He left his bride to go to war…
After years of soldiering, Michael Brodie returns to his Highland estate to find that the bride he left behind has become a stranger. Brenna is self-sufficient, competent, confident-and furious. Despite her anger at Michael’s prolonged absence, Brenna has remained loyal to her husband, though Michael’s people, and most especially the uncle who held the estate together for him, make it clear they expect Michael to set Brenna aside.
Though his most important battle will be for her heart.
Michael left Brenna when she needed him most, and then stayed away even after the war ended. Nonetheless, the young man who abandoned her has come home a wiser, more patient and honorable husband. Brenna is hurt, bewildered, and tired of fighting for the respect of those around her, but if she trusts Michael with the truths she’d been guarding, he’ll have to choose between his wife and everything he holds dear.
Sometime after she’d fallen exhausted into her bed, Brenna felt the mattress dip and shift. A pleasant whiff of vetiver, whiskey—and meadow grass?—came to her as her husband arranged himself two feet to her left.
The next sound was harder to decipher, but she managed—the soles of two big male feet rubbing together, the bedtime equivalent of shaking the dust of the day from one’s feet, a small safeguard in the direction of keeping the sheets clean if conducted with those feet hanging over the side of the bed.
Michael punched his pillows next, several stout blows that would have knocked wayward notions from grown men.
“Are you trying to wake me up, Husband?”
The punching stopped, and she felt him flop down onto the mattress—and heard the put-upon male sigh with which he tucked himself in.
“You did not lock the door, Brenna. My things are in this room.”
So was his wife.
“Neither one of us wants talk.” The bed was huge, and they weren’t touching, but Brenna could feel her husband thinking.
“I did not want you to conclude I was sneaking up on you.”
“You’re hard to miss when encountered in a bed, Michael. Go to sleep. Morning comes quickly.” And yet, she was pleased the pillows had taken a few warning shots on her behalf.
“You want time.”
“I want a good night’s sleep.” Though she should have anticipated that, like any man, Michael would want to beat a topic to death once broached. He could not ponder a discussion and undertake it in manageable portions; he must have done with it, regardless of the hour.
“I want time, too, Brenna Maureen.”
Brenna rolled to her side, wishing she’d left a candle burning, despite the extravagance. “Time for what?”
“I was a good soldier, once I saw what was expected of me. It’s part of the reason I went to France. I was to look after my men, the same as a laird looks after his people. When I went to France, it was much the same, though I was in a garrison with soldiers of a different nationality. We looked after one another, most of the time, and when a man lapsed in that duty, he suffered consequences.”
What was he saying, and why must he say it to her in pitch darkness?
“If I were planning to run off, Michael Brodie, I would have scarpered long since. Many and many a family has left the Highlands, including entire branches of clan MacLogan. I could easily have gone with them.” Though her own clansmen had hardly recalled where they’d stashed her, once she’d come to live at Castle Brodie.
A considering pause ensued, and then Brenna felt a single, callused finger trace down the side of her jaw.
“You might have left, but you stayed. I’m glad you stayed.”
THE LAIRD, the third book in the Captive Hearts series by Grace Burrowes, who I have considered a master storyteller for quite some time was indeed a captivating story. The Laird goes beyond the long delayed reunion of Michael and Brenna Brodie to the heart of the love, loyalty and sacrifices they have made during the nearly ten years of separation and what it has cost them both.
I was excited to finally get read Michael’s story. He was so mysterious in The Captive and in The Traitor so I was definitely curious to learm more about him. Apparently Michael married Brenna, a young woman, who he had been betrothed to since he was thirteen. Her parents sent her to live in his family’s castle when she was just a child and he was advised by his father that as his future wife it was his job to look after her and protect her. He took that to heart and as they grew up he came to love and cherish her. But the morning after their marriage he still left to serve King and country in the war against the Corsican. Michael left the son of a Scottish Laird and an Irish Lady, but came home the Laird himself due to his father’s passing during the time he was away. His mother had taken his younger sisters and moved back to Ireland before his father had even passed. This left Brenna the Lady of the castle and in charge but also at the mercy of Michael’s father’s brother, who she rightly does not trust, for help running the estate. A man who had his reasons for not wanting Brenna there and a man who enjoyed the power he held over her people as the acting steward of the castle and it’s tenants.
Grace writes Michael and Brenna with a true, abiding and very loyal love for each other. Neither of them were unfaithful in any way to their marriage vows despite the nearly a decade of separation. But they did each have their secrets and neither had an easy road. Both were in fact, in desperate situations and fighting a battle without true support from anyone else. Michael working undercover behind enemy lines and Brenna as the Lady of the castle with no husband to back her up and no trust from the very people she was charged to care for in her husband’s absence. When Michael finally comes home from his responsibilities in the war and to the King, they are basically strangers who are not sure where they stand with each other. They had to essentially start over and come to know each other again. I loved how Michael took charge of this and set out to woo his bride. He was kind, humorous, and romantic, where Brenna wanted to be angry, pragmatic and sensible. I loved that Michael is patient with Brenna when she refuses him his marital rights. Instead of forcing the issue, he wins her trust and her heart. He intuitively knows that she is so guarded because she has been hurt and sets out to make her feel safe.
Brenna has loved Michael since she came to live in the castle as a lonely eight year old girl. He was her safe place then and as her husband quickly steps into that role for her again. She was hurt from his abandonment and I love that she does not give in easy to him. She is also holding secrets that she is afraid for Michael to learn of in fear he will not want her. She makes him prove he is sincere and will cherish her as he promised all those years ago.
Along with the reunion and love that grows and matures between Michael and Brenna, the Laird sensitively portrays the struggle and despair that pervades the life of a victim of child abuse. The betrayal when a trusted adult takes advantage of a child’s love and innocence. The threats, shame and fear the abuser instills in the heart of his victims so that they keep his actions secret. Grace does an amazing job of unfolding these secrets little by little as Michael and Brenna’s relationship grows. It is not an easy subject to read and it could not have been an easy subject to write, but I thought it was very well done. I felt the mystery and suspense it created added to the overall story without overpowering it.
I was happy to see Sebastian St. Clair and his bride, Milly come to visit and offer support to Michael. Maeve, Michael’s eight year old sister was spunky and played an important role in the story. Brenna’s cousins were very aloof for most of the book, until the end when all becomes clear and explains so much of their behavior. The ending itself I felt was wrapped up neatly, amazingly still had a wonderful HEA, and even a nicely done epilogue. 4 stars
~Complimentary copy downloaded from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review~
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes’ bestsellers include The Heir, The Soldier, Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish and Lady Eve’s Indiscretion. Her Regency romances have received extensive praise, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Grace is branching out into short stories and Scotland-set Victorian romance with Sourcebooks. She is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland.
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