by Jaclyn Reding

November 2003
ISBN: 0-451-20956-7
Reviewer Graphic Button Signet Books
Mass Market Paperback

Libby Hutchinson is alone now. With her mother's death, she is the last of her family. Or so she thinks until she finds a mysterious stone kept in a chest, along with a picture of a man. The only clue she has to work with is Wrath Village, written on the back of the photo. Off she goes to the Scottish Highlands to find the secrets she never knew her mother had. Getting lost on her way to Wrath village, Libby meets a very unfriendly man who gives her directions to the village. As she starts searching for anyone who knew her mother, she finds that there is a conspiracy of silence in the village. They all know something, but they don't want to tell her.

Graeme Mackenize has come to the Highlands to get away from the photographers and reporters that are hounding his every move. Also, he's trying to stay away from the horde of women who feel they can seduce him for his new inheritance. When he first meets Libby, Graeme is sure that she is just like all the other fortune-hunting women. As he gets to know her, he realizes that Libby has no idea who he really is. He wants it to stay that way. For a while anyway. He wants to see if she can love him for himself, not his titles or his wealth. Graeme is willing to help Libby in her search for her mother and her Scottish family.

Jaclyn Reding's contemporary debut is a wonderfully written story about a woman searching for her roots and a man trying to run from his. Libby is an independent lady who has the strength to face down angry landowners and help out the villagers. Graeme is trying very hard not to become overwhelmned by the new position he finds himself in. Trying to stay true to himself and yet do what is expected of him is tearing him apart.

The story is well written with just enough hints from the background on the stone and the Mackay clan, that you'll want to run out and get Reding's first two books in the series, The Pretender and The Adventurer But you don't have to have read them for this story to make sense. The characters were developed well, though there seems to have been more growing done by Graeme than Libby. Even though the conflict is resolved rather quickly, it doesn't take away from the overall story.

The Secret Gift, is a love conqueors all story with characters you can get attached to and a story that makes you wish the book hadn't ended.

Reviewed in October 2003 by Jenni.

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