Published by Forever on June 27th 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
She cannot resist the man behind the mask...
As the illegitimate daughter of a Scottish earl, Lady Magdalen Keith is not one to partake in lavish balls or other frivolities. Yet at her father's urging, she agrees to dance with the battle-weary officers at this year's holiday masquerade. It's practically her civic duty! But when one such officer—whose dashing good looks cannot be disguised by a mere mask—sweeps her off her feet and into his arms, the innocent lass can't help herself. Her lips are his for the taking.
But will he betray his country for a kiss?
Navy lieutenant Aiden Murray has spent too many months at sea to be immune to the charms of this lovely beauty. Even after he returns to his ship, she lives in his dreams. But when he discovers Maddie's true identity—and learns that her father is accused of treason—will the brawny Scot risk his life to follow his heart?
As in the Highland custom, Aiden wore the plaid belted at his waist, the length pulled from the lower right opening of his doublet, around his back and pinned at his left shoulder with a silver brooch bearing the Atholl arms. The valet had put forth a good effort ensuring there was neither wrinkle nor hair out of place.
He regarded himself in the looking glass above the mantle in the drawing room, sliding one foot forward as he would do for a portrait. Not liking the image, he puffed out his chest and moved a hand to his lapel.
God’s bones, take me to sea where I can cast aside these frills.
Tuning his back to the looking glass, Aiden resorted to pacing and pulling out his pocket watch. The coach would arrive in five minutes, and Maddie hadn’t yet made an appearance.
At least a light glowed from beneath her door indicating she was within. It cast a hazy glow in the otherwise dark passageway. After pacing around the chamber half-dozen times, he again eyed his timepiece. Another minute had passed. Perhaps he should knock on the door—perhaps Maddie’s mantle clock had stopped and she was unaware of the time. Just as he started off, her door opened. A burst of light flooded the passageway, and with the tap of dainty footsteps, an angel emerged.
Aiden knew she’d purchased a new gown, but he hadn’t expected this. His mouth went dry and he suddenly needed to take in two stuttered breaths to steady the thumping of his heart.
Christ, men aren’t supposed to experience such heart hammering. Especially men bred for the sea. Damnation.
She smiled, and his goddamned knees wobbled. He should have taken a healthy tot whilst he was pacing in the drawing room.
Her golden gown rustled as she walked forward, with a matching fan in her hand. She moved the fan to her waist…just below her breasts. Creamy skin Aiden knew to be softer than spun silk swelled above a dangerously plunging neckline. His mouth went completely dry. If Maddie’s serving maid had been anywhere but behind her lady, Aiden would have taken the lassie into his arms, pushed through his bedchamber door and damned the recital.
“I hope I haven’t made us late.” Maddie batted her eyelashes as if she had no idea of the effect she had on his aching cods. “Miss Agnes spent ever so long curling my hair.”
Aiden’s tongue slipped over his bottom lip. “Your curls are exquisite. You are exquisite, m’lady.”
Agnes cleared her throat, coming up behind with a cloak over her arm. “You’d best say so, m’lord. It took the greater part of the afternoon to make those ringlets.”
Nay, there’d be no slipping into the bedchamber for a hasty sampling of those pearl-tipped bosoms.
Aiden glanced to his pocket watch—they still had a few minutes—and now that he knew Maddie was ready, there’d be no harm in making the coach wait for a minute or two. “Fine job, Miss Agnes,” he said with more sobriety than he felt. “I think you deserve a healthy tot of fine spirit for taking such fine care of her ladyship.”
“Have we time?” asked Maddie.
Aiden led them into the drawing room and gestured to the settee. “A stolen moment will not set us behind overmuch.”
Agnes gave a firm shake of her head. “You needn’t make a fuss for the likes of me.”
“It is no fuss. You take good care of your lady, and for that I want to thank you.” Aiden poured three tots of sherry and offered each of the ladies a glass. “Shall we drink to Miss Agnes?”
Blinking, the woman drew a hand over her mouth, dipping her head and smiling broadly. “Heavens.”
“Aye, we should.” Maddie patted her chambermaid’s knee and raised her glass. “To the woman who has seen me through one and twenty years of happiness. I have no idea what would have become of me if you hadn’t been by my side. Sometimes I’ve felt as if you’re the only person in all of Christendom who cares.”
Aiden’s gut twisted. He cared a great deal, but it was inconceivable that Maddie had been made to feel like an outcast from such a young age. He drank thoughtfully, watching the two women as they sipped. Even their mannerisms had become similar. “Miss Agnes, how long have you been serving Lady Magdalen?”
The woman’s eyes glistened with pride. “Since the day she was born. The moment I held her in my arms I knew my purpose.”
Aiden glanced to Maddie and knitted his brows. “Did your mother pass in childbirth?”
Shaking her head, the lass bit her bottom lip. “Nay. My mother knew I would have a better life if she gave me to my father. Only…” Maddie looked away, and took another sip.
“The one caveat was that she could never set eyes on me again.”
Grumbling under her breath, Agnes guzzled the remainder of her sherry. “We shan’t discuss the countess any longer. It sets both of our hackles to standing on end.”
“Agreed.” Aiden set his glass on the mantel and offered Maddie his hand. “Shall we be off, m’lady? We do not want to miss the opening. I hear it will be most spectacular.”
Maddie tapped the chambermaid’s shoulder before they strolled toward the door. “I want you to take some time for yourself this night. Do something that will make you happy. You have nothing to worry about, my pet. I’ll be in Lord Aiden’s capable hands.”
You can follow the Lords of the Highlands series on Goodreads.
~~Reviewed by AnnMarie~~
The Highland Commander is the second book in the Lord of the Highlands series by Amy Jarecki. It can easily be read as a stand alone novel.
Lady Magdalen Keith is the illegitimate daughter of an Earl. As a child he spent time with her, but once he married, his wife insisted that he have no contact with Maddie (Magdalen). An honorary title was given to her, but she was left to be brought up by her Lady’s maid. Left to feel second best.
Aiden Murray, a Scottish Naval Officer knows all about being second best. He is the second son to an Earl. He doesn’t resent that though, after all, it gives him far more freedom, but one thing he does resent is the fact that the Scottish Navy have been forced to join the English Navy to fight for Queen Anne. He has to keep his feelings to himself though or he could be faced with a charge of treason.
Maddie and Aiden meet during one of Aiden’s very rare stops on land. Maddie’s father is holding a Hogmanay masquerade ball, and all are invited. Maddie is attending because she gets to spend time with her father without anybody knowing, and Aiden is attending with some of the other sailors because they need to let their hair down after being so long at sea fighting. Masked or not, as soon as Maddie and Aiden see each other there is an instant sizzling attraction between them. An attraction that sees them sharing a secret kiss after spending some time together away from the hubbub of the party. They part only knowing each other’s first names, and knowing that they will never meet again. Or so they think!
A year or so later Maddie’s father is arrested and taken to the tower to await execution. He’s been accused of treason. His wife, heavy with child, can’t travel from Scotland to London to see him, or to fight his cause, so she beseeches Maddie to travel there to do all that she can. Of course Maddie agrees, despite it being novel that her step-mother who always wants her to be ignored, now is the one coming to her for help.
On arrival in London Maddie and her maid end up in strife immediately when the wheel comes off their hired carriage, and the cabbie just leaves them at the docks to fend for themselves. Aiden who is in London while his ship is in dock for repairs hears a lady in distress and being the gent that he is, he immediately goes to her aid. Imagine his shock when it comes to light during helping her, that she is the stunning woman he met at the masquerade ball, the one that he kissed. Immediately he offers for them to stay with him at his brother’s residence in London, all perfectly above board of course. Having nowhere else to stay after finding out that the Queen has taken her father’s residence in London from him, Maddie of course has to accept his offer.
From there the story escalates into the epitome of romance, passion, adventure, backstabbing, both metaphorically and physically at court, and accusations of attempted murder, and treason. Maddie must do all she can to try to help her father, but during that time she herself ends up being accused of treason and has to go on the run before being arrested. Of course Aiden runs with her, he can’t let any harm befall her. The thrill of them being on the run had me holding my breath many times, and on a couple of occasions I was close to tears because of what happens. I can’t say which occasions they were because I don’t want to give spoilers. But suffice to say that the story is so beautifully written that you feel every emotion between our hero and heroine. The dramatic scenes and the more passionate love scenes were perfect. The fight between the Scottish and the English and the story of Queen Anne and her court were a pleasure to read too. There wasn’t a dull moment in the book from beginning to end. And what an ending it was!! Did Maddie’s father receive a pardon?? What of Maddie, is she able to prove her innocence, or will she and Aiden have to live on the run?
I can’t recommend this book enough, and I cannot wait until the next book has been written.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced readers’ copy of this book.