Series: Secrets of the Loch (Book 2)
Damon, the earl of Mardoun, is smitten the moment he meets Meg, the village healer -- but she rejects every advance from the earl, and will have none of him, even if he is the most handsome man she’s ever laid eyes on. But when unforeseen circumstances bring them together, her conviction begins to fade…
Damon’s daughter falls gravely ill, and distraught, he turns to Meg for help. During the course of nursing his beloved daughter back to health, Meg and Damon fall madly in love, but they both know an earl must wed a noble bride. And Meg will be no man’s mistress.
Good book. Meg is the local healer, from a family of women known for their healing abilities. They have also been known for their independence, and Meg is no different. She also looks out for the local people, and is furious over the things she sees happening.
Damon is part English, part Scot, and has inherited Duncally. He has had an estate manager running things, but has recently arrived, along with his daughter, to spend some time on his property. He is recently widowed, and is taking the time to get to know his daughter again. The first time he sees Meg he is attracted to her, but she wants nothing to do with him, something he isn't accustomed to,
I had a little trouble warming up to Damon at the beginning. From the little that he had heard about Meg, he simply assumed that she would be amenable to his attentions. His first encounter with her had him finding out just how wrong he was. He has also left his estate in the hands of his manager, without paying any real attention to the man's methods, as long as the property was showing a profit. So he had a reputation of being a cold and cruel man who had no problem with throwing people out of their homes just to make room for more sheep. When confronted by Meg, he simply told her the land was his to do with what he wanted. The only redeeming factor I saw at the beginning was his obvious love for his daughter.
The relationship between Damon and Meg was an interesting one. It started out with the attraction that they both felt, but Meg is determined to resist. There's no use getting involved with a man so far above her, and who won't be staying around. I loved how she told him off when he assumed that she would be happy to sleep with him, and Damon's utter confusion over it. They have a couple of encounters where the attraction nearly overpowers her common sense. Plus, she can't reconcile the attraction with the reputation he has for the way he treats the people. She begins to suspect that the reputation is undeserved when he stops his manager from destroying a circle of standing stones, and again when she meets his daughter Lynette.
When they finally give in to the passion between them, it is amazing for both of them. But Damon does something that makes Meg question his opinion of her, and she reacts quite strongly, putting them at odds yet again. When Meg witnesses another act of cruelty done in Damon's name, she is devastated by the idea that she could be attracted to a man like that. When she confronts him about it, he is at first defensive, but once he finds out the details he is stunned and horrified. I loved the actions that he took then. That began his transformation from the uncaring and oblivious English lord to one who wants to do what is right. But the damage has been done to their fledgling relationship, and Damon has to accept that she wants nothing to do with him.
Meanwhile, Meg has befriended Damon's daughter, Lynette, and they get along really well. Lynette had been overprotected and treated as frail by her mother. Damon's marriage had not been a happy one, and he had stayed away a lot, but that had kept him from getting to know his daughter. With his wife's death, they now have a chance to reconnect, and Damon's attention has caused Lynette's self confidence to bloom. Lynette has also come to love the time she spends with Meg. When Lynette gets really sick, Damon is terrified he'll lose her and begs Meg for her help. I loved seeing the two of them work together to take care of Lynette, and how that put them on the road to repairing their relationship. Once the crisis is past with Lynette, there's nothing else to distract them from the attraction that still burns between them. I loved seeing Damon trying to bury the feelings that are just growing stronger. Meg was also trying to fight her feelings, and finally decides that there is nothing wrong with living her life the way she wants to. As they spend time together taking care of Lynette, those feelings just get stronger.
They've settled into a comfortable pattern when unexpected guests arrive. The sister of Damon's late wife and two of her friends show up, with Violet claiming she wanted to see Lynette. Of course, it's obvious to everyone except Damon that she's really there to try to snag him for herself. There are some very interesting encounters before Damon sees the truth and puts his foot down. But in the meantime, Meg's insecurities reappear, reminding her of the gulf between her and Damon. The question becomes one of whether Damon can convince her that their love is enough to overcome the obstacles.
There has also been a thread running through this book and the previous one about a treasure rumored to be hidden in the area, A local man had brought back gold for the Jacobite rebellion fifty years earlier, but no one knows what happened to it. In the process of Meg trying to find out more about her grandmother, she and Damon discover a clue to the whereabouts of that treasure. During a rather hair raising adventure something of real interest is found, which leads into the next and final book in the trilogy.