Charlotte, the Countess of Marne, has traveled to Scotland in hopes that the man she married so recently is holed up in his castle there. Her parents are disapproving and reluctant to leave her, especially when they discover that he is not there, the castle is in disrepair, and he's absconded with her entire dowry, leaving her with no word of her whereabouts. But for the first time in her life, she stands up to her parents (after all, they arranged this disastrous, only weeks old marriage for her) and chooses to stay. 5 years later, she has turned the repaired castle into a thriving girl's school and the first class of young women is about to graduate when Dixon MacKinnon walks through the doors. Mistaken for Charlotte's long lost husband, whose cousin he is, Dixon is reluctant to disabuse her of her assumptions, enjoying their sparring and eventually falling for the spirited woman who is so terribly capable. Their passion ignites but Dixon still hasn't told her his identity, a serious miscalculation. While he's looking for personal peace, he is also trying to unravel the mystery of what happened to his cousin and he thinks he's found the key when he hears the poem of the old family legend from an ancient family retainer.
Yes, there was the withheld truth of Dixon's identity offering and obstacle to their love, but more than that there was Charlotte's pride and Dixon's guilt. The missing Earl of Marne was less an impediment to the plot and blossoming sexual tension than he probably should have been but Ranney neatly deals with that problem by having Dixon mistaken for George. There are several sub-plots tossed into the story to lighten the tension between Dixon and Charlotte but they were so over the top, like when the older women all came to Balfurin to discuss sex like an X-rated coffee klatch, they didn't fit with the seriousness of the main story. Somehow, the pieces of the story just didn't hold together all that well and I suspect diversions such as these are at fault. Not a terrible historical romance, this was decent but nothing special for me.