There are still a few romance writers that I still enjoy these days, who can turn out a novel that goes a bit farther than a lot of billing and cooing in various historical costumes and settings. One of the more critical aspects for me is to have a heroine and hero who actually matter -- I'm not talking about social status or any of that fluff, but rather that they have distinct characters and motivations to them. Otherwise, a novel will just fall flat and be very forgettable.
Lady Venetia Campbell is the only child of the Earl of Duncannon. While she was born in Scotland, she has only dim memories of the place, and has spent most of her life in London. And despite several offers of marriage, she has refused them all -- she wants to marry someone that will care for her herself, not the wealth that she can provide. When the opportunity comes to visit Edinburgh during the festivities for the visit of King George IV, Venetia eagerly takes the opportunity to go.
But little does she know that she's about to become a pawn for revenge. There are rumors that the Scottish Scourge is dead, but others claim that the notorious highwayman is still about. When Venetia meets a strapping, handsome Highlander in his regimentals at a masked ball, she can hardly resist the charm that he seems to have. That will quickly change when he has the audacity to kidnap her.
Soon enough she finds out that her abductor is a friend of her childhood -- Sir Lachlan Ross -- and he has quite a quarrel with her father, the earl. Enough to where he demands a hefty ransom for her return. What he didn't count on was that Venetia would be enticing and spirited, and more than a match for him.
How all of this comes to a resolution is what keeps this a page turner. The romance between Lachlan and Venetia is one of equals, and the heroine gives just as good as she gets, with enough fire between them to set a forest ablaze. There are plenty of complications to move the story along, with several dark family secrets, real reasons for the hero to have his plot for revenge, and plenty of actual detail for the reader to think about, and give the story a believable base.
In fact, it's the extra details that Sabrina Jeffries brings to the story that sold it to me. In 1822, King George IV made a visit to Scotland, where the events were organized by none other than Sir Walter Scott (the former Prince Regent was very fond of his novels), and the wearing of tartan and what customs we think of as Scottish today were introduced. The visit was wildly popular. Sadly, however, the custom of Scottish landlords evicting the tenant farmers from their lands to introduce sheep farming was also wildly popular -- the devastating results of this can still be seen in Scotland today, and how it came to be that so many people in the United States and Canada have Scottish ancestry. Another interesting subplot involves the art of distilling whiskey. Most of this is covered in the author's afterword.
This was a fun read, perfect for light reading and a pair of lovers that have both charm and plenty of spirit to them. An excerpt from Jeffries' next novel is provided as well. In any case, this one is going to be kept, always a positive factor for me.
Four stars overall. Recommended.