Stripped of his lands by the English king who killed his father, James Douglas will do whatever it takes to see his clan’s honor and fortune restored. The ambitious young knight, whose dark visage, powerful stature, and ferocity in battle has earned him the epitaph “the Black,” knows he must use fear, force, and intimidation to defeat the English, put Robert the Bruce on Scotland’s throne, and restore the honor of the Douglas name. Nothing and no one will get in his way. Not even the lass who captured his heart in childhood and still holds it in her delicate hands.
Joanna Dicson has loved James Douglas for as long as she can remember. That she is “only” the daughter of the marshal of Douglas Castle has never concerned her. Yet even as James’s ruthless reputation grows, and despite the warnings of others to guard her heart—and her virtue—against him, Joanna never dreams he will turn on her. He loves her and would never hurt her. But when James returns to Douglas to force the English garrison from his castle, Joanna learns that their love is nothing against his ambition. His marriage—like everything else—will be a means of bettering his clan. Heartbroken and humiliated, Joanna is left alone with a secret that may destroy them both
#7.5 in the Highland Guard series and a novella, so this is short, and some back history/characterisations (especially those of the secondary characters) are short as a result. I have not read any other books in this series so dont know how this stacks up against any of the others.
There is some frank sexual talk, especially at the beginning of the book, so not for those who are of a sensitive nature! After being away fighting, James returns to retake the castle, and finds Joanna at their usual meeting place. Things come to a head, when Joanna realises that the others were right – James will never marry her, as his ambition will make him marry someone of higher status and with money. However, he assumes that she’s willing to be his mistress, and cannot understand that she expected more, especially after losing her virginity to him. Little does he know, she is also pregnant with his child.
James takes it hard that he cant have his cake AND eat it – after all Joanna loves him and want sex with him, right? So why cant this work? Joanna cuts off all contact, and James goes back out to fight for Robert Bruce, spending months away from home. When he is offered what he thought he wanted – the hand of Bruce’s youngest daughter in marriage – he realises he has to make a decision. He is shocked to find out just what Joanna has been going through as a result of his actions, and starts trying to make amends.
This is a novella, so things do happen rather brusquely so I dont know if things could have been done better/differently if done as a book (would James have done more grovelling for instance?). Suitably distracting afternoon read, but not sure I’d be actively seeking out others in this series (though if one fell my way I wouldnt say no)