Lessons in Loving a Laird
This book needs to come with a warning. If you can make it through the extreme violence in the first chapter or two, you will be rewarded with a good love story.
As children, Shona MacAslan, her twin sister and a brother see their family brutally murdered. The sisters are branded and indentured into service. Shona lives with the hope that they will be free as soon as they turn twenty-one, and can then search for their brother.
Conall MacEwan has inherited Ballencrief from an uncle, and is returning from England after a personal tragedy to set up home in Scotland with his child and his brother. He finds Shona defying his steward’s efforts to collect rents on her foster family’s farm. He forgives the rent in exchange for Shona’s indenture being transferred to him against her will, among other things.
Shona is combative and spiteful initially. But her defense of anyone weaker – including animals – as well as her loyalty to those around her endears her to Conall. Conall tries to keep his emotions away from his interactions with Shona and focus only on the qualities in her that can help him turn around an unprofitable estate around. He sees her leadership and people skills and hires her as his steward to help build a relationship with his tenants and help them earn profits so he can prosper in return.
Shona then plans to earn her freedom to search for her brother by making Conall fall in love with her. A marriage to the laird would render her apprenticeship null. Conall’s simmering attraction to Shona flames up into stronger emotions once she encourages it. The rest of the book is about the obstacles that both of them have to face in their relationship as both of their pasts catch up to them. They have to learn to trust each other to resolve what seem to be insurmountable odds, legal and tribal, to eventually find their HEA.
Conall is bossy, yes, as we would expect a Scottish laird to be. But he is also honorable, gentle and fair. I loved that he was able to look past Willow’s (Shona’s sister) beauty to see Shona’s personality and qualities and fall in love with her. I also really liked that he empowered a woman as his steward, very out of line for the time period, but very in line with Conall’s character where decisions are based on logic and rationale. Shona is feisty and an unconventional heroine in that she is not a wimpy miss who must be saved by the laird as is typical in this genre. It was cute and touching to read through her transformation efforts from a tomboy to somewhat a lady to attract and please Conall. The chemistry between these two is genuine.
I do wish the violence had been played down a bit at the beginning. I almost put the book away because I didn’t care to read through Braveheart type torture on little children. I am glad I went past the first chapter though because it truly was a good, memorable story. I will look forward to Willow’s story next.