It can be fun to throw the rules of historical romance out the window every so often. Sometimes, the heroine doesn’t have to be a virgin or a widow. Sometimes, it’s a man’s sexual history that can cause shame. Sometimes, it’s not a title that can determine who is most worthy. Sarah MacLean knows this. And that’s a big part of what made me enjoy this story. It also helped that I love Beauty and the Beast stories and MacLean is one of my favorite historical authors.
As the story begins, Lillian is in a world of trouble. She’s grown up as a ward of one absent duke after another, and it’s left her starved for attention and affection. So when a handsome artist dubbed her his muse, she allowed herself to think that she finally found someone she could call her own. And in her naivete’, she agreed to pose for a nude that he promised the world would never see. He lied. Now he has announced to society that his masterpiece will be revealed in just two weeks, and then Lily’s shame will be more public than she ever dreamed possible.
No one ever thought Alec would become a duke. The Scotsman was 17th in line for the title, but somehow, the dukedom found its way to his door, along with news of his ward’s scandal. Taking his responsibilities seriously, Alec heads to London to save Lily’s reputation, having no idea that ultimately she would be the one who saves him.
You see, Alec is big and gorgeous, but nothing like a conventional Englishman. He’s been called brutish and beastly so long that he actually believes it. Even as he begins to fall for Lily –and she for him– he never thinks himself good enough for her. It’s seriously one of my favorite tropes. But there’s an extra layer here. Remember, Lily has never had anyone truly love her. Anyone she cared for… left. And while as readers, we know Alec’s issues about his worthiness come from how he reveres her, to Lily, he’s just another person who doesn’t want to stay in her life.
I liked Alec a lot, even though his insecurities did frustrate me toward the end. Once he revealed his backstory, though, it was totally impossible not to forgive him. I loved how he respected Lily, how he defended her… and how he could look at her lovingly crafted baby boots and know what she needed. I liked Lily, too. She really evolves over the course of the story –and her bravery at the end is pretty fantastic.
There were a few times where I wanted to shake Alec when his selflessness was causing more harm than good. But overall, I really enjoyed the story. (It’s part of MacLean’s Scandal and Scoundrel series, but it holds up just fine as a standalone.)
*ARC provided by publisher
Click to purchase: Amazon
A Scot in the Dark
by Sarah MacLean
Release Date: August 30, 2016