Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review: A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean

Title: A Scot in the Dark
Series: Scandal & Scoundrel #2
Author: Sarah MacLean
Release date: August 30, 2016
Cliffhanger: No
Rating: 3.5 stars


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...

Historical romance fans, I have a confession: this is my first book by Sarah MacLean. I know, I know. Shocking! I've really moved away from the genre for the most part, but I was looking for an author that I could explore and get me more integrated into reading it more. My first impression was a good one. While I didn't love this particular story, I liked it and I did see the talent in her storytelling.

I think my main issue was not seeing some real development in the progression of antagonistic ward and guardian to two people who were deeply in love. For me at least, I wasn't able to feel much for them as a couple when I wasn't shown significant reasons why Lily suddenly moved her feelings to a new man.

After falling head over heels for a really contemptible artist who used and publicly ruined her in the worst way, it doesn't take her long to feel so desperate for another man that she throws herself at him. When you think about the shame she's currently feeling for the public scorn she is enduring, I can't help but feel doubt that she would risk history repeating itself. There was absolutely no encouragement on his part to show her that he returned her feelings. Aside from some brief physical things that happened between them, he consistently tried to keep his distance from her.

He was her guardian. She was his ward. And English at that. She was not for him.

Which brings me to a second thing that didn't sit well with me. Alec (like Lily) is the product of many years of being conditioned to think that he was worthless. Both having their own reasons for being lonely and yearning to feel a close connection to another, they were drawn to what they saw mirrored in each other. Alec especially, had low self-esteem. Throughout the book, it's clear that a part of his past leaves him ashamed and feeling unworthy of Lily's love. It was a constant thing seeing him express how she could never be for him, he was just a beastly Scottish brute. In the end, it really felt repetitive and I didn't need it driven home quite so much.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the book was the author's lovely style of writing. There were so many quotes that I found beautiful and had to highlight. It's so richly romantic and with the right set of characters, I could easily see myself falling in love with one of her books.

Alec made her feel as though she was the sun, hot and bright at the center of a universe. His universe.

He kissed her like she was air. Like she was all he'd ever wanted. Like she was temptation and sin and he could not stop himself.

I found the themes she explored in the book to be worthwhile and very relevant for the time period as well as relatable to modern day. The sexual double standard of men and women is something that is still going strong. Men, able to sleep with whomever they wish, whenever they want. While women are seen in a completely different light. As well, she wrote a heroine who wasn't a damsel in distress. She didn't want to be rescued. Rather, she took a stand and resolved her own problems. She had a strength of character and courage that I really admired.

Of course, she was the instrument of her own saving. She was magnificent enough to save herself and the world in the balance. If only she could save him as well.

While I wasn't quite a believer in their romance and I didn't completely love it, I still found things that I appreciated and am looking forward to checking out more of this author's work.


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