Title: Strangers at the Altar
Author: Marguerite Kaye
Format: eBook/Paperback, 288 pages
Published: November 18th 2014 by Harlequin
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
The secrets behind the wedding veil
For penniless widow Ainsley McBrayne, marriage is the only solution. She's vulnerable yet fiercely independent, so shackling herself to another man seems horrifying! Until handsome stranger Innes Drummond tempts Ainsley to become his temporary wife.
Once married, Ainsley hardly recognizes the rugged Highlander Innes transforms into! He sets her long-dormant pulse racing, and she's soon craving the enticing delights of their marriage bed. She has until Hogmanay to show Innes that their fake marriage could be for real…
STRANGERS AT THE ALTAR, is a lovely Harlequin historical by Marguerite Kaye featuring two lovelorn characters who marry for convenience in Edinburgh in 1840. The story's setting then immediately moves to the author's native Argyll, Scotland for most of the rest of the tale. It is the story of Innes Drummond, an English widow, and Ainsley McBrayne, a Scottish laird, who have experienced what I could only describe as serendipity - by meeting entirely by chance at the offices of their attorneys. The excerpt above - provided by the author - describes their initial meeting.
Ainsley McBrayne has been left deep in debt by her deceased husband. After her marriage, she has vowed to never be beholden to another man.
Innes Drummond must marry to keep his family's home. No wife, no lands. He's a successful man without his family's property. Does he want the properties enough to take a wife?
Could their marriage of necessity become a tale of true love or will ghosts from the past deprive these two of true happiness? Both characters were likeable, genuine, realistic and protective of their hearts. Their witty dialogue shined as their camaraderie and bantering had me laughing one minute and then swooning the next. Their relationship evolved into a passionate, scintillating affair that I hoped would gain permanence in both of their minds.
Following please find a few of my favorite quotes illustrating the humor and sensuality to be found herein:
"The only reason I've not taken to drink already is that I suspect I'd take to it rather too well."
"I suspect that you do anything well that you set your mind to, Mrs. McBrayne. You strike me as a most determined female."
"If I thought I would be welcomed into your bedchamber for a bout of debauchery, not even a chastity belt would deter me," Innes said wickedly.
"Tis a shame I cannot lay my hands on such an item, else I would be tempted to test your resolve."
"Don't be too sure, there are all sorts of things in the armoury," Innes replied.
Kissing gave a man all sorts of immoral ideas. Such ideas were, in Madame Hera's world, the province only of men. That Ainsley herself had had ideas - her mind boggled, trying to imagine what Madame would say to that.
In fact, those very ideas cropped up in several of the letters Felicity had forwarded to her, variously referred to as 'unnatural desires,' 'longing,' 'carnal stirrings,' fever of the blood,' 'indecent thoughts' and even, memorably, 'an irrepressible need to scratch an itch.'
One of my favorite scenes occurred when Ainsley disclosed that she had been moonlighting as Madame Hera, akin to a Dear Abby specializing in sensitive questions from women of that time. Their talk progressed to discussing what Ainsley envisioned fun and pleasure would involve - quite the racy talk for this time period. In addition, Ainsley was imbibing in a bit too much in sherry at the time so her inhibitions had obviously taken a hike. I cracked up when she disclosed that she thought that Innes had a "fine pair of legs" that she would like to see "in Highland dress." LOL!
The author's writing is first rate. This is the first book I've ever read by the author but it certainly won't be the last. The Christmastime ending will leave even the stoniest heart with the warm fuzzies! I'd highly recommend STRANGERS AT THE ALTAR to anyone who enjoys intriguing historical romances.