LAIRD OF BALLANCLAIRE – Jackie Ivie
Massachusetts and Scotland - 1771
Constant Ridgely is the family drudge. She is the seventh daughter of a patriotic colonist family, and because of her strength, abilities, and outspokenness, Constant is the one relied upon to do everything from cook to farm the land. One day, after another argument with her pregnant older sister and mother, Constant and her five year-old brother and a young cousin find a man tarred and feathered in the nearby woods. He begs for help, and they manage to get him to the farm and hide him from the family. Unsure if her young relatives will keep the secret, Constant manages to move him from the original hiding place to the loft in the barn. He is in very bad shape.
Kameron Ballan, a Highlander serving in the British Army, has had the misfortune to be targeted by a group of colonists in the local pub. Despite his immense size, they manage to tie him up, hang him from a tree, and proceed to tar and feather him. His leg may be broken; every part of his naked body is covered in thick black tar, and he can feel that more than one of his ribs is broken. The young woman who is tending him slowly begins to realize that it was her family and neighbors who did this, and she is aiding the enemy in their eyes if she were discovered. But Kam is also aware that she is an independent spirit, compassionate, and extremely pleasant to look at.
Although Constant has been told all of her life that she's too big, too bold, and obviously not attractive, her patient seems to think otherwise. And the more she uncovers the layers of tar, the more she realizes that this man with the odd accent is more than handsome, he's simply beautiful. Constant has never met such a man before, or one who has told her that she's smart, intuitive, and—amazingly—pleasant to look at. But how to help this man recover and keep her family from discovering him? Her midnight forays out to the barn seem to go unnoticed in the excitement of her sister giving birth. The men, however, are due back soon, and she must get Kam mobile as soon as possible.
Kam has his secrets, though, and the reason the heir to the Laird of Ballanclaire is in the colonies is because, in his avoidance of a marriage to a Spanish princess, he was caught in an affair that went bad. He's been a rebel to his family since he was small, and, as the only child, he knows he has to eventually become laird. In the meantime, however, he will resist all efforts of his father to tame him.
LAIRD OF BALLANCLAIRE was an enjoyable read. Constant comes out of her funk thanks to the words of the handsome Scot who seems to be the only person on earth who appreciates her. For Kam, Constant is a breath of fresh air. She knows nothing about him, but takes great chances to care for him, expecting nothing in return. When he finally escapes, though, is when he truly appreciates the tough, young woman who ministered to him.
If I had to criticize this story at all, it would be to say that the dialogue between the two, and later with others, went on and on. It is a character-driven tale, and both lead characters are wonderfully portrayed in this unique premise. Secondary personalities really don't appear until the second half of the book, but they are crucial to the story. The last few chapters are extremely well done, and will be quite surprising to readers.
For a truly fun read, do pick up a copy of LAIRD OF BALLANCLAIRE. You'll love Constant, and you'll especially love Kam.