Almost every year I manage to sneak down to Puerto Rico for a week during the second half of Christmas Break. The long plane rides and longer layovers allow me to have guilt-free dedicated reading time at the end of a very busy season of concerts, extra services and gatherings.
The very first book I read on my vacation was Tessa Dare's When a Scot Ties the Knot
Madeline Gracechurch is paralyzing shy and makes up fake fiance, an army captain heading to war, in order to avoid having to endure a season of balls and dinners with strangers. Creating a fictional fiance gave her time to grow and mature but at same time distanced her from her family as the burden of her lie grew. For years Madeline sends confessional letters to her fake fiance before killing him off when the deception was too much to maintain. Madeline retires to castle in Scotland as spinster, where she can concentrate on her nature studies and life-drawings. When her fake fiance shows up at her door, ready to claim her and her lands there is no one more shocked.
Logan Mackenzie was mere private when Madeline's letters started arriving. The letters and their odd intimacies sustained him through the worst days of the wars and trapped him in a deception of his own. He is resentfully fascinated with Madeline, whose motivations he can barely understand. With the wars over he returns to a greatly changed Scotland. His damaged men are landless and un-welcomed and Madeline's lands and the fiction of their long anticipated reunion is the only hope he can offer them.
I love fake engagements, especially those that turn into grudging marriage of conveniences because the lovers are both accomplices and antagonists, creating fantastic tension. Logan and Madeline must get to know each other in order to working together but also in order to try to outwit each other in the tug-of-war of their relationship. They start falling in love the more they discover about each other, untangling the truth from the fictions.
I loved the way Dare explores the complicated relationship we have with truth and love in all the storylines, the lies we speak to protect ourselves and those we love from hurt and disappointment, lies of hope and lies of pain. Logan and Madelines's lies isolate them but also draw them together and eventually they come to each other in genuine love that allows them to see each other truthfully and accept each others failures, failings and vulnerabilities.
When a Scot Ties the Knot is deceptively light read whose conflicts and questions stayed with me long after I finished it.