This series continues to be the perfect blend of historical fiction and romance. Most historical romance authors use the historical setting as a backdrop and creator of atmosphere, or convert it into a sort of fantasy realm to explore other things, which can be really fun! But as I said in my review of the first book in this series, there’s just something so pleasurable about stone cold history being actually explored in this format. In the first book, it was the fallout from a radical Scottish plot against the government, and here we’ve got the famous visit of the King of England, George IV, to Scotland in 1822. It was the first time a reigning British monarch had visited Scotland in almost two hundred years.
It’s been two years since Lord Murdo Balfour and David Lauriston last met. Neither one has been able to forget the other, and now Murdo is back in Scotland because of the King’s visit. His father has asked him to represent their family in the celebrations, and he is part of the King’s retinue. After a chance encounter at the tailor’s shop, Murdo worms his way back into David’s life (they are at the tailor because they need their official Scottish regalia! It tickled me how all the characters responded to the artificial pageantry created by novelist Sir Walter Scott, which had a lasting impact on Scottish culture*). It’s clear that both of them are in different places emotionally this time around, and both of them aren’t quite willing to come out and say it, even as they seek out excuses to spend time with one another.
*There was also a great moment when David expressed frustration to Murdo that the same traditional dress that was now being touted as the national dress of the country, the kilt or tartan, is the very thing that was brutally repressed by British troops after the rising in 1745, when Scottish highlanders were forbidden from wearing them.
Also going on is that the daughter of David’s mentor, Chalmers, has made a bad marriage and is now in what appears to be an abusive relationship. Due to the law, Elizabeth is stuck in her circumstances, as her husband is legally entitled to do what he wishes to her. David’s old acquaintance, Euan, has returned as well, covering the King’s visit for the radical newspaper he writes for, and it’s pretty clear that Euan has developed feelings for Elizabeth and also wishes to help her. No doubt this storyline will continue into the third book as well. (As other reviewers have pointed out, it’s sort of fun that in most other romance novels, the Elizabeth/Euan pairing would be the main event, and David/Murdo would be background, not because they are both men but because the conflicts they are embroiled in are much more low stakes and personal than a book featuring Elizabeth/Euan as the main storyline would have been.)
Starting the third book immediately.