by Sarah MacLean
Series: Scandal and Scoundrel #2
Genres: Historical Fiction
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
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...
A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean is the second novel in her Scandal & Scoundrel series. Filled with banter and snark A Scott in the Dark delivered a delicious romp.
A Café au Drambuie review of A Scot in the Dark
A Café au Drambuie is a Scottish coffee. To prepare you will need a heated wine glass. Add 3 dessertspoons of Drambuie Whiskey and stir in one level dessertspoon of light brown sugar. Add fresh strong coffee leaving about an inch of glass exposed below the rim. Stir until sugar dissolves. Next place teaspoon upside down over glass and slowly pour double cream over spoon so that it floats on the surface. Enjoy! Today I am breaking my review down into these ingredients. Like the beverage MacLean has mixed the perfect blend.
- Drambuie Whiskey: A scandal surrounding a scandalous portrait involving one Miss Lillian Hargrove has the Duke of Warnick, a Scot unwilling traveling to London to set things right. Ooo MacLean creates the most colorful characters and from the very first pages, I was quite smitten with both. The tale that unfolds brings laughter, banter, snark, and an attraction that befuddles them both. It was exquisite.
- Light Brown Sugar: The thread regarding the painting and the pompous painter added some suspense and the twist MacLean delivered made me grin. I loved the added notes from the author sharing what inspired this story.
- Strong Coffee: Warnick seeks to marry of Lily and resolve himself of this pesky problem only Lily has other ideas. As these two butted heads, and began to tango, I found myself laughing aloud. Even Warnick’s dogs seem to be betraying him. While I never had any doubt how this tale would play out, MacLean added twists, discoveries, and games to keep me flipping the pages. Friends of the Duke and characters from previous books offer advice and befriend Lily. Of course they also had great fun watching these two fall.
- Double cream: A Scot in the Dark had all the elements I love in a romance. First, the characters were flawed, strong, and clever .As MacLean revealed their flaws, I fell completely. The romance had a slow build as we watched them struggle with passionate thoughts. Stolen moments led to heat that melted my kindle. I loved that Lily knew what she wanted and seeing our Scot fall was sinful.
A Scot in the Dark was pure delight. I always find escape when I open one of MacLean’s books and cannot wait for the next!
Read the Prologue
ONE DOZEN DAYS OF DARKNESS AND DEMISE
Bernard Settlesworth, Esquire, believed that name was destiny.
Indeed, as the third in a familial line of solicitors to the aristocracy, it was difficult not to believe such a thing. Bernard took immense pride in his work, which he performed with precision on nearly every day of the year. After all, he would tell himself, the British aristocracy was built on the hard work of men such as he. Without the Bernard Settlesworths of the world expertly calculating ledgers and deftly managing enormous estates, the House of Lords would crumble, leaving nothing but dust in the wake of ancient lines and fortunes.
He did the Lord’s work, ensuring the aristocracy remained standing. And solvent.
And though he took pride in all aspects of his work, there was nothing Bernard enjoyed quite so much as meeting with new inheritors, for it was in those moments that the Settlesworth name was best put to work—settling worth.
Bernard enjoyed this part best, that is, until tragedy struck the Dukedom of Warnick.
Two marquesses. Six different earls and baronets. A landed gentleman and his three sons. A vicar. A ship’s captain. A hatter. A horse breeder. And a duke.
Lost to a spate of tragedies that included, but was not limited to, a carriage accident, a hunting mishap, a robbery gone wrong, a drowning in the Thames, an unfortunate incident with influenza, and a truly unsettling incident with a cormorant.
Seventeen dukes, if he were honest, Bernard supposed—all dead. All within the span of a fortnight.
It was a turn of events—seventeen turns of events—unheard of in British history. But Bernard was nothing if not dedicated, even more so when it fell to him to play protector to such an old and venerable title, to its vast lands (made vaster by the rapid, successive death of seventeen men, many of whom died without issue), and large fortunes (made larger by the same).
And so it was that he stood in the great stone entryway of Dunworthy Castle in the cold, windy, wild of Scotland, face-to-face with Alec Stuart, once seventeenth in line for the Dukedom of Warnick, now the last known heir to the title.
Face-to-face wasn’t quite accurate. After being greeted by a pretty young woman, Bernard had been left to wait, surrounded by massive tapestries and a handful of ancient weaponry which appeared to have been haphazardly affixed to the wall.
And so he waited.
After three quarters of an hour, two large dogs appeared, bigger than any he’d ever seen, grey and wild. They approached, the movements deceptively lazy. Bernard pressed himself to the stone wall, hoping they would decide to find another, more appetizing victim. Instead, they sat at his feet, wire-haired heads reaching nearly to his chest, grinning up at him, no doubt thinking him quite tasty.
Bernard did not care for it. Indeed, for the first time in his career, he considered the possibility that soliciting was a less than enjoyable profession.
And then the man arrived, looking wilder than the dogs. He was dark-haired and big as a house—Bernard had never seen a man so big—well past six and a half feet, he imagined, with what might have been twenty stone on his broad, muscled frame, and none of it fat. Bernard could tell that bit, because the man wasn’t wearing a shirt.
Indeed, he wasn’t wearing trousers, either.
He was wearing a kilt. And carrying a broadsword.
For a moment, Bernard wondered if he’d traveled through time as well as space on the journey to Scotland. It was, after all, 1831, despite the Scotsman appearing as though he’d arrived via three centuries earlier.
The enormous man ignored him, tossing the sword up onto the wall where it stuck as though by sheer force of its owner’s will. That same owner who then turned his back on Bernard and made to leave.
Bernard cleared his throat, the sound louder than he’d intended in the massive stone space, loud enough for the man to turn and cast a lingering look over the solicitor’s diminutive-in-comparison frame. After a long silence, he said, “Who are you?”
At least, that’s what Bernard thought he said. The words were thick on the man’s tongue, wrapped in brogue.
“I—I—” Bernard collected himself and willed the stutter away despite being surrounded by beasts both human and canine. “I am waiting for an audience with the master of the house.”
The man rumbled, and Bernard imagined the deep sound was amusement. “Careful. These stones shan’t like hearin’ that ye think they’ve a master.”
Bernard blinked. He’d heard tales of mad Scots, but he hadn’t expected to meet one. Perhaps he’d misunderstood in the confusion of rolling Rs and missing syllables. “I beg your pardon.”
The man studied him for a long moment. “Mine or the keep’s?”
“For . . .” Bernard wasn’t sure what to say. He wasn’t apologizing to the castle, was he? He tilted his head. “Is Mr. Stuart here?”
The enormous man rocked back on his heels, and Bernard had the distinct impression that his obvious discomfort was pleasing to the great brute. As though he shouldn’t be the one who was uncomfortable, what with traipsing around the castle half nude. “Aye.”
“I’ve been waiting nearly an hour for him.”
The dogs sensed his irritation and stood, clearly offended by it. Bernard swallowed.
“Angus. Hardy.” Instantly, they retreated to their master’s side.
And it was then that Bernard knew. He looked to the half-naked man across the entryway and said, “You are he.”
“Aye, but we still have nae established who you are.”
“Alec!” A young woman’s voice echoed through the castle. “There’s a man here. Says he’s a solicitor from London!”
The new Duke of Warnick didn’t look away from Bernard as he raised his voice in reply. “He also says he’s been waiting for me for an hour.”
“Seemed nothing good could come of a fancy London solicitor,” the voice sang down. “Why bother you while you were having a spar?”
“Why, indeed,” the Scot replied. “Apologies. My sister does nae care for the English.”
Bernard nodded. “Is there a place we might speak more privately?”
“As I care even less for the English than my sister does,” the duke said, “we needn’t stand on ceremony. You are welcome to state your purpose here and now. And then you may leave.”
Bernard imagined the man’s view of England would change quite a bit once he discovered he’d become a peer of the realm. An exceedingly wealthy one. “Of course. It’s my very great pleasure to tell you that, as of twelve days ago, you are the Duke of Warnick.”
Throughout his career, Bernard had witnessed all manner of response to the reality of inheritance. He’d stood by in the face of devastation of those who had lost beloved fathers, and recognized the eagerness on the face of those with not-so-beloved sires. He’d witnessed the shock of distant inheritors, and the joy of those whose fortunes had changed in the blink of an eye. And, on the least pleasurable of his days, he’d witnessed the devastating burden of inheritance—when a newly minted aristocrat discovered that his title had come with nothing but incapacitating debt.
But in the more than twenty years that he had served the upper echelons of the aristocracy, Bernard had never once met with apathy.
Until now, when the Scotsman he’d crossed a country to find calmly said, “Nae,” turned on his heel, and made for the exit, dogs on his heels.
Settlesworth sputtered his confusion. “Your . . . Your Grace?”
A long bout of laughter came at the honorific. “I’ve no interest in an English title. And I certainly have no interest in being anyone’s grace.”
With that, the twenty-first Duke of Warnick, last of a venerable line and rich as a king, disappeared.
Bernard waited another hour in the stone keep and a full three days at the only inn in the nearby town, but the duke had no interest in speaking with him again.
And so it was that for the next five years, the duke rarely showed face in London and, when he did, he eschewed all things aristocratic. Within months, London society had discerned his disdain and decided that it was they, in fact, who disdained him, and not the other way around.
The Diluted Duke, they contended, was worth neither time, nor energy. After all, seventeenth in line for a dukedom was virtually no duke at all.
Such a view suited Alec Stuart, proud Scotsman, more than well, and he resumed his life without a second thought for the trappings of his title. As he was no monster, he managed his now vast estates with meticulous care, ensuring that those who relied upon Warnick lands were well and prosperous, but he avoided London, believing that as long as England ignored him, he could ignore England.
And England did ignore him, right up until it didn’t.
Right up until a missive arrived, revealing that alongside the estates and servants and paintings and carpets he had inherited, alongside the title he had no interest in using, the Duke of Warnick had inherited something else entirely.