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!