Click here to buy the book on Amazon
Click here to order the paperback at The Book Depository
I've sat down to write this review three times now and my mind is, at once, lost for words and full of praise. How do I find the words to say just how much I loved this book? And how do I find the words to explain why I loved it so much? How do I talk about how much I love this author, who continues to wow me with every book she has published? How do I write about my excitement over her future projects, knowing that she continues to raise the bar with each story she tells?
For Moonlight on my Mind, Jennifer McQuiston tries her hand at writing a murder-mystery: Patrick Channing is accused of shooting his brother after a heated argument -- to make matters worse, one of the guests claims to have witnessed it: Julianne Baxter. Never proven guilty, Patrick retreats to a small town in Scotland where he quietly practices veterinary medicine. Now his father has died and Patrick the new Earl of Haversham.
Julianne Baxter has braved the wilds of Scotland to seek Patrick out, and bring him home. Eleven months ago, she declared with certainty that she had seen Patrick point the gun at his brother and shot him. Now, however, after eleven months had passed, Julianne is not all that certain about her version of the events. And she needs Patrick to help her sort through her muddled memories of that time.
Seeing Julianne again rips open the wounds that Patrick is slowly trying to recover from and brings to the surface all the sad memories of his brother's death -- now, he learns that his father has died and he is the new Earl. It is a moment that fills Patrick with sadness, dread and apprehension: his father, the one man who defended him and believed in him is dead, and he must return to his home to assume his responsibilities as new Earl, but this also means he must face the accusations and judgement of his peers, friends, family and neighbours. It would also mean dealing with Julianne Baxter, the most maddening, infuriating and most beautiful woman he has ever met.
Not that he blamed them. It had been his rifle, after all. His bullet that had struck his brother in the chest. His guilt to live with, even as his father had battled to save the remnants of what was now -- but should never have been -- his birthright.
- Chapter 4
Allies or enemies? Julianne serves as both protagonist and antagonist in this story -- and I wasn't certain I would like her because she's so wilful and flighty, but Julianne redeems herself in this story. She's a germaphobe and a pampered city girl, but she readily steps out of her comfort zone in order to look for Patrick. She thought she knew what she saw all those months ago, but time and circumstance has made her reconsider her previous testimony. She has come to find Patrick because she feels responsible for the dire situation Patrick's family is in. His family's future is being threatened by calls to resume the inquest into Patrick's involvement in his brother's death -- if found guilty, the title and the estates would all revert to the Crown, which would leave Patrick's mother and sisters ruined. Julianne knows she must do something, but she isn't sure of her part in Patrick's life -- as the lone witness to his brothers death, one word from Julianne could mean Patrick's salvation or damnation.
She'd hoped, she supposed, she would have arrived in Moraig to find Patrick Channing as unlikable and unredeemable as the London gossips claimed him to be. Then it would have been easier to forgive herself for her role in all of this. Instead, she'd found a man who devoted his life to saving those whom fate had frowned upon. She'd ruined his life, and he'd gone on to make a new one. A good one.
- Chapter 6
A marriage of convenience. Patrick and his friends all agree that marrying Julianne would be his best legal move (and defense) because a wife could not be compelled to testify against her husband. Julianne believes it would be easier for them to travel together if they were married (and it would also save her reputation after being caught by the village vicar). They claim a different reason for entering the marriage, but, deep down, they recognise the spark of attraction that began all those months ago at the house party that precipitated the tragic series of events.
I loved the conflict their marriage presented. Julianne could not be compelled to testify -- but it didn't mean that she could not testify willingly. I wondered if McQuiston was going to take her story down that road. I think I would have loved reading some courtroom drama. ^_^ The plot thickens when, early in the story, we discover that Julianne isn't an entirely credible witness because of her poor eyesight -- I wondered about the legal (and social) ramifications her testimony would create if she reveals her problem. The marriage protects her from having to reveal this -- but the truth still remained elusive to our hero and heroine: they know Patrick did not do it, so who did? And for what reason?
McQuiston does an excellent job of unravelling the mystery: systematically and methodically. As Patrick and Julianne were comparing notes and memories of that morning, as more and more pieces of the puzzle were revealed and were falling into place, the love story between the two was also growing and deepening. And it's a lovely, lovely story about a man who couldn't care about baths and personal hygiene (despite being a doctor) -- but who was willing to endure being groomed because of love. And about a woman who was fastidious and neat -- but was willing to get blood splattered on her dress (and doesn't clean up first) in order to chase after a lead that would save the man she loves.
Like the ripples caused by a single drop of water, every moment that Patrick and Julianne spend with each other affects them from the outside in. Patrick changes from a man without much purpose to one with goals and direction. He stops being a man content to escape, to a man determined to confront the problems he faces. The love that happens between the two of them doesn't make sense: they're supposed to be enemies. They're supposed to be polar-opposites. They're supposed to hate each other. I really did not expect to enjoy them as a couple -- this very odd/unlikely couple -- but, you know what? Jennifer McQuiston writes this particular aspect of the story so, so well.
Her eyes met his in an ominous flash of green heat. "I've seen stables with cleaner floors than yours. For heaven's sake, you're likely to give Gemmy fleas. You need a housekeeper."
"Ive a wife." He shrugged out of his shirt and tossed it away, perversely enjoying the way her eyes widened to follow the article's deliberate, ceremonious path to the floor. "I've been told they are nearly one in the same [sic]."
At her strangled gasp, Gemmy hopped town from the bed and slunk for the shadows. Smart dog.
- Chapter 7
Love proves to overcome all those differences -- and Patrick and Julianne fall in love not blindly, but with eyes wide open: aware of each other's imperfection; aware of the uncertainty the future holds. They might not have deserved each other to begin with, but they have proved their worth by the end.
He dwelled a moment on her scent. Even her fragrance was a poor match for him. She smelled clean, like soap and spice, heated to the point of combustion. He smelled of his daily activities: sheep, sweat, and probably something worse.
And yet ... as always, there was this odd, nettling attraction he felt in her presence, a surprising flare of interest that defied a scientific explanation. His thoughts were usually more ordered than this. More focused. Certainly more logical. For some reason, being around Julianne made him less like himself.
Or was it that she made him feel more?
- Chapter 7
Moonlight on my Mind is also a riveting story about second (and third and fourth) chances: Julianne, because of her brashness and impulsiveness, has made a lot of mistakes but she is never fazed or discouraged from trying again (and again and again) until she got it right.
This is the third book in Jennifer McQuiston's Second Sons series (and it's awesome). To find out more about Jennifer McQuiston and her books, click below: