Moonlight On My Mind by Jennifer McQuiston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was my first time reading Jennifer McQuiston, but I'll be picking up her backlist as soon as is humanly possible. She writes delightful characters, with real, heartfelt human emotions. Her hero, Patrick, is utterly charming. When first we meet him, he's sneaking into his house, trying to avoid a ballroom, and filthy with dung and sweat. We learn quickly that a)his family is hosting a house party, and b)he'd rather be in the barn. Because our hero is the younger son of an Earl, but he is not a feckless rogue or a dandy. He's a veterinarian.
We meet the heroine at the same time, teasing and flirting with him, in hopes of using him to snag his elder brother's attention. This is Julianne, and the two exchange witty conversation that makes it clear from the get-go this is the couple we're rooting for. Julianne rapidly realizes she prefers the spare to the heir. Unfortunately, she won't have much time with either of them.
Because the next chapter picks up eleven months later, and something dreadful has happened. During the house party, there was a hunting accident, and the heir has been killed. What's worse is that Julianne seems to have implicated Patrick in his brother's death.
The writer engages in mild soap opera and takes advantage of the old standby plotline- Patrick weds Julianne so she cannot testify against him. But there is much more going on in this storyline than a marriage of convenience. Julianne has come to give Patrick more bad news, and to make amends to him any way she can. There's to be an inquest, she's to be called as a witness. And, oh, by the way... his father has died.
Patrick is surprisingly sanguine about the whole thing. Our heroine "ruins a man's life" (as stated on the book jacket blurb)and his response is to NOT seek to revenge himself upon her. I must say that I found him just adorable- Patrick is described less in terms of how he looks (He's a little slight, with "nondescript" light brown hair. He tends to smell of horse and dog.) But he is, above all else, a good man. He's thoughtful, forgiving, and kind. Of course, our heroine is going to fall head over heels in love with him.
Our lovers work together to save the new Earl from the hangman's noose, and uncover not one, but two murders. There's a little bit of action, a great deal of intrigue, and some truly lovely romance. The story is well told, in gripping dialogue by fully-fleshed out and realized characters, and culminates in a satisfyingly joyous (but never unbelievable) happy ending.
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