Bernadette Holly has taken up the life as a governess after her scandalous elopement became salacious gossip for polite society. Her charge is Avaline is the daughter of an English Baron, Baron Kent. Kent is determined to marry his daughter off to Rabbie Mackenzie. The Baron wants access to the sea for trading from the dispossessed lands of Killeaven he's bought from the crown that surround the Mackenzie stronghold of Belhaire. Marriage with the Mackenzie will give him that. In a world post Culloden and the Jacobite uprising, 1750 Scotland leaves little choice for anyone. 'Scotland [was] drowning under the weight of taxes and excises.' Rabbie will marry the Sassenach for his family and their survival.
Rabbie's heart has been broken from the day he found out his one true love Seona, was missing after the English had taken their revenge. Seona had never returned.
Avaline is a flighty, set upon young girl with a head full of dreams and an unwillingness to face reality. But given her situation why should she? She is being married off to bring about her father's plans. Perhaps her fantasy world, her drifting through things kept her sane.
You can't help but be dismayed at treatment of women as property. Both Bernadette and Avaline are badly treated by their fathers. What happened to Bernadette when she was dragged away from her husband and her marriage annulled was truly wicked.
Of course Rabbie and Bernadette rub each other up the wrong way from the very beginning. Bernadette is trying to protect Avaline, to show her she can make choices. Avaline has other ideas. Her fear of her father doesn't help.
There were real moments of tenderness in this story between Bernadette and her nemesis Rabbie Mackenzie. Indeed, I surprised myself by my near tearful response when Rabbie comes to understand Bernadette and her story.
I did enjoy this look at two haunted people who find each other.
A NetGalley ARC