Spies and Scots and Shipmasters, oh my!
Scotland 1819 ~ Twin brothers Nash and Robbie Powell of Powell & Sons Shipping, London, sail with their fellow Agents of the Crown to Scotland for a secret celebration of Christmastide, a holiday long frowned upon by the Scottish Kirk. But more than Christmas is being kept secret. The two brothers have accepted an assignment from the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth to ferret out a fugitive fomenting rebellion among the Scots.
Aileen Stephen, the only daughter of an Aberdeen shipbuilder, had to be clever, devious and determined to gain her place in the family business. She succeeded to become a designer of highly coveted ships. One night, a man’s handsome face appears to her in a dream. When two men having that same face arrive on a ship full of Londoners, Ailie wonders what her second sight is telling her. Is the face she saw a portender of the future, a harbinger of danger, or both? And which of the two Englishmen is the one in her dream?
Older than Nash by a mere five minutes, Robbie has always been protective of his twin. When he realizes Nash is attracted to the sister of their Scottish host, he thinks to help matters along. But Nash wants no help from his brother, not where Ailie Stephen is concerned because Robbie is attracted to the girl himself!
Two brothers vie for the affection of the Scottish lass but only one stirs her passion. Which one will it be? And what will she do when she learns they are spies?
This is the next instalment of Walker’s hugely enjoyable and highly acclaimed “Agents of the Crown” Series which tells the stories of a group of Governmental Agents as they risk their very lives, not just for their country but for love too. Walker stuns with her gift for story-telling, she magically entwines historic fact and fiction to create a thought-provoking sensual romance, one that will stay with you. A secret Scottish Christmas brings together all our heroes and their spouses and takes them to Scotland for Christmas, this time we are introduced to the handsome as sin and charming Powell twins; Robbie and Nash.
Robbie and Nash are the sons of Claire and Christopher Powell, who anyone who has read Walker’s work will know that they started their own story off in, shall we say somewhat scandalous style and Claire is the daughter of my whole time favourite character; Pirate Jean Donet from Echo in the Wind. Now the twins are very much like their free-spirited mother, rugged grandfather and equally like their serious father. Robbie and Nash like their brothers are agent’s and they have been given the assignment to go to Scotland and apprehend a man called Kirbride, who is causing an awful lot of trouble with his independent speeches and they need to close him down before his words of revolt cause carnage in the streets of Scotland, just like similar men have done in cities such as Manchester.
When the opportunity arises for them to be able to go to the very village that Kirkbride is said to be hiding in, without arousing suspicion they jump at the chance. So all the Powel brother’s and their wives, their friends Lord and Lady Ormand and the Doweger Countess of Claremont; who I have to say is a pure joy, all embark on the Albatross and sail to Arboath where they will be spending the festive season with Mary; Lady Ormands best friend Emily and her new husband, William Stephans and his younger sister Aileen (or Ailie).
The twins really are mirror men, they are two sides of a coin, they think alike and look-alike and as close as two peas in a pod, that is until they both glimpse the mysteriously beautiful and vibrant; Ailie.
“My brother’s a bit slow,” muttered Nash. Robbie shot Nash a look of annoyance.
“Seems I recall you accusing me of being too fast, Brother.” Nash coughed into his hand.
“I was speaking of understanding just now, not your manner of living.” Then to Ailie, “Please excuse my brother.”
“I always make excuses for English rakes,” she said in a matter-of-factly way.
Ailie Stephens, let’s just say she isn’t looking forward to having her home invaded by a bunch of spoilt, English aristocrat’s, but she will put a smile on her face and make them welcome for her sister-in-law; Emily. There is another, more personal reason why she is willing to welcome them, you see Ailie has a secret, one she guards religiously because some may not understand her gift, she had a dream that concerns one of them, a handsome man with dark hair, coming to Arboarth with unknown reasons. Now, Ailie has learned to take her dreams seriously and she is wondering why she would dream of this man, and more importantly what it means.
Then she comes face to face with the man in her dream, except there are two of them. Which one of them was the man in her dream? She first sets out to find out which twin she had dreamed off and in what way, and why she dreamed of him but along the way she becomes entranced them. She sees their differences, like no one else can and she finds herself falling for the men they are below their twin masks.
Ailie is quite the character she isn’t your regular run of the mill lady. She is a grafter she enjoys employing her mind instead of using her feminine whiles to get what she wants, you instantly feel a really connection with her. She is respectful and emphatic to the men that work at the ship builders yard, she has had to prove herself and her abilities, because of her bull-headed approach and her intelligence, not to mention her gift everyone respects her. I really like how she proves that a woman can work within a man’s world and be respected for it.
Robbie faced his brother. “I told you she was interesting.”
“And I seem to recall saying she is enchanting.”
“Ho!” quipped Robbie. “The game is afoot.”
Both brother’s instantly fall for the fiery young woman, which in some way could lead to disaster for the brother’s, especially when they begin to vie for her attention. Robbie notices that like himself his brother hasn’t fallen for her like they do every other pretty woman they see, but Nash has fallen head over heels for the lady designer, he is impressed by her ability and the absolute respect she has from the men at the ship builders yard, her intelligent mind and strength entrances him. Robbie having noticed all of this would like to help his brother but, does he really want the beautiful Ailie’s attention to be more focused on his brother? But no matter what he is feeling, Robbie knows that they have a job to do. Both Robbie and Nash fear that if she ever finds out that they are secret agents for the crown, after one of her own countrymen, whatever blossoming relationship they with her and her family could very well go up in smoke.
I really like the twins’, it is the younger by five minutes; Nash that caught my attention. He is quieter and more serious than his brother but his intelligent and constantly turning mind has hooked me. I like his artistic and calming persona and like Robbie he has a fun and worldly and mischievous aura that draws you to both.
As they get into their assignment trying to find Kirkbride, the brothers soon realise that for the first time in their lives, they are not following the same hymn sheet. After what happened in Manchester, Nash starts to feel very differently towards Kirkbride and the other speakers, deep down he sees them as only for acting for the good of their families and regular working people. Nash starts to think that they should give the benefit of the doubt, but Robbie has never strayed from his duty, which speaks a lot about his personality especially as he is a bit of a rogue, he thinks that his brother has had his head turned and he is dreaming.
This is wonderful the characters are full-bodied and meticulously drawn up, and instantly captivating. Ailie is a real tomboy. She has this great mind and she is so very talented and resourceful. Walker has done a wonderful job at separating the twins, personalities. Nash being the younger and more serious twin, he is thoughtful and kind eager to learn and yet below that serious book-loving, designer you sense a volcano that is about to erupt. Whereas Robbie has already erupted, his is wilder than his brother, he is the stereotypical rake, charming, arrogant and playful but below all the bluster he has a heart of pure gold and highly protective of his twin brother.
“Aye, I worry. My dreams speak a warning of danger.” He pulled her close. “See only what is in my eyes, Ailie. He took her head in his hands and kissed her, glad for her arms embracing him . Lifting his head, he looked long into her beautiful eyes . “Do the sun’s first rays reveal my feelings for you?” He let her see his longing, his desire and his love. “Aye.”“Then come.” He took her hand…
I really like how Walker has revolved their Christmas love story around what was going on with the weavers and the workers across the country, the time wasn’t kind to the ordinary working class and like Nash I feel a real kinship and utter despair and how horribly the working class were treated. Walker has captured that unease between the workers and the aristocracy with absolute sensitivity and respect. This is what I thoroughly enjoy about Walker’s work her skill with getting into the mind of each her character’s and detailing their struggle, and her absolute attention to detail is as ever spot on.
The Secret Scottish Christmas is educational as well as romantic, the romance between Ailie and the twin she finally ends up with is endearing and loving, and proves that no matter the differences love of a good person can triumph. If you like a bit of a love triangle, handsome spies and artistic heroines, secrets, traditions and romance all wrapped up with a big Christmas bow, then this is the book you need to read.
Seasonally enchanting and romantically perfect!
This was an ARC version via the author in exchange for an honest review.
A Secret Scottish Christmas is released on 6th November and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.