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The Bridegroom Wore Plaid
by Grace Burrowes
(Sourcebooks, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-1402268663
*****
I love finding a new book for my keeper shelf! Donít let the nondescript title fool you. The Bridegroom Wore Plaid is an excellent romance (actually, three of them) and the hero and heroine will steal your heart.

Ian MacGregor, the new Earl of Balfour, needs to marry into a fortune in order to care for his clan. As luck would have it, the MacGregor estate borders that of Balmoral, and the English will pay handsomely for the opportunity to visit Balfour in hopes of catching a glimpse of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their brood of children. While this arrangement has kept the wolf from the door, an heiress is needed, and soon.

Enter Eugenie Daniels and her father, a wealthy baron who wishes his daughter to marry a title. An earl will do nicely, even if heís a Scot. Theyíll vacation at Balfour with their entourage and await a formal announcement. Genie, however, wants nothing to do with the idea, or Ian, and her reluctance hints at a darker problem. Ian steels himself to court her, but finds himself drawn to her cousin and chaperone, Augusta Merrick. When Ian and August both escape to the garden in the wee hours of the morning, hoping for some relief from their troubles, they encounter one another and a cautious friendship is formed.

Augusta was born to wealthy parents, but when they died her home passed to her uncle, Genieís father. He immediately shipped her off to a small farm where she has spent the last eight years living in near-poverty, tending her garden and raising chickens. Augustaís spirit is unbroken, however, and she immediately senses that Genie is not the right wife for Ian. As Ian and Augusta become closer friends, they establish a bond that deepens into love. But he needs a wealthy bride, and she has nothing to offer.

Genie, meanwhile, finds herself drawn to one of Ianís younger brothers. A third brother finds romance with another person in the entourage. These are side romances, though, and the focus of the story is on Ian and Augusta. Their story is, quite simply, beautiful. The author creates the best kind of romance Ė one in which two needy people get to know one another before sex enters the picture. Ian, with the weight of the entire clan on his shoulders, finds an ally and confidante in Augusta. With her, he can relax and be at ease for a time, though he struggles to keep his hands off her. Augusta canít help but admire Ian, who feels he must marry Genie and tries to do the honorable thing, though he knows it will be a loveless match. Destined for empty lives Ė Ian forced into marriage, August alone on her farm - they find it impossible to deny themselves the warmth, comfort, and passion they feel for one another.

The characterizations are excellent, the story line absorbing, and the romance heated and poignant. Ian and Augusta are an achingly wonderful couple and readers will be rooting for them from the start. The Bridegroom Wore Plaid is the first of a trilogy featuring the MacGregors, and if the next two books are as good, my keeper shelf is going to get a bit crowded. Donít miss this one!

--Cathy Sova


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