RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: The Lady and the Laird by Nicola Cornick

C

Title: The Lady and the Laird
Author: Nicola Cornick
Publication Info: Harlequin July 2013
ISBN: 978-0373777419
Genre: Historical: European

Book The Lady and the Laird This RITA® Reader Challenge 2014 review was written by Lainey T. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Historical Romance category.

The summary:

An Indecent Proposal!

Lady Lucy MacMorlan may have forsworn men and marriage, but that doesn't mean she won't agree to profit from writing love letters for her brother's friends – letters that become increasingly racy as her fame grows. That is, until she deliberately ruins the betrothal of a notorious laird, Robert, Marquis of Methven.

Past centuries of bloodshed have left the Methven and MacMorlan families bitter enemies and Robert is furious that Lady Lucy's letters have cost him the bride he needs so urgently to save his ancestral clan lands. Now he makes Lucy a shocking proposal; in return for his silence she must become his wife and provide him with the heir he needs. It is an inconvenient marriage of convenience but can the rugged laird and the bluestocking beauty fight against the power of love?

And here is Lainey T.'s review:

I tend to be a creature of habit when it comes to choosing what I read, so I was happy to have the RITA Reader Challenge as an excuse to sample new-to-me author, Nicola Cornick. Having finished The Lady and the Laird and upon much contemplation, I can't say I'm adding her to my auto-buy list of authors, but I won't kick her to the curb either. Since there were definitely aspects of the book, along with the character and relationship arcs that I quite liked, I'd consider trying another of her novels if the premise appealed to me. Unfortunately, there were just a few too many elements that I found to be a distraction, preventing me from becoming completely engrossed with the story.

To be honest, after reading the back cover summary, I was kinda hoping their relationship would proceed in Old Skool clichéd fashion, with insults, outrage, apologies, sexy times, and lurrve (although not necessarily in this order), all leading up to the HEA. Instead the author takes us down a different path, one in which the letters are simply the catalyst to the more complex story, one I found to be flawed but not disappointing.

In short, after eight years of self-imposed exile in Canada following the death of his older brother, Robert has returned to claim his inheritance. Pretty straightforward, right? Not so much. Thanks to a proviso in an ancient clan treaty, he could lose all the Methven lands to Lucy's douchebag, distant cousin, Wilfred, Earl of Cardnoss. To prevent the forfeiture, Robert must marry a descendant of the earls of Cardnoss and produce an heir. Of course, the nuptials and baby-making must take place within certain time limits. Of course, now that his fiancée has left him high and dry, Lucy is the only eligible marriage candidate still available. And, of course, unbeknownst to our anxious groom, Lucy was traumatized over her twin sister's death in childbirth when they were just sixteen years old, and she has vowed never to wed or get pregnant. As if things weren't already complicated enough.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK FOR ME:

Speaking of complicated…

I love a well-thought-out story, with complex characters and interesting themes, however, in light of the length of the book there is just too much going on: the threat to Lucy's reputation from the letters, Lucy's emotional baggage, Robert's emotional baggage, Robert's legal baggage, threats to Lucy by Wilfred, threats to the Methven clan by Wilfred, oh, and did I mention there is also a spy in the mix?

Heart vs mind

Intellectually, I understood why the death of Alice, Lucy's twin sister, was so traumatic for her, but there were several questions that kept popping into my head while reading, that prevented me from connecting with her struggles on an emotional level. First, Lucy's mother survived the birth of six children, including twins, so wouldn't that fact have mitigated her damaged outlook on pregnancy? Also, as a recognized member of the Highland Ladies Bluestocking Society, wouldn't Lucy have had the opportunity, through her interest in books and discussion with matron members, to address her fears of childbirth on a more rational level at some point? And finally, how were Lucy's family and her chaperone so clueless to her suffering through all this?

Laird or mouse, which is it?

To be clear, I've never lost a sibling but I found Robert's reactions to his brother's death to be disproportionate to the circumstances. He's had eight years to grieve so I couldn`t help but think that he would've become a bit a more philosophical about Gregor's passing by now. I can understand why he's reluctant to return to the scene of the accident, but I didn't buy his adamant refusal to talk about it with Lucy and, considering Robert's strong loyalty to his clan, his initial neglect of that part of his property seemed implausible to me.

 

WHAT KINDA, SORTA WORKED:

If only he'd dial down the double standard

I was frustrated by the inconsistencies displayed by Robert's character. He is quick to mistrust Lucy, but even though he's given her cause to doubt him, he expects her to trust him implicitly. Robert admits outright that “My allegiance, my honour, is to my clan. That has to be my first loyalty.” He's not above manipulating Lucy into a situation that might force a wedding, and he uses emotional blackmail to get the result he needs. Sure, he may have a good reason to maneuver Lucy into becoming his wife, but he can't expect it to instill trust in your partner.

A second reason I found Robert to be somewhat hypocritical is that, although he recognizes how devastated Lucy is by her past and encourages her to devulges the secret behind her fear of marriage, he refuses several times, and quite rudely, to share his own history with her. This makes it sound like I really disliked Robert, but I was also rather impressed by the insights to Lucy's character that he demonstrates, and the patience he shows in helping her to overcome her fears and move beyond a life filled with self-recrimination:

“It was little wonder if she was petrified to face the same perils as Alice had when she had gone through such an ordeal at the age of only sixteen. It made sense of the perfection she had striven to achieve. In trying to atone for what she saw as her failure in causing her sister's death, she had forced herself into a pattern-card existence that no one could maintain.”


WHAT REALLY WORKED FOR ME:

The Highland Ladies Bluestocking Society rocks!!

I love that Lucy hangs out with a bunch of ladies who, in addition to their academic pursuits, meet at secret locations to fence, shoot, reap the benefits of therapeutic massage, and sketch still-life portraits of nude male models. Awesome!

It ain't only Lucy Lawless that's a warrior princess

Despite the psychological scars from her youth driving her emotions and her behaviours, Lucy refuses to back down from obstacles. She takes up a sword to fight for her own freedom, pushes her own boundaries as she seeks a more intimate relationship with Robert, and isn't afraid to call him on his asshat behaviour.

Insta-lust is under control

There's instant hormonal attraction between Robert and Lucy (by hormonal, I mean they crush on each other as teenagers and start smooching within minutes of their first meeting!). That chemistry is still evident eight years later, but the author refrains from having them immediately engage in hanky-panky on the chaise lounge. Regardless of the fact that Lucy is the only eligible bride available for his purposes, Robert chooses not to play the hardcore seducer to force her into marriage or to pressure her into becoming too intimate before she's ready. I would have liked another scene or two as evidence of their connection outside of the bedroom because we rarely got to see them talk about things that weren't related to their problems. For the most part though, I was happy with the pace of how their relationship developed.

BTW, That's not to say there isn't sexual tension and some base hits to keep things interesting, but it's a slow burn.

So, as you can see, The Lady and the Laird is certainly more than a fun romp about naughtly letters and madcap misunderstandings. If you're interested in a historical romance with a complex, but sweet, story about two people dealing with their own issues of PTSD and grief as they attempt to avoid the pitfalls of an imperfect relationship, this might be the book for you. Enjoy!


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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    DonnaMarie says:

    Well thought out review, but why only a C? It seems there was more you liked than disliked. I’ll give you the way too much going on. I cut my teeth on the over the top madness of Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, Fern Micheals and Shirlee Busbee, but they generally had a hundred more pages and small print to work with. To much business that wasn’t really fleshed out ruined my RT review book as well.
    Though it seems to be the thing that really ruined the book for you, I’m going to cut Lucy and Robert some slack for their inability to get over it. I’m sitting here typing on my father’s computer surrounded by the things my mother selected for her dream retirement home and have to constantly remind myself that it’s been 14 years and finding little notes in her handwriting when I’m searching for a phonebook or the little refrigerator magnets she needlepointed shouldn’t make me cry. Sure, these things make me smile, but mostly… it’s a constant little poke in my heart. It was literally years before I didn’t start tearing up pulling in the driveway even with the four hour flight and two hour drive to psych myself up. Since her best friend was here yesterday and backed quickly out of the room Mom died in after her great-granddaughter called her in to look at something, I’m not the only one who’s not quite over it. If Robert hasn’t been home in eight years, yeah, I can see why being in the place that reminds him daily that his brother is gone would make him a little angsty.

  2. 2
    Karin says:

    I would have given it a higher grade, but it’s certainly not the best thing that Cornick has written. The whole fear of childbirth trope didn’t work for me. If this is your first book by her, don’t let it discourage you from reading her Scandalous Women of the Ton series, which is totally excellent, with some of the best romance heroines I’ve ever encountered.

  3. 3
    kkw says:

    I’d forgotten how much I love Cornick’s Scandalous series, but they are fantastic, definitely on the list for Regency fans. I didn’t read this one because I’ve developed an overwhelming aversion to Scotland and Scottish characters. I am not sure when or how this prejudice developed, and I’m a little ashamed of myself, but the more I tried to get past it the more intense my ach lass revulsion grew, and I just had to stop completely.

  4. 4
    Shannon says:

    This was a book that I was conflicted over.  The angst didn’t bother me; it felt read given how much I’ve grieved friends and family. 

    I love, love the Bluestockings.  They’ve been in other stories, and they tend to steal the show.  Women loving the company of other women in more sisterhood than catiness.  Just so nice to read.  (I’ve been reading some stuff with the slutty other woman, ice princess, gossipy bitch villains.  I know they have to be that way, but there is the flip side of life.)

    What I remember is that this is that it was a slow start to get into, it would move forward, slow down, and so on.  It was never dive in and not look up.

    @kkw:  I’ve long favored Regency, Georgian, Victorian books over Scottish romances.  I attribute it to two things:  a) authors that write the dialect so that I’m puzzling out what the characters are saying and feeling I am have to work rather than relax; and b) Scottish history is depressing, a story of a people losing war after war and being oppressed by the victor at different times and different ways.  Authors who are true to the history and their chosen era must let this color their writing.  I just finished a Scottish medieval where I just felt sorry for the heroine struggling to survive, struggling to protect her family, and struggling with allowing herself to be happy in the midst of such sorrow.  It was beautifully written with a lovely HEA.  I want to read the sequel but after about 20 pages, I switched to a steampunk.  I wanna have fun this weekend.

  5. 5
    LaineyT says:

    @DonnaMarie …I will concede to your argument regarding Robert’s grief.  I tend to be led by my head as opposed to my heart (in my group of girlfriend I was always the “Miranda” from Sex and the City lol) so I struggled to overlook how Robert’s reactions to his grief seemed to completely contradict his sense of honour and responsibility (that he, himself put so much emphasis on).  I suppose this a clear example of how our emotions can overwhelm our rationality. 

    That being said, I still wish the author had addressed those aspects of Lucy’s background and environment that I mentioned and how they would have affected her trauma.  For me, it was too much like Lucy was living in a vacuum, from an emotional support standpoint at least which was a distraction from my enjoyment of the story.

    To be honest I second, third and fourth guessed myself while I was writing the review for this book.  I questioned whether I was being too harsh, rating it a C, so I can understand why some might feel that it merited a higher grade.  What it ultimately came down to was that I felt a B-range grading would have indicated that I “really liked” the book, but the parts that I find to be problematic just weighed too heavily on my overall experience.  They preventing me from being able to “dive in and not look up” as @Shannon puts it and I tend to be more forgiving of a book’s flaws when I’m lost in the story and the characters.

    @Karin and kkw …it’s encouraging to hear how much you’ve enjoyed the author’s other books.  I will have to see if any of those are available through my library and give them a try.  Perhaps I’ll have a better experience with a different, less angsty, story.

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