The Lover is a Scottish Highland historical romance novel that centers on two allied clans. Niall McLaren, the hero, is the laird of a very strong and powerful clan. Niall has a prominent image of a fair laird who carries a lot of influence and commands respect. While Niall is well known as this authoritative laird, he also carries a second reputation as a notorious rogue. Niall had not expected to be laird of his clan. He had spent most of his years in pursuit of other financial endeavors and more infamously as a lover to many women. Six months ago his older brother, laird of the McLaren clan, died tragically and Niall had come home to take the leadership of his family's clan.
Sabrina Duncan is very satisfied with her life as a lowlander living in the city of Edinburgh. She resides with her stepfather who is a very wealthy merchant. Sabrina spends her time assisting her stepfather in business matters and tolerates a rather boring but necessary social life. Sabrina had lived in the Highlands until her father's death at the age of four. Shortly after his death, Sabrina's mother remarries and they both move to Edinburgh with her new stepfather. She has not returned to the Highlands in all of the years since although she realizes she is the only descendent of her grandfather who is laird of the Duncan clan.
Sabrina is summoned to come immediately to the Highlands to see her grandfather. He is on his deathbed and insists on seeing his granddaughter and only heir. When Sabrina arrives at her grandfather's home, she soon discovers that he has arranged a marriage for her with the laird of the McLaren clan. She has absolutely no desire for this marriage. Not only does she dislike the idea of leaving her life in Edinburgh but she also doesn't want an arranged marry without love and commitment. And Sabrina knows a lot about the reputation of her future husband, Niall, and does not want the unfaithful rogue for her spouse. Niall is also opposed to the marriage but the Laird Duncan asserts that the marriage is absolutely necessary to save his clan once he dies. There is no male Duncan strong enough to lead the clan and Niall will be laird of both the McLaren and Duncan clans once the marriage has occurred. Since the two clans are extremely close allies, Niall grudgingly accepts the fact that they could lose one of their most important allies if the Duncan leadership is weak and taken over by one of the enemy clans.
From the beginning pages, Niall is just too much of a rogue for me to like his character much. He hopes to shame Sabrina into breaking the betrothal by carousing with other women in front of her. He blatantly informs her that he will not be faithful to her as her husband. He does not consider fidelity as even a possibility once he marries. I found the story a little lacking at this point. Although it was very entertaining reading, Niall was just too mean during this portion of the tale. Actually, he is very thoughtless throughout the book on this subject of fidelity. Oh, he is the handsome laird of the McLaren clan with much to offer a wife - other than faithfulness. But Sabrina fully realizes what she is getting in a husband and doesn't like it but is too proud to let him see her true feelings on the matter.
Sabrina is a great heroine. She is determined to remain with Niall - no matter what and begins fulfilling her role as the laird's wife almost immediately once they are married. She proves to be very good at working with the clan members and truly holds them in high regard and treats all of them with respect. I liked her throughout the book with the exception of the ending where she treats Niall so horribly that it is totally out of character. Oh, he really deserves this treatment but it did not ring true to Sabrina's personality.
Although there is a slight mystery or two playing out in the background of Niall and Sabrina's romance, their romance covers most of the pages in the book. That is one thing I really enjoy about Jordan's books. She can make a long book very interesting while centering the majority of the attention on the leads' relationship. At times, this writing was very intense and I found myself incensed with Niall's behavior more than once. I was actually in tears at one point because of his treatment of Sabrina. But, please don't get the idea that this book is all about Niall's shabby treatment of Sabrina. Throughout the book, Niall is finding himself more and more fascinated with Sabrina. He discovers that he WANTS to be faithful to her and, as we so often see in these emotionally immature heroes, he feels he must prove his new desire for fidelity is foolish. He is constantly fighting his deep feelings for Sabrina. And Sabrina does not allow Niall to mistreat her. She may be subdued in her actions towards him but is certainly assertive and will not allow him to run over her.
A few major occurrences really increase the intensity of the story but I cannot say more without giving away too much of the book. Before the end of the book, Niall is on the receiving end of Sabrina's wrath, as mentioned earlier. He undoubtedly merited this ill treatment. I relished him receiving his comeuppance. But once again, just as I believed the author wrote Sabrina out of character in the extent of her revenge towards Niall, I also believe Niall is written out of character in those same scenes. He is just too much of a rascal at heart to be so subdued and accepting of her ill treatment. It somewhat emasculates him.
Overall, this is a highly enjoyable read and I did not want to put the book down. It had a few overused plot lines such as the mean rogue and the embittered heroine. But Jordan knows well how to write these characters and I delighted in this tale of a tough, desirable hero and a smart, endearing heroine. It had just enough of a mystery to be truly interesting without dragging us through page after page of worthless mystery writing. The sensual scenes are a 4.5 out 5.0 (see More About Me for rating guidelines). These scenes are somewhat frequent once they begin and are not gratuitous. Jordan does this type of writing very well.
One of the sure signs of a great romance novel, in my opinion, is the amount of time the leads spend together. As I indicated earlier, Niall and Sabrina have a lot of time together - both positively and negatively. This is a fantastic book and is a definite keeper for my Read Again shelf. Nicole Jordan remains firmly one of my favorite authors. I have read all of her books and they nearly all come in at the five star rating level.