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…
I’ve read and enjoyed Sarah MacLean’s previous two series and I enjoyed the previous book in this one (The Rogue Not Taken), so I suppose she’s allowed a dud, and that is, I’m sorry to say, my overall impression of her latest book, A Scot in the Dark. The romance seems to come out of nowhere, the heroine’s actions often don’t make sense, and while it was a refreshing change to read of the hero having body-image issues, I really dislike that whole “I am not worthy” trope in romance, and it’s done to death here. Worst of all, I didn’t really like either of the protagonists. I didn’t hate them, but neither of them grabbed me and as a result, I couldn’t root for them as a couple.
Lillian Hargrove has made the mistake of falling in love with a complete and utter bastard with an ego the size of the planet and was persuaded by him to pose for a portrait in the nude, believing he wouldn’t show it to anyone else. She realises her mistake some months later at the opening of the Royal Academy’s Exhibition of Contemporary Art, when it is announced that his painting of her is the highlight of the exhibition and will be unveiled in a month’s time amid all due pomp and circumstance. Lily is naturally and immediately the subject of all sorts of horrid gossip and her reputation is in tatters.
Enter her hitherto absentee guardian, Alec Stuart, the twenty-first Duke of Warnick, who has, during the five years since he acceded to the title (owing to the utterly improbable fact that the seventeen people who stood between him and the dukedom all managed to die without issue), managed to avoid London and remain on his lands in Scotland. Having had no idea until now that he even had a ward, Alec realises that he needs to rescue Lily from certain ruin and heads off to London in order to do so.
Lily doesn’t want to be rescued –she just wants to run away, but Alec isn’t having it. He decides she should get married straight away, as having a husband will protect her reputation. Lily doesn’t want to get married either, and most of the book is spent with them not agreeing to disagree on the way to deal with the scandal that is going to get even bigger once the painting is unveiled.
Ms. MacLean has tried to do something interesting with her protagonists, which is why the book gets 3 stars and not less. We’re told that Lily is the most beautiful woman on the planet, but it’s clear that her beauty has not brought her a happy life. Lily was orphaned young, passed from pillar to post and never really cared for with the result that she has spent most of her life being ignored, in spite of her exceptionally good looks. I found it a little difficult to accept that she has never, ever had a friend, but given the fact that young women had such limited choices and that Lily was so overlooked, it’s just about within the realms of possibility that she really had spent her life alone.
Alec is six-and-a-half-feet of big, brawny Scotsman whose mother pretty much rejected him for being too big and too coarse before she died when he was a child. Large hints are dropped throughout the story that the women who find him attractive want him only for one thing – he’s good for a night of raw, lusty sex, but not good enough for anything long-term – which means he’s not good enough for Lovely Lily.
I didn’t connect with either of the principals or feel a connection between them, either. For the first forty percent of the story, Lily is standing up to Alec, defying and running away from him – until suddenly she’s all over him and they’re sucking face and fondling each other in a carriage. There’s no build up or sexual tension beforehand and their verbal exchanges are flat and devoid of any spark or chemistry.
And then there’s the fact that Lily was utterly in love with the bastard who deceived her, but ten days later is in love with Alec. Naturally, she didn’t really know what love was before. And Derek Hawkins – the cad – is such an over the top, one dimensional character that I found myself questioning Lily’s intelligence for falling for him. What we see of him is so ridiculous it’s difficult to understand how she was so taken in by him.
And – I can’t put this off any longer, but the amount of English-bashing in this book got on my nerves very quickly. Alec hates the English – his mother was English and didn’t like Scotland. She abandoned him. All the women who humiliated him were English. England is horrible, it has no redeeming features whatsoever and he hates it. I got the message early on; I didn’t need to be continually beaten over the head with it.
Ms. MacLean writes with her customary skill, and I am still intrigued by the parallels she is drawing in this series between the scandal sheets of old, and today’s celebrity culture; I liked meeting West and Georgiana again, and there’s a very much appreciated cameo from Cross. But otherwise, A Scot in the Dark was a big disappointment and I was so disconnected from it and the characters that I struggled to finish it.