Scandal & Scoundrel #2
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Lonesome Lily Turned Scandalous Siren
Miss Lillian Hargrove has lived much of her life alone in a gilded cage, longing for love and companionship. When an artist offers her pretty promises and begs her to pose for a scandalous portrait, Lily doesn't hesitate...until the lying libertine leaves her in disgrace. With the painting now public, Lily has no choice but to turn to the one man who might save her from ruin.
Highland Devil turned Halfhearted Duke
The Duke of Warnick loathes all things English, none more so than the aristocracy. It does not matter that the imposing Scotsman has inherited one of the most venerable dukedoms in Britain—he wants nothing to do with it, especially when he discovers that the unwanted title comes with a troublesome ward, one who is far too old and far too beautiful to be his problem.
Tartan Comes to Town
Warnick arrives in London with a single goal: get the chit married and see her become someone else's problem, then return to a normal, quiet life in Scotland. It's the perfect plan, until Lily declares she'll only marry for love...and the Scot finds that there is one thing in England he likes far too much...
Sarah MacLean's historical romances never disappoint, and we are again treated to her outstanding characterization in A Scot in the Dark as a vaguely Beauty and the Beast-esque pairing delights from beginning to end.
Aside from the fact that Lily's beauty is a bit overstated, coming up time and again throughout, she herself is only aware of it on the periphery, as something people say about her as though she's not flesh and blood but rather a set of symmetrical features perfectly placed to aesthetically pleasing results. She's neither fixated on her looks nor bolstered by them, instead we find ourselves faced with a young woman at her most vulnerable thanks to the charms of manipulative artist and a society that thrives on a double standard. Though she's lived an extraordinarily solitary life and is facing a scandal that has all of London foaming at the mouth, she refuses to allow Alec to walk all over her when he arrives to "handle" her predicament. She stands her ground when he seeks to hand her off to any titled man in desperate need of a substantial dowry, puts him in his place when necessary, and keeps her head up when the whispering and pointed looks follow her at any public function.
Alec plays a rather classic role in terms of romance heroes, convinced he's not worthy of Lily once he realizes he's attracted to her and willing to push her away at every turn in order to save her from sullying herself further with him. Despite that familiar trait though, he's still big, brawny, and of course Scottish, a lethal combination when it comes to making us swoon, and watching as his path paved with good intentions leads him to hell in the form of a fiery redhead who knows what she wants is nothing short of glorious.
Overall, A Scot in the Dark is a fun follow-up to The Rogue Not Taken, a beautifully vulnerable lead pair ensuring we're emotionally invested in their story, and the infamous Talbot sisters proving themselves to be scene-stealers in their secondary roles as we look forward to one of them stepping into the limelight next.