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With its older heroine and half- Russian, half-Scottish hero, Cornick’s third Scottish Brides tale is as unconventional a story as the characters are unusual for a Regency-set romance. There’s just enough intrigue and mystery — and the right amount of banter and sexual tension — to move the story forward. Cornick is a fine storyteller, willing to take a few risks to satisfy readers seeking a quick, appealing read.
Lucas Black thrust aside his royal blood, title and place in society to run a successful gambling den. But when his half-brother dies under suspicious circumstances in an isolated area of the Highlands, Lucas goes after the killer. Disguised as a footman, he takes a position at the Duke of Forres’ manor. Lady Christina McMorlan appears, the dutiful daughter caring for her father’s estate and guests. But Christina is also the head of a band of smugglers and whiskey distillers. Lucas hopes she can lead him to his quarry. Christina finds the new footman too bold and handsome for comfort, but she can’t deny her attraction. As trust and passion grow, Christina and Lucas are caught in a web of danger neither expects. (HQN, Aug., 368 pp., $7.99)