passion rating: warm
The beginning of this book is so peculiar, it’s disconcerting. It's 1859 in Inverness and Shona, the widowed Countess of Morton, so penniless she can barely feed herself, is interviewing - just for the hell of it - four stalwart lads she's asked to remove their shirts. I found this odd beyond measure. She's wasting these young men's time, she's ogling them in a society where such behavior could ruin her, and she’s doing this because she’s what? Bored?
Into this tableau strides Sir Gordon MacDermond, the man Shona once loved, and according to him, betrayed. He's come to see her brother and his friend, the war wounded Fergus, whom Gordon hasn't seen in six months, since both men returned from India. Shona, Fergus, and her companion Helen are all about to be evicted from their home - her husband's heir is taking the house. Shona's husband left her destitute and now, having sold everything she owns to pay off his debts and support her small family, she has nowhere to turn.
Shona and Gordon still love one another, but for hazy reasons neither can embrace the other. As Gordon is leaving, he stiffly inquires if Fergus needs anything and Shona, desperate, asks if Gordon can offer her brother a home in Inverness. She lies to Gordon about her distressed circumstances and tells him she's having a new house in Inverness readied and thus will be able to take Fergus back in a few weeks. Gordon agrees to take Fergus and Shona and Gordon part, full of thoughts of their passionate, rolling in the heather, youthful love.
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