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Lady Wesley's Salon

Historical romance.

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The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures, #6)
Jennifer Ashley
Mary Fran and Matthew (MacGregor Trilogy, #1.5) - Grace Burrowes Colonel Matthew Daniels, heir to the baronies of Altsax and Gribbony, has accompanied his father, sisters, aunt and cousin to Castle Balfour in Aberdeenshire, where they are guests of the Earl of Balfour and his family. The purpose of the trip is to arrange a marriage between the cash-strapped earl and Matthew's heiress sister. That's the main plot in [b:The Bridegroom Wore Plaid|13515289|The Bridegroom Wore Plaid (MacGregor Trilogy, #1)|Grace Burrowes|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1339827063s/13515289.jpg|19071609], the first installment of the MacGregor Trilogy. From that book, we already know that Matthew and Mary Fran fall in love and get married, but since they are secondary characters we don't get the whole story. This novella gives us the details.

Matthew is a true gentleman, unlike his vulgar father, and has until recently served in Her Majesty's cavalry in the Crimea (pre-war). Mary Fran, widow of an English officer, has a strong dislike of all things English. Matthew is immediately attracted to her and she, reluctantly, to him. But Matthew has shameful secrets, something having to do with his military service, and does not consider himself a worthy prospective husband for the daughter of an earl. Mary Fran is not really seeking a husband, however; she is content to enjoy herself in Matthew's arms as a distraction from the burdens of raising her precocious daughter, Fiona, and running the castle as a sort of hotel for wealthy visitors who want to bask in their proximity to Balmoral, which is the neighboring estate. As in the first book, Prince Albert has a cameo role, and Queen Victoria is an off-screen character.

I think that this book suffers from the problem that affects many novellas: there is very limited space to tell the story. Here, that situation is complicated by the large number of secondary characters who pop up and then disappear. Even though I had recently read the previous book, I found this one confusing. And even though Grace Burrowes has a wonderful talent for telling a story and creating memorable characters, I just didn't find that to be the case here. The details of Matthew's scandal and Mary Fran's first marriage left me with many unanswered questions, but to discuss them here would be too spoilerish.

If you liked [b:The Bridegroom Wore Plaid|13515289|The Bridegroom Wore Plaid (MacGregor Trilogy, #1)|Grace Burrowes|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1339827063s/13515289.jpg|19071609], as I did, you'll probably enjoy reading this novella, but in my opinion it just isn't as good as the stories that Burrowes usually publishes. There is a nice set-up for the next novel, [b:Once Upon a Tartan|15713729|Once Upon a Tartan (MacGregor Trilogy, #2)|Grace Burrowes|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1366089760s/15713729.jpg|21382136], where Matthew's younger sister is looking after Fiona when the girl's paternal uncle arrives to take her back to her English family. Complications ensue.