Review: A Scot in the Dark

513pLOEbTfLSarah MacLean
A Scot in the Dark
Published August 30, 2016
($25.99 hardcover, $7.99 paperback, $6.99 ebook)

starstarstarstar
flameflameflameflame

Sarah MacLean’s books are absolutely delightful.  Full stop.  No qualification.  A Scot in the Dark, the second in her “Scandal & Scoundrel” series is no exception; MacLean has crafted a hero and heroine so compelling and so rightly matched, that you can’t help but smile when enemies are dispatched, obstacles overcome, and true love conquers all.

Alec Stuart, through an absurd turn of events involving the deaths of seventeen heirs before him, has become a reluctant duke.  He is Scottish born and bred and derides his soft English neighbors.  Unfortunately for him, his dukedom comes with an unexpected, scandalous English ward: Miss Lillian Hargrove.  Alec is alerted to her misfortunes and travels to London intending to remedy the situation: he’ll marry her off, end the scandal, and happily return home to Scotland.  As one might expect, Alec’s plans are quickly thwarted as he is unwillingly drawn to Lily, despite his insistence that they can’t be together.  The pair engage in a battle of wits and emotions, all the while carrying on the pretense of searching for a husband for Lillian before the scandal breaks.

The best thing about MacLean’s books, and this one specifically, is all the clever detail she provides in her stories.  For example, because the dukedom went through seventeen heirs before coming to Alec, it has amassed a number of homes throughout London.  When Lillian and Alec fight, Lillian moves out into another house, which she calls “The Dog House” for its absurd abundance of canine decor.  MacLean also has Lily wear a dog-themed dress in order to spite the duke!  The ridiculous situations and settings enrich the story and make it all that more compelling.

Another great thing about this series is the idea of ~scandal~.  The titles of the chapters are written like scandal sheet headlines (“Lovely Lily turned Miss Muse!”, “Fallen Angel Fisticuffs: Scottish Brute Serves Brummellian Braggarts Scathing Setdown!”) and each of the books so far has focused on a different type of scandal.  Lily, the heroine of A Scot in the Dark, was previously in love with the artist Derek Hawkins, and, naively, sat for a nude portrait that Hawkins promised would be private.  The awaited unveiling of the portrait portends impending doom for Lillian, unless Alec can marry her off before all of London sees Lily au naturel.  While an amusing plot device, this particular scandal is certainly reflective of recent celebrity cell phone hacks and the media frenzy surrounding celebrity nude photos.  The embarrassment and pain Lily feels makes one reflect on the difficulties of fame and notoriety.

Lily and Alec are a great romance novel couple.  Initially adversarial, their love is built on respect, admiration, and of course, attraction.  The verbal sparring between the two is fun and feisty; the way they eventually come around to one another is the part of the story that truly sparkles.  Their mutual attraction is also delicious.  Alec can’t help but want the beautiful Lillian and Lily is wonderfully distracted by the sight of Alec’s legs in a kilt (totally understandable…honestly, who wouldn’t be?). 

The only thing I didn’t love about this book was, ultimately, the obstacle that held the pair apart.  Alec is a big, strapping lad and, because of some past experiences with a manipulative countess, thinks he, as a “Scottish Brute” is unfit for Lily.  While the emotional effects of the abuse he suffered are not to be dismissed, the obstacle felt a little contrived, which is why I rated A Scot in the Dark only 4 out of 5 stars.

I’ve been having trouble with my heat ratings.  For a mainstream, Avon press book, A Scot in the Dark is pretty steamy.  The sex scenes are intimate and exciting.  Compared to some of the more self-published erotic romance books out there, though, this book might seem tame.  I’m giving it 4 flames because, for the type of book it is– a mainstream press historical romance novel, it’s pretty damn hot.  However, if you’re looking for something more in the erotic-romance genre, this might not be for you.  

Sarah MacLean is one of my automatically-buy authors.  Every single book she has produced has sparkled with wit, delighted with detail, and scintillated with sexiness. A Scot in the Dark— great title, by the way– is MacLean at her best.  I would recommend this book to everyone: blog readers, romance novel enthusiasts, my friends, my mom, my neighbor, the lady I met in the grocery store line this morning, my neighbor across the hall who cooks with very, very, very pungent spices… absolutely everyone!

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