Kresley Cole's If You Deceive is the third book in her MacCarrick Brothers trilogy. The first two were good. All of Ms. Cole's books are good. But this one is special. The premise of the series is a familial curse cast upon three smokin' hot Scottish brothers. They can never fall in love, because if they do, their women would die. Of course, by book three it's obvious a 'Happy Ever After' is possible, so the third tale doesn't spend much time on the curse. In fact, you could read it as a stand-alone and not feel lost. I'm not encouraging that, but it's possible. What Ms. Cole does in the final book of the series is deliver two of the most compelling characters I've ever read, in a romance novel or otherwise.
Ethan MacCarrick is the eldest of the three brothers, and the most scarred, emotionally and physically. A deep gash runs across his face, marring his masculine perfection. He's unapproachable, cold. Even hateful. Ethan MacCarrick is an asshole. Sure, there was a traumatic event in his past, a very traumatic event, but that's not the reason for all of his woes or his personality disorder. Even before that he was a bit of a jackass. Born into privilege, he spent his youth in self-absorbed pursuits often involving married women, and one such affair led to his tragedy. Pretty much his own fault, though he pays a steep price.
Madeleine van Rowen was also born into a wealthy family, but a chain of events-- a chain in which Ethan is one link-- leads her to spend her formative years orphaned on the streets of Paris. Now she is a Survivor. Independent. Thrifty. And okay, an opportunist and a pickpocket. She's beautiful, knows it, and is willing to marry for money. Ethan has money. But he also has hidden motives in his interest in her.
Reading this story is like experiencing a cleansing rain. Hurt, bitterness, and revenge morph into hope and joy. Love unfurls.
I won't reveal more. But I promise you, the tale of these two imperfect characters, perfect for each other, will lodge itself in your heart and never let go. I reread it at least once a year. Five mugs.