dimly lit foyer. It was as though the woman traveled with her own sun.

Drab frock or no, it was not beyond hyperbole to say she was easily the most beautiful woman in Britain.

Of course she was.

Nothing made a bad day worse like a beautiful Englishwoman. “It’s about bloody time,” he growled.

It took the maid several seconds to recover from her own shock and lift her eyes from where they had focused at his chest up to his face, her eyebrows rising with every inch of her gaze.

Alec was transfixed. Her eyes were grey—not slate and not steel, but the color of the darkest rainclouds, shot through with silver. He stiffened, the too-small coat pulling tight across his shoulders, reminding him that he was in England, and whoever this woman was, she was irrelevant to his interests. With the exception of the fact that she was standing between him and his immediate return to Scotland.

“I suggest ye let me in, lass.”

One red brow rose. “I shall do no such thing.” She closed the door.

Alec blinked, surprise and disbelief warring for a fleeting moment before they were both overcome by a supreme loss of patience. He stepped back, sized up the door, and, with a heave, broke the thing down.

It crashed to the foyer floor with a mighty thud.

He could not resist turning to the women next door, now frozen in collective, wide-eyed shock. “Animal enough for you, ladies?”

The question spurred them into action, sending them fairly climbing over each other to enter their carriage. Satisfied, Alec returned his attention to his own house and, ignoring the pain in his shoulder, crossed the threshold.

The maid stood just inside, staring down at the great oak slab. “You could have killed me.” “Doubtful,” he said. “The door is’nae heavy enough to kill a person.”

Her gaze narrowed on him. “Number Eighteen, I presume.”

The words could not have held more disdain. Ignoring them, Alec lifted the door from its resting place and turned to lean it against the open doorway. He deliberately thickened his accent. “Then ye ken who I am.”

“I’m not certain there’s a person in London who wouldn’t easily ken you. Though you might learn the word know if you wish them to understand you.”

He raised a brow at her smart mouth. “I don’t care for being left waiting at the door of my own home.”

Her gaze moved pointedly to the door, removed from its hinges. “You make a habit of destroying things when they displease you?”

Alec resisted the urge to deny the words. He had spent the majority of his adult life proving that he was not coarse. Not rough. Not a brute.

But he would not defend himself to this woman. “I pay handsomely for the privilege.” She rolled her eyes. “Charming.”

He refused to reveal his shock. While he had little to no experience with aristocratic servants, he was fairly certain that they did not make a habit of sniping at their masters. Nevertheless, he did not rise to the bait, instead taking in the impeccable home with its broad, sweeping center staircase, stunning and massive oil landscapes on the walls, a touch of gilt here and there, indicating modernity rather than garishness. He turned in a slow circle, considering the high ceilings, the massive mirrors that captured and reflected light from the windows high above, casting the whole space in natural light, and offering a glimpse of a wide, colorful carpet and a roaring fireplace through a nearby open door.

It was the kind of house that should belong to a duke with impressive pedigree, no doubt decorated by some previous duchess.

He stilled.

Was there a previous duchess? With seventeen dead dukes, Alec would bet there was more than one previous duchess.

He growled at the thought. All he needed was a widow to deal with on top of the scandalous ward and the petulant staff.

The staff in question heard the sound of displeasure. “I knew they called you the diluted duke, but I did not think you would be so …”

The impertinence trailed off, but Alec heard the unspoken worlds. Beastly. Coarse.

Unrefined. He lost his patience. “I suggest you fetch Lady Lillian. Immediately.” “It’s Miss Hargrove. She’s not highborn.”

He raised a brow. “This is England, is it not? Have they changed the rules, then? You gleefully correct dukes now?”

“I do when the duke in question is wrong,” she said, “Though you should be fine, as few will understand enough of your monstrous accent to know if you are right or wrong.”

“You seem to understand me well enough.”

She smiled too sweetly. “My vast good fortune, I suppose.”

He resisted the urge to laugh at the quick retort. The woman was not amusing. She was moments from being sacked. “And what of the respect that comes with the title?”

“It comes from people who are impressed by said title, I imagine.” “And you are not?”

She crossed her arms. “Not particularly.” “May I ask why?”

“There have been eighteen of you in five years. Or, to be more precise, seventeen in two weeks, followed by you for five years. And despite this being the first time you’ve set foot in this house, it—and all its contents—belong to you. Are cared for. For you. In absentia. If that’s not evidence that titles are ridiculous, I’m not sure what is.”

She wasn’t saying anything he didn’t believe. But that did not mean she was not maddening—likely just as mad as the other woman in the house. “While your insubordination is impressive and I do not entirely disagree with your logic, I’ve had enough,” he said. “I intend to speak with Miss Lillian, and your task, whether you like it or not, is to fetch her.”

“Why are you here?”

He let stony silence stretch between them for a long minute, attempting to intimidate her into doing as he asked. “Fetch your mistress.”

She was not intimidated in the slightest. “I think it amusing that you refer to her as mistress of the house. As though she isn’t a prisoner of it.”

That’s when he knew.

His ward was not the swooning type, after all.

Before he could speak, however, she continued. “As though she were not a belonging just like the door you summarily destroyed like a great Scottish brute.”

He didn’t mean to hear the word.

But somehow, standing here, with this impeccable Englishwoman in this impeccable English town house in this impeccable English square, wearing an ill-fitting suit, barely fitting in the open doorway, feeling big and out of place, he couldn’t help but hear it.

Couldn’t help but feel it, close and unsettling, like the tight cravat around his neck.

How often had he heard it from beautiful women? Whispered in awe, as though they were too busy imagining the fine, deep notch he would make in their bedposts to keep their innermost thoughts to themselves. When one came in the size he did, women tended to desire it, like a prize. A bull at the county fair.

Massive and beastly.

The word honored their desire even as it demeaned his own.

Just as it had demeaned him on his mother’s lips, marking her regret as she’d spat it at him— always too large to be fine enough for her. Too big to be worthy of her. Too coarse. Too Scottish.

Too much a reminder of her disappointing life.

She’d loathed his size. His strength. His inheritance from his father. Loathed it so much that she’d left, that single word her parting gift to her only son.

Brute.

And so, when he heard it here, in this place, on the lips of another beautiful Englishwoman, with such thorough disdain, he was unable to avoid it.

Just as he was unable to resist retaliating. “I had hoped you wouldn’t be beautiful.” She narrowed her gaze. “The descriptor does not seem a compliment on your lips.”

A vision flashed, this stunning woman laid across a bed, hair spread like fire and gold across white linen, long limbs beckoning, pink lips parted. Desire shot through him like pain, and he forced himself to remember his place.

He was her guardian. She was his ward. And English at that.

She was not for him.

“It’s not,” he said. “It makes it far more likely you did it.”

Her eyes were glorious, more expressive than he would ever have imagined, and filled instantly with challenge. “Did what?”

“Ruined yourself.”

The anger changed to something else, gone so quickly that he might not have recognized it if it were not so unbearably familiar to him.

Shame.

And in her shame, in the way it bore the shadow of his own, he instantly regretted his words.

And he wished them gone. “I should not have—” “Why not? It is true.”

He watched her for a long moment—taking in her straight spine, her square shoulders, her high head. The strength she should not have, but carried like honor, nonetheless.

“We should begin again,” he said.

“I would prefer we not begin at all,” she said, and turned away from him, leaving him in the hallway, with nothing but the sounds from the square beyond floating through the permanently open doorway to keep his company.

Have you read the other books in this series yet? 

Check out my reviews of more books by this author!
http://www.whatsbeyondforks.com/2013/12/tour-review-giveaway-of-no-good-duke.html

author
Sarah MacLean grew up in Rhode Island, obsessed with historical romance and bemoaning the fact that she was born far too late for her own season. Her love of all things historical helped to earn her degrees from Smith College and Harvard University before she finally set pen to paper and wrote her first book.

Sarah now lives in New York City with her husband, baby daughter, their dog, and a ridiculously large collection of romance novels. She loves to hear from readers. Please visit her at www.macleanspace.com

To learn more about Sarah MacLean and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.



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