A DESPERATE WOMAN...
The Duke of Herridge was dead. Eighteen months had passed since her husband's sudden, mysterious death, and Emma had kept the knowledge of exactly how he'd died a secret, along with other events she dared not reveal.
At least with Anthony's death she would finally be free. Now all Emma wanted to do was forget the past and adopt a quiet, decorous mode of living that would hopefully allow all the harsh rumors surrounding her to just fade away.
But then her uncle comes to her and declares he has found her another husband, and she will shortly be a married woman again. His pronouncement leaves Emma trembling with dread as she has no desire to be a bride again; marriage had been a hideous experience for her and she didn't ever want to repeat it.
As she sits contemplating what to do about her uncle's decree, lightening flashes in darkness outside the sitting room window; the stormy weather a grim parallel to Emma's turbulent emotions...
She just can't do it, she could not marry again.
She goes to the window and stares into the rainy night; and leaning her head against the glass in despair and desperation she utters a prayer into the darkness beyond, as she had done many times while married to Anthony... Please, God, save me...
When an unfamiliar voice unexpectedly calls out her name, she turns to find a strange man standing in front of an open window across the room. The man was tall, dressed all in black, with striking features and an attractive face one would not easily forget. Her intruder cheekily smiles at her; and then has the audacity to demand the duchess give him the Tulloch Sgàthán so he could return the valuable mirror to its rightful owners.
Emma knew she very much needed a miracle. But God must truly work in mysterious ways, or have a unique sense of humor, if he had sent this handsome, arrogant rogue--the-most-unlikely-knight-in-shining-armor-ever--to come to her rescue.
But luckily for Emma, Ian Hamilton McNair, Scottish Earl of Buchane, and Laird of Trelawny, is no ordinary brigand!
Along with her customary dramatic flair and the smooth, sophisticated writing her readers have come to expect, in her newest historical romance, A HIGHLAND DUCHESS, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Karen Ranney delivers an intricately complex and powerfully stirring emotional tale of the beautiful young Duchess of Herridge... A woman who'd been traumatized during her marriage by the perverted desires of a husband who had forced her to endure acts of depravity guaranteed to crush the spirit, and defeat even the sturdiest of souls.
And it's also the story of Lord Ian McNair, an intelligent and well regarded man of science. A man who upon meeting the Duchess is mesmerized by Emma's beauty--by expressive eyes that fascinated him, and spoke of untold secrets hidden in their blue depths. They revealed a strong woman of intelligence and wry humor, along with glimpses of darker, more painful emotions she struggled to hide. Ian doesn't care about the rumors surrounding the woman they call the Ice Queen. But can he convince Emma that he'll never hurt her? That he only wants to be the man that melts the ice around her heart, eases her pain, and helps her to heal. Beyond that, he's determined to be the only man she turns to for comfort, for the safety and sanctuary found in his strong, protective arms... and for the fiery passion in his tender, loving touch.
I loved Ian and felt he was a deliciously charismatic hero. He's a man great of intelligence, and a dependable, responsible, and undeniably honorable man. I liked that he was inquisitive by nature and eager to gain knowledge about the workings of the world around him and studied the biological sciences to help people. That he was smart and playfully roguish, added to his appeal, and fortunately, he was a much better scientist than a thief. He penetrated the barriers Emma had erected around her heart and mind with his offer of friendship, with a willingness to listen, to understand, and not to judge her, for the actions of her husband. And from Ian's personal dilemma, we also learn that when you don't love someone ... sometimes the greatest kindness you can do for them, is not doing what some people consider the honorable thing. Especially if by doing it you open that person up to a lifetime of emotional heartache, knowing their love isn't returned.
And I loved how the author gradually built up the sexual tension between Ian and Emma as their attraction and desire for each other grew. It felt extremely honest and believable, and the love scenes were both thrilling and intensely sensual.
Karen Ranney is a supremely accomplished writer and consummate storyteller. She crafts deeply emotional stories that are always engaging, passionate, and utterly romantic, and her poignant, inspiring and ever hopeful themes are guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings. She also has a remarkable ability to seamlessly weave relevant historical data into a thoroughly compelling and eloquent told narrative. In A Highland Duchess, the author delves into the darker underside of Victorian life and morals in a way that is insightful, penetrating and fascinating; by subtly revealing that society's secrets, rumors and innuendo for the unpleasant and disgraceful truths they sometimes were. It essentially challenges the widely popular view that Victorian culture was exclusively characterized by strong moral principles, propriety, personal restraint, family values and excessive formality. A closer look at history tells us that wasn't always the case.
I thought Emma was a superbly drawn character. She was tired of being the Duchess of Herridge, of being the cold dispassionate Ice Queen, though that was what had helped her survive, but she wanted to wipe the memories of it all from her mind... and be simply Emma the woman. And she wanted to feel healthy, honest desire and fiery passion for a man, for Ian, and to be a willing participant in their love making without any regrets, or the terrible shame and humiliation she suffered through with Anthony's lewd debaucheries.
I felt so much compassion for her, I wanted to cry for the heartache and misery she'd suffered. Her story gives you a hint of what life may truly have been like in the 1860's for woman, and how they were at the complete mercy of their fathers or husbands or uncles or brothers. Life was not always all pleasantries and tea parties for women, even the wealthy ones.
This is a story of two good, decent and honorable people, who were brought together by an extraordinary twist of fate. In the beginning they were two wholly different people... Emma was a wounded Duchess hiding from life, and Ian, a scientist who embraced life in all its wonder and glory. But together they'll learn that love truly can mend a broken heart... and... "WHEN THE HEART WAS OPENED TO LOVE, LIFE CHANGED."
This is a richly detailed, wonderful story... Highly Recommended!
Some other recommended books by Karen Ranney: Sold to a Laird,A Scotsman in Love, Scottish Brides, Tapestry Till Next We Meet, Unlikely Governess, An (Avon Romantic Treasure) ... and anything else by this author is a good read.