on December 6th 2016
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She's the Hellion of Hyde Park...
A foolproof plan to avoid marriage:1. Always carry at least three blades.2. Ride circles around any man.3. Never get caught in a handsome duke's arms.
Wild Highlander Mary Elizabeth Waters is living on borrowed time. She's managed to dodge the marriage banns up to now, but even Englishmen can only be put off for so long...and there's one in particular who has her in his sights.
Harold Percy, Duke of Northumberland, is enchanted by the beautiful hellion who outrides every man on his estate and dances Scottish reels while the ton looks on in horror. The more he sees Mary, the more he knows he has to have her, tradition and good sense be damned. But what's a powerful man to do when the Highland spitfire of his dreams has no desire to be tamed...
Harry had just begun to find his rhythm as he dug up the parterre rosebushes so that Simmons might plant them along the east-facing wall when he heard a thump and a curse that belonged on the docks or perhaps on one of his ships at sea.
“Damn and blast it!” the girl said again. “Now I’ve ruined another gown, and Ma won’t give me an allowance for any more.”
He looked up then from his work, knowing what he would find, for it seemed he knew the girl’s sultry voice already.
His siren from the carriage an hour earlier had wandered back into his domain, and had fallen in one of the holes left by the vacated rosebushes, her pink traveling gown covered in a long streak of ochre. He sighed, the last vestige of his peace falling away like the last bit of an orange peel. He watched it go, then turned to the lady, expecting tears at the very least, followed by sniffling and the need for his filthy handkerchief.
He wondered for one benighted moment if the girl had heard from the staff that the Recluse Duke was in the garden and, as a result, had come hunting him. His flesh began to cool, both from horror and from the sea wind touching the sweat on his shoulders. He wished for his waistcoat, which he had abandoned somewhere in the stables hours before, just as he wished for his friend Clyde to appear and occupy this woman with charm while Harry affected his escape.
Harry reminded himself that he was a gentleman and reluctantly started to help the girl out of her hole, when she straightened her skirt and leaped out of it on her own, apparently unscathed.
“Are you the blighter who left this gaping chasm so close to the path?” she asked.
Harry blinked and nodded. “I am.”
She seemed to want to say more, but perhaps she was remembering that she was a lady, for she drew a breath and let it out on one long exhale. “Well,” she said. “And this is what comes of letting a stable boy get into the garden. Hand me that shovel there, and be quick about it, before your head gardener sees this mess.”
He blinked and obeyed, and then watched as she filled the hole in the space of five minutes, layering the soil loosely so that it might breathe, then packing down the top with a flourish. She found the bag of crushed seashells bleached white sitting close by, and she covered the hole with a liberal amount of those, so that the next person who happened by might not trip as she had done.
Until he stood by and watched a beautiful woman fill a hole in the garden, the skirt of her gown pulled tight over a delightfully rounded behind as she worked, Harry would have said that he was a civilized man. Something was clearly wrong with him, for he had not fled, nor had he offered to assist her.
“I ought to have helped,” he said as she finished.
She leaned on her shovel and surveyed her work with what he could only assume was pleasure. His siren tipped her head back and took in the slanting rays of the afternoon sun on her skin. The summer days were long in the North, but the sun was cool. She seemed to drink it in like mead, before she turned her smile on him.
“And ruin a fine job?” she said. “I think not. You’re better off with the horses. Has his Royal Grace the Duke too few men to work for him, that a decent man of horses finds himself shifting among the flowers, then?”
Harry had never heard himself referred to in such a blasé yet disrespectful manner. He felt a frisson of irritation. He thought of revealing himself to this girl then and there.
But her curls were falling from their pins in a delightful disarray, catching the light of the sun with hints of honey brown and gold buried in them. She had the coloring his mother once had, when he was still a boy in short pants.
He put aside all thoughts of his mother and her plans for him, as his day had as yet been a pleasant one. He did not want to think of his mother and of all he had promised her.
Instead, he turned to the girl and offered her his arm.
“Might I escort you back to the house?”
“God forbid! I just escaped from there.”
“I am told the house is very fine,” he said, feeling slightly miffed.
She laughed at him. Her laughter was warm and sultry, as her voice was, but completely free, as if she were a courtesan who had been born into the wrong life. His siren did not seem to notice that he had not spoken again, nor did she seem to care for anything he might have said. She stopped laughing at last and handed the shovel to Simmons, who had appeared out of the bushes at the sound of her mirth.
“I’m off to find the sea, but I thank you.” She nodded to Simmons, who bowed to her. She frowned to see him do it, a bit of darkness coming into the maple brown of her eyes. But she rallied at once, so quickly that Harry was not certain he had seen the shadow at all.
“Try not to fall in a ditch on your way back to the stables.”
She sauntered off then, her rounded derriere swaying. Harry stood staring after her like a fool, not even offering her a farewell. He felt the eyes of his man heavy on him, and Harry shrugged to Simmons before he took off after her.
You can follow the Broadswords and Ballroom series on Goodreads.
Christy has put together a fun quiz for your readers to help them figure out which type of hero they should date: the Scot, the Warrior, or the Duke.
Check it out here.
~~Reviewed by AnnMarie~~
How to Train Your Highlander is the third book in the Broadswords and Ballrooms series by Christy English. I have read the first two books in the series and each of them were worthy of a 5 star rating. You don’t need to have read any of the other books to fully enjoy this one, but it was nice to catch up on the characters that I had read about previously.
This whole series started because Mary Elizabeth Waters’ mother was determined that her wayward daughter find a suitable English husband, preferably a Lord. She hoped marriage to a gentleman would settle her daughter down. In the first two books Mary Elizabeth managed to escape any betrothal, especially to an Englishman. She is a proud highland lassie, and the last thing on her mind is to be tamed by any man, or marriage. Her mother is becoming desperate about the state of affairs. So much so that she has told Mary Elizabeth that if she doesn’t nab herself a gentleman of her choosing in England, then she herself would choose one for her, and a wedding WOULD take place.
Her mother arranges for her to attend a house party given at the Duke of Northumberland’s home. Mary Elizabeth just knows that her mother expects her to woo and snare the Duke, and before she even arrives there, Mary Elizabeth is determined that that will not happen. She is terribly homesick for her beloved Scotland and all she wants to do is return there to live life as she always has. When they arrive at the estate she looks to an upper floor window and sees a well dressed, overweight man looking down at her. She assumes he is the Duke and is even more determined that she won’t be married to the old, overweight, man. As the party she arrives with is readying to head to the house, Mary Elizabeth tells a stable boy to take her bags into the house. He’s quite a good looking man, and she thinks it an odd English thing that no matter the age of the person, the stable boy will always be called as such. This man must be in his 30s and definitely not a boy.
What she doesn’t realise is that the stable boy is actually the Duke of Northumberland! His staff are shocked at the way that Mary Elizabeth speaks to him, but are silenced by a look from him. He likes being incognito as it were. He’s fed up of being chased by young girls and their mothers with the aim of getting him to marry. He’s fed up of not been befriended for himself, just a man, rather than for his title. The more time he spends with Mary Elizabeth not knowing who he is, the happier he is. The more time she spends with him, the more Mary Elizabeth finds herself, if nothing else, lusting after Harry (the Duke).
What will happen when she discovers that he has been lying to her, and that he is a Duke, the very Duke she was determined not to have anything to do with. Even if she can forgive him, even if she admits to her very strong attraction to him, perhaps even love, she can’t marry him, can she? She despises the English, she misses her beloved Scotland and she won’t feel complete and happy until she is back there. If she were to marry the Duke she would have to live in England, her children would have to be raised as English children, and she’d never get to live in Scotland again. It’s too much to ask of her, isn’t it?
Harry will do everything in his power to convince her otherwise, if he can get her to forgive him his deception. Her mother finds out what is going on, and it’s not long before she writes to Mary Elizabeth to tell her she is on her way to the Duke’s estate, because if she can’t snare herself the Duke, then her mother will do the job for her. She doesn’t realise that the Duke is already snared and that it’s Mary herself that is putting up the blocks to any future between them.
I adored this book and the whole series, and to see Mary Elizabeth fall in love, and to none other than a dreaded Duke, was just lovely to read about. To see her learn that not all English are horrible people as she always thought, and not all aristocrats are horrid snobs was a pleasure. It was also a pleasure to see her and her mother learn more about each other and for Mary Elizabeth to realise that not everything she thought was behind her mother wanting her to marry a Lord was true. As for our hero, Harry, he has the patience of a saint, and I loved how he understood Mary Elizabeth and her fears. I loved that he wanted to try to help her overcome them. All in all, this book was such a delight to read, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
I voluntarily reviewed an Advanced Readers Copy of this book.