She won’t be tamed.
A fiery, unconventional Scot, Adaira Ferguson wears breeches, swears, and has no more desire to marry than she does to follow society’s dictates of appropriate behavior. She trusts no man with the secret she desperately protects.
He can’t forget.
Haunted by his past, Roark, The Earl of Clarendon, rigidly adheres to propriety, holding himself and those around him to the highest standards, no matter the cost. Betrayed once, he’s guarded and leery of all women.
Mistaking Roark for a known spy, Adaira imprisons him. Infuriated, he vows vengeance. Realizing her error, she’s appalled and releases him, but he’s not satisfied with his freedom. Roark is determined to transform Adaira from an ill-mannered hoyden to a lady of refinement.
Publisher and Release Date: Soul Mate Publishing, May 2014
Time and Setting: Regency era Scotland and England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
Adaira Ferguson is a wee bit out of control. The younger sister of Ewan, the Earl of Sethwick (hero of Highlander’s Hope), she is impulsive, reckless, and has grown up mostly indulged by her large and loving family. Initially, she comes across as very immature but I believe she represents the anger and unfairness that many women of her time often felt living under the power of a world run by men. She longs for the freedom to be herself at all times but, as the sister of a peer in nineteenth century Scotland, she cannot. She must adhere to her station and all the strictures and expectations that come with that privilege. She’s a completely free spirit and these rules confine and frustrate her to no end.
Roark, the Earl of Clarendon, is Yvette’s (heroine of Highlander’s Hope) stepbrother, who is visiting Sethwick’s estate in Scotland after Yvette’s recent marriage. Adaira, dressed as a boy in comfortable breeches when she meets Roark in town, mistakenly believes he’s Edgar, his nefarious brother, who is suspected of murdering their parents and who was once cruel to Yvette. She comes up with the harebrained scheme (with the help of her oafish childhood friend, Brayan, who harbors an unrequited crush on her) to capture Roark and hold him in the family dungeon. Completely insane! Instead of going directly to her father, she takes matters into her own hands and it’s a total disaster. This part of the book is almost farcical and I almost shook my head at Adaira’s crazy scheme. Roark’s experiences in the dungeon are not for the faint of heart and this part of the book is a little too dark and realistic for my taste.
Roark recognizes Adaira’s fiery nature and, while beguiled and charmed by it, he’s also mature enough to realize that she is headed for disaster unless she reins in some of her spark. But he likes her enough to want to help her cope with her gender’s limitations at the same time he is attracted to her beauty and her freshness and zest for living life.
In retribution for her rash actions, Adaira’s parents and family agree to Roark’s terms. Instead of pressing charges against her for kidnapping a peer of the realm, he requires that she become a proper lady. This is like a death knell to her and, for the first time, she feels helpless at her fate. These moments in the story are very poignant and well portrayed and they actually made me soften toward her. Yes, she’s hasty, foolhardy, and childish, but she’s also very passionate and kind-hearted. She loves her family and her horse passionately and is a knowledgeable horse breeder, something considered improper for a young lady of her era. She’s a woman in the early nineteenth century and, for a woman of her spirit, it’s not a fun place to be. However, she is of good family so she is not alone in the world and she also has money. I think in Victorian times she might have been banished to Bedlam for her impetuousness.
It took me around half the book before I could warm to Adaira. But, to Ms Cameron’s credit, I could see her mature gradually before my eyes. And this story really seems more her story than Roark’s as we don’t get as much information from his point of view. He’s a widower with an occasional mistress and he has a kind heart. He, too, holds painful secrets from his past close to his heart. Oh, and he has this funny quirk where he sometimes speaks his thoughts aloud. This last brings some humorous moments to the story along with Adaira’s antics.
The sexual tension between Adaira and Roark is nicely conveyed and I especially like how Roark falls in love with who Adaira is rather than what he thinks he wants her to be. Adaira falls in love with his kindness and his thoughtful understanding of her strong and willful nature.
I feel some of the secondary characters are a bit over the top in their villainy and the extreme measures they undertake: Brayan, Adaira’s misguided childhood friend; Roark’s spurned mistress, Hélène, with her ample assets hoping for a marriage proposal; Hélène’s seedy Austrian cousins, the count who always looks at Adaira lasciviously and Friedrich, who abuses his dog. And I don’t quite understand why the Scots in this series use French expressions. Am I missing something?
Overall, this book is mostly well-written, though there is a slight overuse of slang. It moves along at a nice pace and is much tighter than Ms Cameron’s debut, whose action it slightly overlaps. Though the third book by Ms Cameron set in the same time period, place, and with recurring characters, the three books are not listed as a series. I liked both Adaira and Roark very much and I cared enough about the story to follow it to its inevitable and satisfying happy ending.