Signet, Mar 2002, 6.50, 320 pp.
In 1746 England, Duke Alaric Drayton becomes upset to learn that his oldest daughter Elizabeth wrote the infamous “A Letter in Favor of Women's Equality to Man”. Alaric feels that Elizabeth broke convention even if she anonymously sent her letter to the Female Spectator. He informs her that she will visit her aunt in Scotland until he calms down. In actuality, Alaric is sending Elizabeth to marry a family friend.
On the trek to Scotland, the carriage becomes stuck in mud. Douglas MacKinnon helps pull the carriage free. Elizabeth, learning she is to marry, concocts a plan to pretend that Douglas is her fiancé. However, a few drinks later and by morning her sister Isabella catches the duo in bed together. Though both insist nothing happened, Bella insures they marry. Alaric learns that Douglas is a noble seeking the return of his family lands taken because his father participated with the Jaocbites at Culloden. Alaric blackmails Douglas into remaining as Elizabeth's husband for two months. The couple falls in love, but what will happen to their relationship once Elizabeth learns the intricacies of the deal between her beloved and her father.
THE PRETENDER is an entertaining Scottish historical romance that provides a vigorous look at the too often written post Culloden English-Scottish relationship. The lead couple is a delight with their own agenda that love ravages. The story line is loaded with plots and counterplots that feel like an espionage tale, but instead provides a robust historical romance. Sub-genre fans will relish this novel while looking forward to Jaclyn Reding's tales starring Elizabeth's four younger siblings.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner