Alasdair Penhallow, laird of his clan and master of Castle Tadgh, is forced to end his carefree bachelorhood, thanks to an ancient decree that requires him to marry. But Alasdair’s search for a biddable wife comes to a screeching halt when Fate serves up Fiona Douglass. Prickly as a thistle, Fiona challenges him at every turn, rendering herself surprisingly irresistible. Her love would be a prize indeed . . . if Alasdair could accept it.
Fiona gave her heart once, and doesn’t plan to repeat that folly. Yet she finds herself drawn to Alasdair’s intelligence and strength, and the passion he incites goes well beyond her expectations for what’s only a marriage of expedience. Despite herself, she’s falling in love with her husband.
But there’s a high wall between them — and Fiona’s not sure it can ever be torn down.
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The Laird Takes a Bride: The Penhallow Dynasty
Fiona Douglass has just watched another of her sisters get married. At the age of twenty-seven, she’s considered a spinster, and is happy to be so. Her one venture into romance ended disastrously for her. She was in love with, and all but engaged to Logan Munro, when her younger sister presented an opportunity for Logan to have a larger dowry. He seized the opportunity and became Fiona’s brother-in-law, breaking her heart, and causing her to swear off marriage. In the intervening years, she has managed to chase off all suitors, and has become a formidable and prickly woman. Her solitary existence is disrupted when she is ordered to journey to Castle Tadgh, as a potential bride to the laird.
Laird Alasdair Penhallow is a good leader to his clan, and is enjoying all the benefits of being a handsome, wealthy, powerful, and single young man. That’s all about to change, as an obscure clan law is brought to his attention – now that he’s thirty-five years old, he must marry immediately under penalty of death. Though he has no desire to wed, Alasdair will follow the law. He summons the four most eligible unmarried ladies to his castle, and from them will choose his bride.
Three of the four ladies are most eager to become the laird’s wife, and their personalities and actions create some of the lighter moments in the book. Fiona is sure she won’t be chosen, and makes no attempt to be civil or pleasant to Alasdair. She’s just impatiently waiting for this “contest” to end, so that she can return to her normal life. To Alasdair’s credit, he behaves as a gentleman, and makes several attempts to treat Fiona with courtesy, which she rebuffs. Alasdair has no liking for Fiona, and doesn’t find her attractive, so they are both dismayed when fate sends the other three ladies away, leaving only Fiona. Knowing their duty to the law, they are most unhappily married.
There is no magical transformation of their feelings or instant desire. Their physical joining is brief, perfunctory, and unsatisfying. Still, the ever pragmatic Fiona goes about her duties as laird’s wife, and begins to find purpose for her life, as well as making great improvements in Castle Tadgh. Slowly, Alasdair begins to notice and appreciate her value, and surprisingly, he begins to find her more attractive. Both he and Fiona start to wonder if maybe they can bring more joy and happiness to their bedroom. The catalyst happens when Fiona is kidnapped, then rescued by Alasdair. They both admit to wanting more from each other physically, and their lovemaking takes on a new dimension, which spills over to their other interactions. Everything is so much better now – time for a happy ending, right? Not so fast……..
An even more obscure clan law is discovered that negates their marriage as if it had never happened. Ever proud, and certain that Alasdair would not choose her voluntarily, Fiona elects to go home. Alasdair, feeling that he can’t stand in the way of her desire to leave him, lets her go without a fight. I ended up liking both these characters, though at times they didn’t make it easy for me. Fiona was a very strong and determined woman, except for her continued mooning over her lost love, Logan, even after nine years. Her stubbornness and defensiveness unfortunately often came out in the form of caustic remarks and a cold demeanor. Still, I could sense her vulnerability and kindness, and I really wanted her to find love and happiness so that she could reveal the softer side of herself to the world. Alasdair also had walls around himself, and while he was not so outwardly abrasive as Fiona, he was quite able to give back as good as he got.
Fiona’s and Alasdair’s separation was painful, yet it turned out to be very good for them. They both had time to reflect on their lives with and without each other. Their reconciliation was tender and sweet, yet not unrealistic for them. I found THE LAIRD TAKES A BRIDE to be a very enjoyable read, filled with some heartbreak, some pain, some awfully silly laws, a strong willed couple, and a realistic romance with a satisfying happy ever after.