Jennifer McQuiston is a new-to-me author, and despite this being the third book in her Second Sons series, it’s the first one I’ve picked up thanks to a free copy from the awesome Avon Addicts program.

Mistakenly implicated in the shooting death of his older brother (the future Earl of Haversham), Patrick Channing has spent the past year rebuilding his life / hiding out in the Scottish town of Moraig. He has his two schoolboy besties, a fledgling veterinary practice, and a three-legged dog named Gemmy. What more could a fugitive want?

Enter Miss Julianne Baxter: red-haired germaphobe, scandal instigator and shameless flirt. It was her witness statement that damned Patrick to a fugitive’s life, but after the death of Patrick’s father, the old Earl, Julianne flees to Scotland to persuade Patrick to return home and save his mother and sisters from financial ruin.

Spoilers ahead…

Jennifer McQuiston has fantastic pacing and a wonderful sense of character-building. It’s all in the details (i.e. Julianne’s obsessive bed-making and clothes-folding methods, Patrick’s pet lamb, Willoughby’s creepy wandering hands). Yet I found the romance between Patrick and Julianne unlikely at best. I just didn’t understand how lust, and more improbably, depth of feeling, could have crept into a relationship that was so poisoned by Julianne’s accusations of Patrick’s culpability in his brother’s death. I think perhaps I was too upset by Julianne’s actions and didn’t find her apologies and regrets reason enough to forgive her.

I am also not a mystery fan! I don’t care who did it. Just tell me already. Blythe’s mom and the local magistrate, great. Cool. The End. NOW BACK TO THE ROMANCE.

That said, McQuiston totally nailed the hot-veterinarian-vibe with Patrick. Who doesn’t love a man who loves scrappy three-legged dogs?!? I loved his banter with his school chums David and James, and based on their interaction in this book I’ll probably pick up their stories in a few weeks.

Rating: B+
If you like more than a little mystery with your romance you’ll have a fun time figuring out whodunnit, but if, like me, you don’t-care-who-did-it-just-fall-in-love-already, I’d focus on the romance and the animals.

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