Scotland, 1812: He’s ferocious and rugged to the bone, an English soldier more at home on the battlefield than in any Society drawing room. And when Major Gabriel Forrester learns that he’s inherited the massive Scottish Highlands title and estate of a distant relation, the last thing he wants to do is give up the intensity of the battlefield for the too-soft indulgences of noble life. But Gabriel Forrester does not shirk his responsibilities, and when he meets striking, raven-eyed lass Fiona Blackstock, his new circumstances abruptly become more intriguing.
Like any good Highlander, Fiona despises the English—and the new Duke of Lattimer is no exception. Firstly, he is far too attractive for Fiona’s peace of mind. Secondly, his right to “her” castle is a travesty, since it’s been clan Maxwell property for ages. As the two enter a heated battle of wills, an unexpected passion blazes into a love as fierce as the Highlands themselves. Is Fiona strong enough to resist her enemy’s advances—or is Gabriel actually her hero in disguise?
Source: egalley from the publisher, St. Martins, for review purposes. Thanks!
Gabriel is shocked to discover that he’s inherited a dukedom. All he’s ever wanted or needed was to be a soldier in the English army, and he’s good at it, but Dukes don’t fight in wars. He’s never imagined that he would be in the position to be a part of polite society, nor does he want it, but regardless, he’s now in charge of several properties, including a castle and ten thousand acres of land in Scotland.
Fiona Blackstock has been the steward of Lattimer Castle since her brother ran off. She’s good at what she does and she has the men of Clan Maxwell doing her bidding and helping her to keep the castle and the people attached to the property prosperous.
When Gabriel shows up unexpectedly and lays claim to Lattimer, Fiona makes it her mission to run him off from the property, just like they did the former duke, who hadn’t returned to Lattimer in the last 20 years.
Geez, this was such a fun book. I am a big fan of Suzanne Enoch, who writes great romances set in Scotland. Gabriel and Fiona are immediately attracted to each other and that attraction turns to hate when they realize that they’re at cross purposes. I loved that Fiona was not some blushing English rose, but a tough, capable Scottish Lass more than willing to get her hands dirty and do whatever it takes to keep the status quo for herself and her relatives and the people who depend on and live on the land.
Gabriel was also a breath of fresh air. He didn’t grow up being catered to and pampered, he has worked hard to get where he is in the army and he doesn’t want to leave it. It was fun to read about him being uncomfortable in his new role and trying to get used to his new role.
The chemistry between Gabriel and Fiona is immediately clear, from their first meeting, which was pretty funny. It was easy to fall for both of them and made for a quick read and a very enjoyable story.
For a moment she considered going back into the storage room and pulling some more of the strings, after all. Something was bound to frighten him. She’d like nothing better than to see him fleeing shirtless into the night— and only because shirtless meant he’d panicked. Not because he looked fi t and muscular and she hadn’t minded at all taking a gander at him, scars and all. No, that would be ridiculous. Her, thinking carnal thoughts about a Sassenach simply because he thought them about her.
As she’d said, they needed to make certain that this duke would leave of his own accord and, just as importantly, never wish to return. His arrival had set the household— and the countryside—on its ear, and yes, that seemed to be her fault. She’d decided not to let a nose- in- the- air solicitor order her about, and apparently that had consequences. She should have known better, but no one had bothered to be concerned about Lattimer until the old duke’s death had revealed that his own solicitors hadn’t done their jobs. Her lack of cooperation, though, meant that no one had felt it necessary to inform her either that a new duke had been found, or that he was heading north for a visit.
First thing in the morning she needed to go speak with Oscar Ritchie. The head groom at least knew of Major Forrester, which was more than she or anyone else she’d encountered could claim. The more information she had, the easier it would be to form a strategy to be rid of the new duke before he could make things worse than they already were. Before he could kiss her again and she forgot how much she was supposed to dislike him.
Finally she shut herself inside her own bedchamber and sank into the chair set before the fi replace. The room sat only four doors down from Lattimer’s, and while she would have preferred to be farther away, this room had been hers since her second birthday— which had coincided with old Lattimer’s exit. Aside from that, she wanted to be close enough to hear if any trouble should raise its head.
Her mind centered on how to best be rid of this large, troublesome Englishman, and her drifting thoughts swirled about a fresh bullet scar on a muscular arm, an assessing pair of light gray eyes, and a mouth that seemed almost cruel until he grinned. And when he kissed her . . . Now she didn’t know whether to fall asleep and dream about him, or stay awake to think about him all night. Blast it all.
Gabriel pushed aside the heavy curtains, then stilled with his hands gripping the green, linen- lined silk. “Good God,” he breathed, his bare feet, the chill in the air, the rumbling hunger in his stomach, all forgotten.
Before him, stretching out over perhaps half a hundred miles, lay the Scottish Highlands. The land directly beyond Lattimer’s formal gardens sloped off gently to the shore of a vast blue lake that curved to the east out of sight beyond a cluster of tumbled ruins on the rocky bank. Trees edged down to the western shore and up the hill beyond, with patches of purple heather and thistle carpeting open meadows. Beyond the lake, rough, rock- tumbled hills lifted into craggy white mountains which stood starkly silhouetted by the rising sun.
Of all the places he’d been in the world, of all the things he’d seen, this . . . humbled him. Belatedly two things occurred to him: he didn’t know the name of the lake, and most of what he could see belonged to him.
He’d known since he’d first donned a uniform that he was made for war. The idea of people trying to kill him, the violence, the cold and the heat, the long days of battle and the longer nights of waiting for the battle to come—he relished the things that broke other men. He was accustomed to responsibility and command, but owning land, being responsible for people who carried rakes and hoes rather than muskets and rifles, fell so far out of his realm of expertise he couldn’t even sight it over the horizon.
Gabriel took a slow breath. He knew battle. And Lattimer had just become his battleground. If he looked at it that way, the castle was his command tent. The Highlands was his battlefield, and the Highlanders were either his troops, or the enemy’s. In the next few days he would have to decide which, and then act based on that fact. As he turned to finish dressing, he caught sight of a lone figure strolling through the garden in the direction of the stables. Even with a heavy coat and a sturdy hat jammed low on her dusky hair, he recognized Fiona Blackstock. From that attire she was either dressed to go riding, or to rob a mail coach. Though the latter would certainly be an interesting twist, he had to assume she meant to trot off somewhere out of his reach.
Every good victory came with a prize, and she would be his. That didn’t mean, however, that he was going to let her make more trouble while she was here. If she thought riding out early would keep her clear of him or give her the opportunity to gather reinforcements, she didn’t know him at all. In addition, somewhere between the mudhole and the drawing room she’d learned his name, and before he’d given it to her. Someone here knew him, and he needed to figure out who that was. Not because he had anything to hide, but because this campaign looked to be about strategy and leverage. He needed to know who stood on the field of battle.
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