Title: Disguised in Tartan (Colors of Scandal #14)
Author: Sandra Sookoo
Genre: Regency romance
Running into the arms of a handsome, powerful laird will either be her greatest folly or a profitable gamble.
Donovan Ewan Campbell-Ainsley, Earl of Hollandbane, and the current sitting Laird of Lyon Castle is not best pleased when scandal lands on his doorstep in the form of a pretty but long-in-the-tooth woman trailing nothing but tittle-tattle. Though he’s half-Scottish and lives in London, he spends the summers and autumns at his castle in the Highlands for reasons he wishes to keep to himself. Yet she’s in immediate danger, and he’s nothing if not a gentleman.
The Honorable Emma Radcliffe is no stranger to scandal, but when she can’t go through with her nuptial ceremony, she flees the church. Who cares if it’s her third broken engagement? When a friend encourages her to hide in Scotland, that’s when the trouble really begins. The moment she lays eyes on the laird, she knows he’ll be the perfect man with whom to keep her father, family, and her angry fiancé at bay.
It takes next to no time to hatch a haphazard plan: they’ll pretend an engagement. It will silence his family’s blather for him to find a bride as well as remove her from immediate responsibility. There’s one problem: neither of them expected to actually like the other. As the days go on, the fiction grows larger until desire can no longer be denied, but unless they both come to terms with why they’re hiding from the truth, a happily ever after between them will be forever out of reach.
“When my best friend needed help, you were the first person I thought of for assistance.” Then she chuckled and rolled her eyes. “Well, Lyon Castle, really, since you don’t often render assistance if it doesn’t directly benefit you in some way.”
He scoffed. “That’s not true. I care about things.”
“Ha! Not many beyond yourself or the esteemed Lady Gwynn.”
Heat crept up the back of his neck. “I do have affairs to put in order while I’m here.” He cleared his throat. “But if you’d rather gossip about my romantic endeavors, I believe that meeting is being held upstairs in the drawing room.” If he could keep her from harping on his lack of marital status, he would.
Olivia crossed her arms at her chest and narrowed her eyes. “So droll, brother. I don’t require the sarcasm.”
“True enough, but you also hate it in Scotland, yet here you are.”
“I dislike the cold and the harshness of it at times.” She shrugged. “However, circumstances have changed that forced my hand, so here I am.” His sister stood aside so he could have a clear look at her friend. “This is my best friend, Miss Emma Radcliffe. I hope you’ll make her feel as welcome as you do me.” She grinned at the other woman who slowly rose to her feet. “Miss Radcliffe, this is my brother, Donovan Ewan Campbell-Ainsley, the 3rd Earl of Hollandbane and the laird of Lyon Castle.”
The obvious pride in his sister’s voice as she performed the introductions mollified him slightly, but he didn’t want this woman shrouded in scandal on his doorstep. “Hello.” He gave the blonde a curt nod. “I trust the journey wasn’t too taxing.”
“It was interesting.” A tentative smile curved her dark rose-colored lips. “I didn’t mind, for there was always something new and interesting to observe.”
“Scotland and the Highlands in particular are quite gorgeous throughout the year.” For the space of a few heartbeats, he studied the woman who came a few steps closer. Average height, strong features, golden blonde hair, and soulful brown eyes greeted him with hope and trepidation. She was attractive enough in a retiring sort of way, and he could see why men kept proposing to her, but there was no clue about why she continued to run. And he didn’t care. “Why are you here, Miss Radcliffe?”
“Oh, Donovan.” Olivia said his name on a huff. “Could you, for one moment, act charming?”
“Perhaps the next time you bring someone steeped in scandal to my home.” He flicked his gaze back to the newcomer. The traveling dress of brown serge didn’t suit her coloring at all. Nor did the severe cut of the garment enhance any aspect of her figure. She was wildly unforgettable. “I believe I asked you a question.”
Before his eyes, the retiring Miss Radcliffe changed. She stood to her full height. Annoyance snapped in her eyes while her lips set into a hard line. “Ah, straight to the point. At least there is no wasted time with you.” A hint of appreciation pooled into those eyes before apprehension and embarrassment stole it. “I, ah…” She briefly glanced at his sister. “Olivia suggested I accompany her here until the worst of the gossip blows over.”
“Gossip from yet another failed engagement, I assume?”
“Yes.” She lifted her chin a notch and their gazes connected.
Perhaps five or six inches shorter than he, he liked that she didn’t flinch or cast her attention away. “You assume I want your scandal here.” He crossed his arms at his chest. “I’ve spent a good portion of my time as the laird to keep such things from my family.”
“I hadn’t a choice.”
He scoffed. “There is always a choice.”
Olivia intervened. “Stop, Ewan. Have empathy for Emma. She needed to get away from the man she would have married. This is the best place I knew.”
“Was he abusive?” Donovan ignored the tiny sliver of curiosity in his chest.
The woman shook her head. “No, but—”
“Is he in debt and chased by his creditors?”
“Is he hideously ugly?”
Annoyance flashed in her eyes, and it gave him perverse pleasure to see her dander up. “No, but—”
“—then there is no reason to break a betrothal contract.”
Her eyes narrowed. Twin spots of color blazed in her cheeks. In such high dudgeon, she was… arresting almost. “There is quite a large reason. I don’t love him.” Fury reflected in her face, and he lifted an eyebrow in surprise. “A woman shouldn’t have to wed a man who doesn’t set her heart to thumping or her body aflame.”
The words brought him out of the temporary spell she’d inadvertently woven. Donovan snorted. “There is more reason than that to wed.” Was the universe conspiring against him with this theme?
“Perhaps to you because you’re a man and the world is open to you. But women and especially women like me?” When she shrugged, the dress pulled tightly across a full bosom. “There are precious little options, so why should we settle for less than what we deserve?”
This time, both his eyebrows soared while his sister looked on with obvious amusement. “That is all well and good, Miss Radcliffe, but Lyon Castle is not a sanctuary for women frightened of marriage.”
Miss Radcliffe gasped. Olivia gawked. The blonde advanced toward him until she stood toe-to-toe with him. “I am not afraid.” To his amazement, she drilled a forefinger into his chest. “I merely refuse to toss away my life on someone who doesn’t inspire me… to do anything.”
“At your age, I rather think you cannot be choosy.”
“How dare you!” Fury danced in her eyes. An angry flush colored her cheeks. “You know nothing about my life or how I came to be here. I don’t care how many titles you hold, that doesn’t give you the right to sit in judgment.” Then she slapped him. The sound of flesh hitting flesh resounded in the quiet room. “You are impossible, and as soon as I can sort my options, I’ll be happy to never darken your door again.”
With that, she stormed from the room with a shocked and laughing Olivia in tow.
Hellfire and damnation. This day has been beyond trying.
Buy Links (including BookBub):
Will only be .99 cents on release day of April 12 and maybe the 13th until retailers change it back to regular at $3.99.
If money were no object, where would you go for a Spring Break vacation and why?
Anywhere that is crowded with people.
Why is your featured book a must-read this spring?
It takes place in the Scottish Highlands. Who doesn’t like that? Plus, there’s a runaway bride, a laird, and a naked man in a bathtub.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon CA account to win.
Runs April 1 – 30
Drawing will be held on May 2.
Sandra Sookoo is a USA Today bestselling author who firmly believes every person deserves acceptance and a happy ending. She’s written for publication since 2008. Most days you can find her creating scandal and mischief in the Regency-era, serendipity and happenstance in the Victorian era, or historical romantic suspense complete with mystery and intrigue. Reading is a lot like eating chocolates—you can’t just have one book. Good thing they don’t have calories!
When she’s not wearing out computer keyboards, Sandra spends time with her real-life Prince Charming in Central Indiana where she’s been known to bake cookies and make moments count because the key to life is laughter. A Disney fan since the age of ten, when her soul gets bogged down and her imagination flags, a trip to Walt Disney World is in order. Nothing fuels her dreams more than the land of eternal happy endings, hope and love stories.
Social Media Links:
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/sandra.sookoo
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/sandrasookooauthor/
Private reader group on FB: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1985711228318050/
Amazon page: amazon.com/author/sandrasookoo
Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/sandra-sookoo