Having been sent to Edinburgh to be presented to society in hopes of finding a husband the very wealthy heiress Riona McKinsey has been maneuvered into a most compromising position by a calculating fortune hunter. Using Riona's love for her family as a weapon to threaten scandal and ruin upon her she grudgingly agrees to a betrothal and marriage with the odious greedy suitor.
Her mother, Susanna, had sent a plea to her friend Fergus MacRae to see if he could help her figure a way out of the mess Riona had fallen into. Fergus couldn't come but sent his nephew James MacRae as his emissary. Once Susanna, saw James she concocted a scheme to have him spend time at her estate half hoping that an attraction would happen between Riona and James. Naturally, as they try to ignore the attraction - James being honorable realizing that she was betrothed and Riona having committed herself to a betrothal and trying to honor her agreement to save her family from scandal, the inevitable happens and they fall in love.
I have to say that I've read all of Karen Ranney's novels to date and have been most satisfied up until now. Her prose of course, is outstanding and you get all warm and fuzzy as these two fall in love - James being the more poetically sensitive of the MacRae brothers, but the plot really does not make sense. Once the mother had agreed to her daughters sacrifice betrothal what on earth did she hope to accomplish by maneuvering her daughter and James into a lustful encounter? But more importantly, knowing what a toad her betrothed was for manipulating her into a compromising position, and Riona being portrayed as an independent and resourceful daughter - what difference did it make which scandal would be worse - the Riona breaking off a forced betrothal with a man she despised - or running off to Gretna Green with a man who was her love and kindred spirit? Never mind that Riona was supposedly doing it all for her sweet sister so that the sister could marry the man she was in love with. Why didn't the sister see how miserable Riona was being forced into marrying someone she did not love? The secondary plot of someone trying to kill James was not of primary importance to the plot and was dealt with rather haphazardly and used, I believe, as a vehicle solely to put James and Riona in a compromising position.
I am sorry to say that the third book of Highland Lords series just did not live up to my expectations of a Karen Ranney novel especially after having read everything else she has written plus the first two books of the series that had much more excitement and sensuality to them. She did manage to pull off the ending so I did not rate this so much by the weakness of the plot as I did by her exquisite prose - Rating a 3 would have been too low but with no 1/2 points in this rating system I am giving it a 4*.