"True page turner from its shocking beginning to its stunning end!"
Reviewed by Heather Lobdell
Posted October 21, 2012
I found LESSONS IN LOVING A LARID, Michelle Marcos' latest
romance novel, refreshingly new and stunning in its
intensity. This one begins as no romance never ever has
before. Marcos' beginning is true to the time and gives readers
a very real glimpse of what life was like for a child
of Scotland as its people fought each other for land, for
honor, for title, or just simply for war. The book never did
slow down its pace and I just kept turning the page for that
something more where I could be okay putting it down!
Shona Slayter, once a MacAsian, and her sister Willow have
spent most of their lives as indentured servants. After
watching the brutal murders of most of their family, the
kidnapping of their brother, and the ultimate demise of
their clan the girls were forced to do anything to survive.
But that survival was not always easy. Now Shona is counting
down the days until she is free and can look for the brother
that she just knows is out there waiting to be found.
Unfortunately before her birthday the new Laird of
Ballencrieff thinks that his very much past due rents needs
paid in full and it seems that Shona and her sister are
going to be forced to cover the debts of the family they
Conall MacEwan has just recently lost his wife. Now he is
raising his son on his own, on an Estate he has never known,
where it seems the tenants have more than the Laird and
nothing has been set to rights for a very very long time.
Forced to collect back payments to ensure the sanctity of
his own, Conall did not expect to be questioned, nor did he
expect to find that this hostility is coming from feisty
young woman indentured to his tenants. Intrigued and more
than a little attracted Conall accepts payment in the form
of the girl and her sister who will be working off the debt
owed to him.
Determined to gain her freedom no matter the cost Shona sets
out to seduce the Laird. Unfortunately sometimes it seems
that her tongue gets in the way of her plans. Confident,
head strong, and brazen Shona stands up for those she
considers hers, she stands up for those she doesn't, and
finds herself standing up to the one man who can grant her
the freedom she so desires. Can Shona keep her temper in
check long enough to win the heart of the Laird?
These two characters were both independent people who you
almost knew would never fully get along. The sparks that
flew with each argument make them more determined to stay
away from the other. Yet it seems as if that is the one
thing that never happened. Conall and Shona are just drawn
to each other like moths to flame. Their romance is very
entertaining to watch. As much as Shona wants her freedom
she soon finds that she wants Conall more. Will the Laird
take a chance on love and claim her as his own?
A DEFIANT APPRENTICE
Thrust into indentured servitude as a child, Shona Slayter
is counting the days until her twenty-first birthday, when
she gains her precious freedom. Unfortunately, the new
laird of the estate has other plans—and he’s determined to
keep her bound to him. The only way for Shona to be free of
her bonds is to marry the man who holds the key. But
seducing a handsome laird is not what she was trained for,
and the more she tries to win his heart, the more she loses
A HARD MASTER
With a young son to raise and a crumbling Scottish estate to
manage, Conall has enough to worry about without the brazen,
beautiful Shona challenging him at every turn. But their
heated spats are starting to turn into real sparks…and soon
the Scottish hills are ablaze with their forbidden
attraction. Yet no matter what Shona is willing to do to buy
her freedom, Conall has no intention of letting her go...
Some time after breakfast, the boy arrived on the estate
with Hume's cows. Despite Shona's happiness at seeing Daisy
and Precious again—she'd known them since their
birth—their arrival reminded her of a depressing
reality. Nothing in her life had really changed. She had
been a farmhand at Hume's, and she was a farmhand still.
Three months, ten days, and fifteen hours to go...
Shona walked the cow into the milking pen, and locked her
neck into the stanchion. She shoveled some sweetened grain
into the feed bucket to entertain Precious while she was
milked. After some cooing words and a few reassuring pats,
Shona gently cleansed Precious's teats with a soft cloth to
wipe away any dirt and hair. Precious's poor udders were
stiff and full, and they had begun to leak. Using her thumb
and forefinger, Shona encircled Precious's teat high up, and
then squeezed each finger around it until a stream of milk
came out. Precious's flesh felt familiar and warm, and the
soft teats filled up with milk just as soon as they were
emptied. Shona's practiced hands soon rendered a full pail
of thick warm milk. She lifted the heavy pail, and poured it
out into a five–gallon milk bucket.
Behind her, a shadow filled the doorway. The sunlight
inside the dairy dimmed.
"Good morning, Shona."
The Englishman. His deep voice resonated through her, and
she was startled by the unexpected flutter it caused inside
her. His accent made her name sound different—somehow
more refined—and for just an instant, it took her out
of a dairy in the Scottish Lowlands and put her in a salon
in a London palace. She turned in his direction, suddenly
uncomfortable with her appearance. Her clean apron was now
dotted with drying milk drops, and her faded
russet–colored dress was also her most frayed. A
tendril of hair escaped her cap, and she pushed it back from
"Mornin'," she replied.
He walked over to her with slow, easy steps. What was it
about this man that made her feel so ill at ease? Perhaps it
was his clothes, which bespoke a level of wealth that no one
in her circle of acquaintances had ever aspired to, let
alone achieved. Perhaps it was his Scottish birth but
foreign ways, which made him such a puzzle to her. Or
perhaps it was his handsome face and heavily muscled body,
which called up sexual desires that she had no intention of
admitting to him, let alone expressing.
"I see the cattle have arrived." The Englishman placed a
leather–clad hand on Precious's head. His thick dark
eyelashes dropped as he regarded the animal. The sleeves of
his royal blue tailcoat stretched over his thick arms, and
her gaze drifted to the cream–and–gold waistcoat
that gleamed across his chest. His face was freshly shaved
and washed, evident from the still–damp hair at his
temples. Spikes of dark hair fell forward over his forehead,
stealing years from his age.
"Aye. 'Twas a long journey from the farm, but they are
none the worse for it."
"Glad to hear it. I've sent the young man back for the
goats. They'll be here this afternoon. I trust you'll see to
them as well."
She nodded, waiting for him to say how beautiful the
dairy looked. She had really outdone herself trying to make
it spotless. In some measure, her efforts were for the
benefit of the cows. But, in truth, she really wanted her
new master to notice.
He took a deep breath and a crease deepened in his
forehead. "I came to talk to you about your sister, Willow."
Her heart squeezed tight, but she swallowed the crushing
disappointment. "That doesna surprise me," she muttered,
anger fomenting within her. It had to be a blind man that
did not notice—and desire—Willow's beauty. But
this man . . . it bothered her that he took such an interest
in her pretty twin.
"Yesterday evening, I noticed that Willow had a mark on
the back of her hand." He gestured with his own hands. "It
was a scar . . . a sort of brand. Where did that come from?"
A thread of panic coiled within her. She moved to the
other side of Precious, instinctively hiding her own hand
from his sight. "Did ye no' ask her?"
"I did, but she wouldn't discuss it. When I pressed her
to tell me who had done such a thing to her, she became
quite flustered and flew out of the library. I saw her again
this morning, and she'd taken to wearing gloves. I can't
imagine what she'd done to deserve such a horrible
disfigurement. She seems very ashamed of it. I thought you
might be a little more forthcoming. How did she come by the
Shona stroked the cow's neck, her eyes feathering over
her own burled scar. She never forgot about the mark. Never.
How foolish of Willow to drop her guard and leave her hands
uncovered. "I canna say."
He narrowed his eyes. "You cannot? Or will not?"
"Either way, it is the same. 'Tis a private matter."
He expelled a tortured breath. "Are you always this
Her back stiffened. "Are ye always this meddlesome?"
He took a step toward her, his large frame looming high
above her. "What do you think I am . . . a gossiping
fishwife? I am master of this estate. It is my
responsibility to know the kind of persons I have in my
service. Was Willow in trouble with the law?"
She shook her head as she grabbed hold of Precious's
halter. "I canna tarry. I must see to milking Daisy now."
She spun the cow around to put her back in the stall.
The Englishman stepped in front of them both, his anger
barely leashed. A fire ignited in his blue eyes, and the
tone in his voice was just a breath away from dangerous.
"I can appreciate your loyalty to your sister," he said
through clenched teeth. "But I am your master, and your
first loyalty should be to me. When I ask you a question, I
expect you to answer it."
"Ye may be my master, but ye dinna own me. I belong to no
"That's where you're mistaken. While you are apprenticed
to me, you are my charge. It is my responsibility to feed
you and clothe you and teach you a trade. It is your
responsibility to work diligently and to do as you're told."
"I have done so!" she said, pinning a fist to her hip.
"See you the dairy? It is clean, as ye commanded. See you
the cow? She is milked, as ye commanded."
"And now I command you to answer my question. What does
the mark signify?"
"Ye want an answer? Very well. She tried to brand a
horse, and the iron slipped."
His lips pursed. "You must take me for a complete idiot."
"Oh, so ye can read minds as well?"
The look of shock on his face gave her a perverse thrill.
It was just a taste of revenge, but it was sweet on her tongue.
He crossed his arms at his chest, barricading her between
the cow and his imposing body. "If you think your
disobedience will go unpunished, you are gravely mistaken.
Defy me and I shall bring you before the magistrate and hand
you over as a willful and indolent apprentice, for which the
punishment is imprisonment in a house of correction until
such time as you are agreeable to serve. And for every one
day you spend in prison, the law adds two days onto the end
of your indentures."
The sweet taste quickly turned to bile. The hope of her
imminent freedom was the only thing that kept her going, and
his threat to delay it silenced her. Three months, ten days,
"Was the brand inflicted for robbery?"
His expression chilled to suspicion. His eyes narrowed to
slits as he regarded her with renewed awareness. Suddenly,
his hand shot out and clamped around her wrist. She tried to
wrench it away, but gained nothing—the man's body was
He brought her hand up to his gaze. There for him to see
was the hideous scar that disfigured her hand. A gruesome S
burned into her flesh so many years before, marking her as
well as her sister. Inside, she was quaking.
"Must have been quite a horse to make the brand slip onto
both your hands."
Her body was flattened against his, her wrist trapped in
his strong grip. "Let me go."
"Now I understand why you were so reticent to speak.
Honor among thieves. Answering for your sister would mean
betraying yourself as well."
He loosened his grip, and she tore her hand away. "We've
done nothing wrong."
"Two women branded for all to see. Now it's clear to me
what the S upon your flesh stands for. You're a couple of
A violent anger sprang up within her at that accusation.
Instinctively, she swung her open hand and slapped his
arrogant face. Hard.
His face stilled in the direction of her smack. But when
his face swung back at her, she immediately regretted her
impetuous outburst. The blue eyes that she had found so
seductive the day before were now glaring hotly at her.
"I shall enjoy spending the next three years making you
regret your disrespect."
His threat made her heart pound an uncomfortable beat,
but two words alone stood uppermost in her mind.
"Three years? What do you mean? I reach maturity in three
months, ten days, and fourteen hours. Upon that day, I will
claim my freedom from my apprenticeship."
"No, my sweet," he said, a cheerless smirk touching his
reddened cheek. "The sand in the glass has just started
falling on your newest indentures. To me."
The tasty dish of freedom she had so long hungered for
was now dashed to the floor. Three more years locked in her
indentures was appalling enough. But trapped in submission
to the arrogant Englishman would feel like three centuries.
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