Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Devil of Clan Sinclair - Karen Ranney (Avon - Aug 2013)

Series: Clan Sinclair (Book 1)

To Dance with the Devil...

For Virginia Traylor, Countess of Barrett, marriage was merely the vehicle to buy her father a title. Widowhood, however, brings a host of problems. For her husband deliberately spent the money intended for Virginia and her in-laws, leaving them penniless -- unless she produces an heir. Desperate and confused, Virginia embarks on a fateful journey that brings her to the doorstep of the only man she's ever loved...

Hes known as the Devil, but Macrath Sinclair doesn't care. He moved to a tiny Scottish village in hopes of continuing his work as an inventor and starting a family of his own. He bought the house; he chose the woman. Unfortunately, Virginia didn't choose him. Macrath knows he should turn her away now, but she needs him, and he wants her more than ever. Whatever game Virginia's playing, Macrath intends to win...

I had mixed feelings about this book. Overall, I liked it. The first half was rather slow and a bit hard to stay interested in. The beginning would also have a chapter or two of the present time, then a chapter of flashback for the backstory, another chapter or two in the present, then flashback, etc. This went on for quite a while. I prefer my backstory mostly all at once - the constant back and forth was sometimes hard to follow. Things definitely picked up in the second half and I enjoyed it much more at that point.

Virginia was an American heiress, brought to London by her father to marry a man with a title. He didn't care what she wanted, she would basically go to the highest bidder. In the meantime, Virginia had met a Scottish man, a self-made millionaire, who understood her. They would meet at balls or other places where she could escape, and talk about politics, science, literature or anything that caught their fancy. They fell in love, but her father wouldn't even consider Macrath as a suitor. She was forced to marry the earl and forbidden to see or speak to Macrath.

Less than a year later, her husband was dead, and she discovered that all the money she had brought to the marriage had been used to purchase land that was then left to the cousin who inherited the title. Virginia and her mother- and sisters-in-law, were left with nothing unless Virginia had produced a son. Her mother-in-law, whom I DID NOT like at all, convinced her that she needed to quickly find a man who could get her pregnant with a child she could pass off as her husband's. Virginia did not like that idea at all, but could see no other option to keep them from becoming destitute. So she ran off to Scotland to try to seduce Macrath.

Macrath was stunned to see Virginia show up at Drumvagen. He had been unable to forget her after her marriage and had buried himself in his work. He was happy to have her there and hoped to make her want to stay. He was very willing to show her "how it's supposed to be between a man and a woman". After just a few days he's devastated to find out she has no intention of staying in Scotland, but returning to London. They part ways, and he heads off to Australia on business and she returns to London to take care of her family.

Unsurprisingly, she does end up pregnant and has a son, who the world assumes is her husband's. The baby is just a few months old when smallpox sweeps through London and Virginia becomes quite ill. Macrath returns to London about that time, and discovering the truth about the child, takes the baby back to Scotland while Virginia is ill, without telling her. She chases after him before she is fully recovered. When she arrives, he is still furious at her deception and refuses to allow her in the house or to see the baby. Over the next couple weeks she is stuck in a cottage on the estate and still unable to see the baby. By this point, Virginia has finally started to find a backbone and refuses to be kept away. I really enjoyed her determination and seeing what she does.

Over the next few weeks, Macrath begins to soften toward Virginia a little as he sees what a good mother she really is. Virginia also sees Macrath's happiness in being a father. But she still refuses to consider staying in Scotland, determined to keep up the deception and protect her family. It is getting harder for each of them, as their feelings for each other have only gotten stronger. The conflict could have been greatly reduced if she had just told him what the problem was.

Things were also complicated by her late husband's personal assistant, who was obsessed with Virginia. He was determined to have her for himself, and willing to do anything to get her. Over the course of the book he went from creepy to obsessed to dangerous. His appearance in Scotland added a layer of intensity that finally brought Macrath and Virginia together.

Virginia irritated me through most of the book because of her unwillingness to tell Macrath what was going on. She did have redeeming qualities. I liked her determination to take care of her son herself, no turn him over to nannies and we nurses. She was also kind to her in-laws, even though the mother-in-law was a piece of work. I didn't like that woman at all. Virginia was also pretty down-to-earth. She really didn't care about the benefits of the title. But until she became a mother, I found her to be rather a doormat.

Macrath I liked a lot. He made something of himself through his own hard work. He was true to himself, not trying to change to fit in with the aristocracy. I liked the way he treated Virginia like an intelligent human being when they had their discussions in the first part of the book. I completely understood his anger when he found out about the baby. I even understood his actions when Virginia came to Scotland, even though I felt he could have handled things a little better. I liked seeing him soften toward her, and realize that he still wanted her in his life. I thought his pursuit of her was pretty sweet.

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