3.5 starsThis installment in the trilogy was much better than the first book, in my opinion. There wasn't as much blatant and gratuitous sex and heavy petting. The characters were well-drawn, and the "mystery" surrounding the story was well-done.This book is about Raine Merrick, the second child of Janet McClairen and Randall Merrick, Earl of Carr. Carr didn't really like either of his boys, Ash or Raine; but he always petted and cossetted the youngest, a daughter named Fia. Raine apparently tried to emulate his father, but was constantly beaten and mocked; so Raine did anything he could to get his father's attention, including a lot of bad behavior. Because their mother admonished Ash to look after his brother, Ash did his best to get Raine out of any scrapes he got into, especially because Carr couldn't be bothered.Carr is an Englishman who thought he fell in love with the Scottish Janet McClairen. Janet was wildly in love with Carr, and she convinced her uncle Ian, the laird of the McClairen clan to allow her to marry Carr. But Carr is selfish and self-centered to the bone; he wearied of living in Scotland under a Scottish laird. So when the Rising of '45 occurred, Carr quickly sold out his in-laws to Lord Cumberland - Butcher Billy. After murdering most of the McClairen clan who were avowed Jacobites or running the rest underground, Butcher Billy and King George granted Carr the McClairen title and lands, including the McClairen castle. Janet never believed that her husband was the traitor, but she realized it over time... and took her own action.In the 1st book, we learn that Raine was accused of raping a young novitiate - one Merry McClairen. As a result of that accusation, the McClairens who were left were ready to hang Raine. But a young McClairen girl, Favor, clung to him, not allowing the McClairens to kill Raine. Her brothers had already been taken to the Tower in London, her father had gone to try to ransom them, and her mother was dying from a hemorrhage as a result of childbirth. Favor's mother begged her to stop the hanging; so she did in the only way that she could.When Carr and Ash rode in with several English officers, it was just the excuse that Carr needed to crush the remaining members of the McClairen clan. Or so he thought.... And later, when Ash and Raine were taken hostage to ransom back to Carr, Carr laughed; so Ash and Raine were sold to the French, who decided to try again for a ransom from Carr. Carr did eventually ransom Ash, but not Raine. And as we learned in the 1st book, Ash set about trying to earn enough money to ransom Raine, even going so far as doing Carr's dirty work, for the right price. But at the end of book 1, when Ash goes to France, he discovers that Raine is gone - he'd escaped from the French prison.It turns out that Raine was chosen by Madame Noir... a notorious French aristocrat with demanding and exotic tastes in men. Madame Noir had an arrangement with the French prison; for the right price, she'd choose a man and no questions asked. The men never returned.Raine is so desperate to get out of the French prison that this time he draws Madame Noir's attention. But it turns out the woman who's taken him from the prison isn't really Madame Noir. She claims to be the Madame's niece and in need of an Englishman to play the part of her recently dead husband, who's inherited land and money in Scotland. Her husband made the arrangements for their passage from France to England, and she wants Raine to play her husband and get them all to England.Except that it's a trap. At the last minute the woman, who told Raine her name is Favor, warns him. The last she sees of him, Raine is running from the French; she and her driver, Jamie, go in the other direction, where they meet up with an English ship and sail to England. Turns out, they needed an Englishman to play "La Bete" (the Beast), a notorious English pirate. The pirate is really Favor's brother, who is Thomas McClairen but goes by the name Thomas Donne. Thomas is the true laird to the McClairen fortune; but he's tied up with his piracy ventures, trying to earn enough money to buy back the McClairen lands and title. Carr has pretended that Thomas can do so; but when Thomas discovered Carr's treachery and plans to kill him, Thomas disappeared.Favor has been groomed from the night of Raine's capture and the bloody murder of most of what was left of her clan to hate Carr and all his family. Favor was sent to France to a nunnery, where she was raised and educated to be a lady. But a kinswomen by the name of Muir has bloody vengeance in mind. She's set it up so that Carr will believe that Favor is now possessed/inhabited by his first wife, Janet McClairen. Even though Carr despised Janet at the end, Janet loved him fiercely and Muir is counting on Carr having loved Janet.At McClairen's Isle at Wanton's Blush, the Carr castle of debauchery and gaming, Favor can hardly bear her task. But it's been drilled into her head for the last 10 years of her life that she's responsible for the destruction of her clan on that night so long ago. And Muir wants Favor to be in her debt - to get back the blood vengeance necessary and take back the McClairen name and lands by marrying Carr. Muir will then send Favor away and murder Carr; being his wife, Favor inherits the title and the lands under Scottish law.The question is, how much does her brother Thomas know about Muir's plot? This isn't ever made clear, since we don't ever see Thomas in this book.But Favor meets Raine again... he's recognized her as the girl who saved his life, and he realizes he owes Favor a debt of honor. The years in the French prison have toughened him - both in body and in mind. While he's attracted to Favor and would like nothing better than to throw her to the ground and have his way with her, Raine's debt of honor and his determination to become better than he was before have him torn in two. He tells Favor his name is Rafe and that he's looking for the lost McClairen Treasure -- jewels he saw his mother, Janet, hide in an Oriental box.When Rafe/Raine saves Favor from the unwanted advances of a determined Englishman, Favor decides to trust Rafe/Raine somewhat. She's drawn to him, too, but she doesn't remember who he is. Favor brings food and clothing to Rafe/Raine, while he's in hiding. And when she's able, she helps with his search for the McClairen Treasure, even though she believes it's a myth or long ago sold by Carr.Muir does her thing, though, and convinces Carr that Favor is the physical vessel his wife Janet is now inhabiting. Carr is obsessed with the idea that Janet's spirit might really have returned; he seems more than willing to court Favor and asks for her hand. Except Favor can't stand Carr, and she's fallen in love with Rafe/Raine.What will Favor do and say when she realizes that Rafe is really Raine Merrick? Will she go thru with a marriage to Carr that she doesn't want? Will Carr discover Raine is at Wanton's Blush? And what will his sister, Fia, do when and if she discovers Raine?==============I enjoyed this book a lot. While the "adventure" and the story is so convoluted that it's tough to follow who's who from time to time, it was still entertaining. I really liked that, despite their mutual growing attraction, Favor and Rafe/Raine only kiss intensely until virtually the end of the book. It was a nice slow-burn... something to look forward to and savor, like Favor does, rather than get all hot-and-bothered about and then moan and groan in regret and remonstration for most of the book.I almost didn't read book 2. But I'm glad that I did. And I will read book 3, Fia's story, to see how it all turns out!