The Highlander's Princess Bride by Vanessa Kelly
The Highlander's Princess Bride is both a charming Regency romp and a searing indictment of male attitudes towards women's rights in the period, and I absolutely loved every word of it. It has everything you might want from a Highlander romance; a sexy, brooding Scotsman - in fact, a whole family of seven brothers - a clan laird, a castle, and more kilts than you could shake a skean dhu at.
Where things get interesting with this novel is with the princess in question, because Victoria isn't really a princess. She is, in fact, an illegitimate daughter of the Prince Regent and a Brighton barmaid, and being of such dubious background, she knows very well that she will spend her whole life fighting an uphill battle to gain any kind of respectability.
Nevertheless, Victoria is absolutely no quitter. She's a professional governess and she's very, very good at what she does. When her employer's rakish brother tries to force himself on her, she has no compunctions about defending herself.
She really didn't intend for him to end up dead. Now, accused of murder, she turns for help to some of her powerful relations, who promptly find her another position safely out of the way while things quiet down. Beggars can't be choosers, though, and instead of two or three nice young ladies to teach piano and French to, she's shipped off to a drafty Scottish castle to try and educate a whole gang of barbarian Scots to fit into polite society.
Nicholas Kendrick, Earl of Arnprior, has too much tragedy and disaster in his background to want any more trouble on his doorstep. When Victoria manages against all the odds to not only tame his brothers, but win the respect of his Sassenach-hating grandfather, he finds himself hopelessly in love with her even though he knows she's keeping secrets. He's the most wonderful hero I've ever read in a Regency romance; there's an amazing line where he tells her that he knows she has her secrets (right after he just confessed all of his) but that it's all fine. He doesn't need to know all her secrets to love her, and maybe one day she'll trust him enough to share.
Of course, finding out she's accused of murder is a rather large secret, and he has a brief moment of shock, but to his credit he gets over himself within moments, knowing very well that she's not capable of what she's accused of. The loyalty he and his brothers show Victoria is utterly wonderful; I find myself hoping that Vanessa Kelly starts a whole new series of 7 Brides for the Kendrick Brothers, because believe me, they all deserved them.
There was a large cast of characters in this book, some of them who have obviously featured in previous novels. It wasn't necessary to be familiar with them, though, as everyone got their own neat little introduction. Fans of Ms. Kelly's prior works will enjoy revisiting with former favorites, and those new to her work will, as I was, be inspired to go and hunt down all her other books!
This is a fabulous book and I wish I could give it more than 5 stars, but 5 will have to do.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.