Synopsis from back cover: Catriona is aghast to learn that her guardian's will decrees that she must marry Richard Cynster...within the week! How could the proud Scottish lass possibly consent to a union with the English rake they call “Scandal”, a masterful man with a deplorable reputation? It is true his commanding presence charms her, his heated kisses excite her --- and the mysterious Lady of the Vale whom she serves has prophesied that they will wed. But Catriona will never give up her independence!
Richard is equally stunned by the will's command, since marriage was not on his agenda. But lately he's been feeling strangely restless –- and perhaps taming the exquisite lady is just the challenge he needs. He burns for Catriona – but can he entice her into the marriage bed without making any binding and revealing promises of love?
And when passion and love are truly destined, can even the most stubborn of hearts resist?
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Avon Books, 1999.
How acquired: Book Mooch
First line: She'd never had a vision like it before.
My thoughts: From the very beginning I was a little thrown by the slight supernatural aspect. The heroine, Catriona, is a healer, and mistress of a small vale, that apparently is so remote it's existence isn't even known to many. Catriona and her mentor, Algaria, are disciples of the mystical Lady of the Vale, whom she and her tenants all worship. The vale and its lands have always been held and ruled by a woman, and therefore the mistress cannot marry a strong man who will try to take over. When Catriona has a disturbing vision of a man, it occurs to her he might be the man the Lady intends for her to wed.
Catriona's guardian, Seamus, passes away, and she is summoned to his estate for the reading of his will. Richard Cynster, aka Scandal, has also been summoned to the estate, his connection being that his birth mother was the deceased wife of Catriona's guardian. Catriona is shocked to recognize him from her vision, and distressed when, after appealing to the Lady for further guidance, she is told “He will father your children”.
Then comes the next shock. The will states that Richard must agree to marry Catriona, or the entire estate will be left to the church, leaving Seamus' own children and grandchildren homeless and penniless. The solicitor informs them that he will return in one week for Richard's answer.
I'm not sure why that supernatural aspect with the divine Lady bothered me. Maybe because the first two books had nothing of the sort in them, so it just kind of came out of left field for me.
I liked Richard well enough. Once he decided he wanted Catriona, he went after her singlemindedly. She, on the other hand, fought hard to avoid him. She decided that since the Lady only told her he would father her children and did not specifically say he would be her husband, she could simply get with child, and then go back to her vale and leave Richard none the wiser. How to do that? Drug him three nights in a row, slip into his room, have sex with him, and slip out before he awakens the next morning. It was, in my opinion, a stupid idea, and while it initially worked well enough, of course Richard was smart enough to figure out something was going on.
Once they are married and settled back in Catriona's vale, there was a Huge Misunderstanding, since neither of them could talk openly and honestly to the other. Catriona was determined that she would continue to run the vale by herself, leaving Richard to wander around and be bored. He had vowed that he would not interfere with her duties, so even when he was sure he could help her with something that she struggled with, he kept his thoughts to himself, afraid to say anything without being asked lest she interpret his intentions the wrong way. It was one of those typical situations where you want to slap both of them and yell “talk to each other!”.
I'm not sure if I like this entry in the series more or less than the the first book, but the second book is definitely still my favorite so far. And while I didn't love this, I have collected almost the entire series, and will continue with the next book, eventually.