Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Let me captain this ship, Alec. I might dash it upon the rocks and send myself into the depths, but at least I did it myself.”
Miss Lillian Hargrove thought she had found the man of her dreams. Caught between two worlds, neither aristocratic nor the serving class, she has spent her life in limbo, just waiting for someone to notice her. And someone does. An artist whose whispered promises of love and marriage convinced her to pose nude for a portrait. A portrait to celebrate their passion. A portrait that was to be kept between them.
Until it wasn’t.
The man of her dreams turned out to be the king of toads. Her painting is about to enter the world for all to see and gossip about. Disgraced and hurt, all she has to do is wait 10 days. Then on her birthday she can take her inheritance and run and hide from the scandal.
Except someone doesn’t want her to run.
Alec Stuart, The Duke of Warnick, hates all things English but when he is informed he has a ward who’s embroiled in a terrible scandal, he leaves Scotland and comes to England on a mission. Marry off his troublesome ward so he can go back home to peace and quiet.
Only, he never expected her to be so beautiful.
Alec is determined to protect Lillian, even from herself, but Lillian refuses to marry except for love. As Alec leads her through the ballrooms of the ton, intent on securing her future, he finds his own life changing for the better. But unless Alec can come to terms with his own scandalous secret, he and Lillian are doomed.
A Scot in the Dark is the second installment Sarah MacLean’s Scandals & Scoundrels series. We first met Alec in A Rogue Not Taken. He gives the Marques of Eversley a much needed kick in the breeches to help along his romance with Lady Sophia Talbot. As always, trashy tabloids, scandals, and opposite attraction are the bases on which McLean’s latest historical romp is built upon. Though not as physically demanding or as outrageously played out as in book one of the series, MacLean designs the romance to fit this couple’s more solitary natures. Invoking quiet humorous scenes and heart-wrenching internal monologues, we get to intimately know a man and woman whose lives have been a series of disappointments and heartbreaks, delivered by those who should have known better.
Lillian Hargrown’s father was the steward for the 4th Duke of Warnick. She was made a ward of the family when her father passed away. Though each succeeding duke treated her decently, she falls through the cracks when Alec Stuart inherits the title and effectively ignores her for five years. An unparalleled beauty, her looks are a strike against her so she spends her life inside a gilded cage, isolated and alone. Forgotten by everyone, Lillian only wanted someone to see her. To touch her. To love her. This leads to her being preyed upon by a lecherous artist, Derek Hawkins, who covets her beauty for his own gain. His unwavering attention to her, along with his declarations of love and marriage, blinds her to his intentions. He convinces her to sit for a nude portrait and she is shocked when he reveals his plans to unveil it to the world.
They did not realize her life was ruined. Her heart crushed beneath his perfectly shiny boot. They did not realize she was cleaved in two before them.
Or perhaps they did.
And perhaps it was the realization that gave them such glee.
I liked Lillian. Witty, intelligent, and stubborn; her only crime was trusting and loving the wrong person. Thoroughly embarrassed and shamed for the unintentional role she played in her own ruination, she plots her own means of salvation.
I have a plan to save myself […] I plan to run.
Alec Stuart never thought he’d inherit a dukedom. This gorgeous, brawny, quite pouty Scotsman hates all things English. He is angry he is being forced to assume this mantle after a series of bad luck befalls the seventeen dukes before him and decides to stay in Scotland and just ignore it all. When he finally learns of his ward (five years later) he is aggravated he will have to travel to England to untangle the mess she seems to have gotten herself into. Nicknamed the Scottish brute, Alec is extremely self-conscious about his size. He feels like a brute at times, especially when around women. Already disgruntled at having to play hero to a woman he doesn’t know or even care about, meeting Lillian drags out his protective instincts and he is at a loss on how to deal with her.
Nothing made a bad day worse than a beautiful English woman.
Alec is not at all what I expected. I found him quite colorful when we first met him and expected similar characterization in here. MacLean instead shows us a silent man who chooses to embrace solitude due to fear. A single decision in his childhood set him on a path that left him ashamed and in the possession of a scandalous past himself. We learn that his need for Scotland isn’t so much rooted in his hatred of England but his need to hide from himself and his own actions.
Lillian and Alec are like oil and water in the beginning. Alec comes across rather high-handed as he sweeps in on his white horse, assured that his role as savior is justified and wanted. Unfortunately, Lillian isn’t falling to her knees before him in gratitude. She doesn’t want to be saved and harbors quite a bit of resentment towards him for
“‘I am a ward of the Warnick estate. I wouldn’t get too possessive if I were you.”
“Am I not the Warnick?”
“Perhaps not for long. You dukes do have a habit of dying.”
“I suppose you’d like that?”
“A woman can dream.”
Lillian wants her freedom. From him, from London, from all the gossip but Alec refuses to allow her to run. He hatches the plan to marry her off and proceeds to compile a list for her to choose from. This becomes a major bone of contention between them as Lillian tries to impress upon Alex and us that no matter what she does, she will always be held to blame for what happened and the world will never let her forget her fall from grace.
“The world harbors impressive hatred for women who make the mistakes I did. Beauty, used for anything but the holiest of acts, is a sin.”
Though their time spent together is relatively short, this book takes place in a span of only ten days, MacLean attempts to build a romance that unfortunately reeks of emotional angst and ghosts of the past. While I could easily believe the attraction between them-the intensity of the situation and their close quarters lends authenticity to their rising chemistry-I wasn’t sold on them actually falling in love. Lillian desperately loved another man just ten days prior and I felt her falling for Alec was more in response to finally having someone notice her. Alec’s reasoning was harder to pinpoint as he rejects Lillian and his feelings for her till the very end.
I found it ironic that Lillian ends up being the stronger of the two. Alec’s physical dimensions are quite impressive but he is weak in the areas of the heart and easily condemned by his own feeling of inferiority. His inability to move beyond his past keeps him on a constant loop of trying to convince himself that Lilian deserves better than him. This one aspect truly annoyed me. He blows hot and cold the entire book.
A lively cast of secondary of characters is what breathes life into this story, pulling the protagonists out of their heads and into the real world. Familiar faces and places from book one of this series and from its parent series, The Rules of Scoundrels, are seen in here and everyone offers to help in their own way. The Dangerous Sisters arrive in full force, especially Sesily, and the laughs are plentiful. The sisters know what Lillian is going through, having had they own dealings with the gossiping ton, and they offer her some invaluable advice.
“You can’t let them win. Not ever. There is nothing in the world they like more than tearing a woman down for having too much courage. Ad there is nothing in the world that makes them angrier than not being able to break her.”
The sisters also offer Lillian something she has always wanted-friendship. Lillian soaks up their attention and blossoms into to a strong woman who is able to look beyond her scandal and move forward with her life.
While I liked A Scot in the Dark, it does falls victim to an overabundance of plot lines, a fast-tracked romance that doesn’t allow for realistic development, and a couple who spend so much time on their own agendas I never truly felt the connection between them. Regardless, MacLean’s talented writing flows smoothly with its infectious narrative and personable characters, allowing for enjoyment despite any problems.
I am looking forward to the third in the series, The Day of the Duchess, set to release April 27, 2017.