Fated Love Wins The Day In "My Highland Rogue"

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Title:  My Highland Rogue
Series:  A Highland Fling #1
Author:  Karen Ranney
Format:  eARC
Length:  384 pages
Publisher: Avon
Rating:  3 Stars

New York Times bestselling author Karen Ranney takes readers back to beautiful Scotland in the first novel in her breathtaking new series.

Since she was a little girl, Jennifer Adaire, daughter of the Earl of Burfield, has loved Gordon McDonnell even though his station as the gardener’s son made him strictly forbidden to her. After Gordon was forced from Adaire Hall, taking Jennifer’s heart with him, he headed for London, intent on making a better life for himself. Though they’ve kept in touch through letters and Jennifer has waited patiently for him, it’s taken Gordon five years to return to Scotland. Now Jennifer doesn’t know if she can manage seeing again the man she loves—but can never have.

In the time since his departure, Gordon has achieved the success he’s always sought. When he learns that his father is dying, he returns home and discovers much to his surprise that the feelings he’s always had for Jennifer burn ever stronger.

But when a family secret surfaces, Jennifer and Gordon’s chance at a future together could be threatened…

Please enjoy this excerpt from
My Highland Rogue
(Highland Fling #1)
Karen Ranney

My Highland Rogue Excerpt
June, 1865

Adaire Hall, Scotland

“I’ll be damned if I know why she did it, but the Countess of Burfield left you a bequest.”

Gordon McDonnell turned from the window and stared at the man who’d just spoken.

Richard McBain was the advocate for the Adaire family. For a number of years he’d also served as the guardian for the underage Earl of Burfield who’d ascended to his title at the age of five.

Gordon had had a few encounters with McBain in the past. Whenever they happened to meet — or he was called into the study — it was never to his advantage.

At first he thought that McBain had somehow discovered his relationship with Jennifer Adaire.

Jennifer was Lady Jennifer, the daughter of the Earl and Countess of Burfield. Gordon was only the gardener’s boy, a title he’d been called ever since he was little. He’d grown to heartily despise it.

He had plans for his life, plans that didn’t include becoming a gardener like his father. Gordon didn’t care if anything bloomed or grew under his care. He preferred the wildness of the terrain surrounding Adaire Hall to the cultivated plants in the various gardens.

His mind registered what McBain said, but it still didn’t make any sense. “What do you mean, the countess left me a bequest?”

“Evidently, the woman saw something in you I don’t understand.”

McBain had always talked to him in that same tone. He’d learned to ignore it.

“I didn’t expect that,” Gordon said.

Perhaps he should have. The countess had always been kind to him and he’d always liked her. Their unusual relationship had begun when he was only seven.

One day, he’d seen her nurse wheel her out to the terrace so that she could enjoy the sunshine in the garden. He had dared his father’s anger and had plucked some flowers for her, then walked up the three steps and thrust them at her.

“It’s a bunch of posies, ma’am, to make you smile.”

“You’ll address her correctly, boy,” the nurse had said. “It’s Your Ladyship to you.”

Gordon hadn’t corrected himself, merely continued to stare at the countess.

The countess’s vision had been badly damaged in a fire. She saw shapes and some colors, but little more. That day she’d reached out and felt his face, placing her palms against his cheeks.

“What is your name?”

“Gordon, ma’am. Gordon McDonnell. Your Ladyship.”

“Sean McDonnell’s lad.”

“Aye, the same.”

“And you picked your father’s flowers to give to me.”

“I think they’re your flowers, ma’am. Your Ladyship. I merely borrowed them for a time.”

The countess had taken the flowers and brought them to her face, telling him that they smelled of spring.

From that moment on whenever the countess came to the garden Gordon went to see her. Their relationship was less that of the gardener’s boy and countess than it was friendship, of a sort. He told her of his dreams. She shared some of her thoughts with him. In addition, she taught him a number of things that he’d never have learned, otherwise, like how to handle his anger and how to speak properly.

He turned back to the window, unwilling to let McBain see his expression.

Her death hadn’t been any easier than her life. After she’d died he’d heard more than one person say that it was a blessing she’d finally been released. His first reaction to that comment had been anger. The world was less interesting because she was no longer in it. It was certainly less friendly.

“I tried to talk her out of it,” the advocate said. “I don’t know what you’re going to do with the money, but I doubt you’ll put it to good use.”

Then McBain mentioned an amount that had Gordon turning and staring at him incredulously.

“How much?”

McBain repeated the amount.

“And it’s all mine?”

“It’s all yours.”

He’d just been given a fortune.

“It’s the perfect time, I think,” McBain said, “to tell you that you’re no longer welcome at Adaire Hall.” The advocate smiled, an expression that reminded Gordon of a cat that had just devoured a plump mouse.

“It’s been brought to my attention, McDonnell, that you have ideas above your station. I’ve been asked to explain to you that any further advances to Lady Jennifer are unwelcome. Therefore, the easiest thing for everyone would be for you to leave Adair Hall immediately.”

He stared at McBain.

“It’s no secret that you’ve been causing Lady Jennifer trouble. You’ve been too persistent in your attentions.”

“I don’t understand.” Jennifer wouldn’t have made that comment.

“It’s simple enough,” the advocate said, standing. “That relationship is over.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Spare the young woman some embarrassment, McDonnell. Pretend, in this instance, that you have the manners of a gentleman. She’s just left for Edinburgh and expressly asked me to convey to you that she would like you gone before she returns. She’s not the only one who’s anxious for your departure. The Earl of Burfield feels the same way.”

The Earl of Burfield. That was a laugh. Jennifer’s brother had always been an idiot. In the past few years he’d coupled his idiocy with being an ass.

“I might add that your father agrees.”

Was he supposed to be surprised at that news? He and Sean had clashed ever since he was a child.

“Maybe my father and Harrison want me gone,” Gordon said, “but not Jennifer.”

Just last night they’d met at the loch, spent hours talking, and ended the night by kissing. She couldn’t have changed her mind in a matter of hours. Not Jennifer.

“She’s not going to return from Edinburgh until you’re gone. Your father has packed your belongings, McDonnell. The sooner you’ve left, the better for everyone. You’ve been a disruptive influence around here for too long. Unfortunately, the countess didn’t agree with my assessment of you.”

Evidently, he had one more reason to be grateful to the countess.

“Neither of your parents have expressed a wish to see you before you leave. Nor has the earl. There’s a carriage at the front door. It will take you to Inverness.”

“I’m not leaving until I talk to Jennifer.”

McBain approached him slowly. “Understand this, McDonnell, Lady Jennifer doesn’t want anything to do with you now or in the future.”

Gordon faced the older man down. He was nearly a foot taller and bigger than the advocate. He wasn’t intimidated.

When he didn’t speak McBain continued. “She regrets meeting you at the loch, McDonnell and allowing you to kiss her. Is that plain enough for you? Face it, man. You were an amusement and now you’re not.”

McBain’s tone had softened and there was something that sounded like pity in his voice.

Had he been wrong? Was it possible that Jennifer felt that way? No, McBain was an idiot to think he’d believe that of Jennifer.

The advocate returned to his desk, reached into the drawer and pulled out a stack of notes. Gordon immediately knew what they were. He and Jennifer left notes for each other all over Adaire Hall. In the coop, in the fork of a tree they’d learned to climb just beyond the house, in a loose brick in the fireplace in a room adjacent to the schoolroom — anywhere they could find that would be private. If Gordon couldn’t meet Jennifer after his work was done or if she couldn’t join him because of her obligations, they always communicated with each other.

Jennifer told him recently that she’d kept all of his notes to her, that she considered them precious.

No longer, evidently.

McBain amused himself by reading some of them aloud. The silly poetry Gordon had written for Jennifer seemed even more foolish now.

It was the ultimate act of betrayal.

McBain didn’t say a word as Gordon left the study. Less than an hour later he was in the carriage on the way to Inverness, a letter to the bank in his pocket detailing his bequest. For the first time in his life he had some wealth, but it was balanced by the empty feeling in his chest.

My Thoughts
Gordon McDonnell may have been just "the gardener's boy".  To all who knew him growing up in the shadow of Adaire Hall.  The great manor house belonging to the 5th Earl of Burfield.  But to a select few inhabitants of that great estate.  He was simply Gordon.  Playmate, confidant, friend, and even first love.
But there are those who believe that Gordon's time within the walls of  Adaire Hall have given him ambitions of life far above his humble station.
Particularly in regard the budding romance between he and Lady Jennifer Adaire.
And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the two are parted.
Even if it requires that two hearts be crushed by lies and deceptions in the process.

But fate it appears is a fickle mistress.  And the plans and machinations are but a fraying thread in the tapestry of time.  Needing only the slightest tug of circumstance to unravel.
Reuniting two bereft souls.  Bringing Gordon back to the place were love, pain, and lies combined to strip him of everything and everyone he once considered home and his.

Some five years have passed, and Gordon is far removed from the wounded young man that was sent to find his fortune.  With only the generous bequest of the late Countess of Adaire to his name.
In his place is a polished and successful business owner.
Returned at the behest of Jennifer.  To sit at the bedside of his dying father.

This slowly simmering romance has more to do with the drama surrounding Gordon and Jennifer. Then the lovers themselves.
So much time is spent explaining the back stories of the countess, her son, his wife, and their aunt.
That Jennifer and Gordon become little more than points of reference for a great portion of this read.
Their romance reduced to a few stolen moments and chaste kisses.
With promises of more.
The drama bomb is detonated at a little more than mid-book
Living Gordon and Jennifer's relationship in tatters once again.
With no hope of salvation.
Save a last minute plot twist worthy of the cheesiest daytime soap opera.

Though there is no denying that this book is very well written.  The Prince And the Pauper-esque tale found here is nowhere near the caliber of story that this reviewer has experienced from Ms. Ranney.
Here's hoping that this series finds its footing in coming books.

WTF Are You Reading would like to thank Avon and Netgally for providing the review copy on which the above critique is based.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the reviewer. And are in no way influenced by any other party. This is an unsolicited review.

About Karen

I’m a writer who’s been privileged to have attained the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller Lists.

Although I've primarily written historical romance, I've also written contemporary romantic suspense, a murder mystery, and I'm having a wonderful time writing about a vampire who is being challenged by her new state of being. (The Montgomery Chronicles: The Fertile Vampire and The Reluctant Goddess coming March 12, 2015.)

I believe in the power of the individual, the magnificence of the human spirit, and always looking for the positive in any situation. I write about people who have been challenged by life itself but who win in the end.

Email: karen@karenranney.com
Twitter: @Karen_Ranney

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