Book Review

ARC Book Review: Adjacent But Only Just (The Penn-Leiths of Thistle Muir #2) by Nichole Van

Rating: ★★★★★
Audience: Historical Romance
Length: 400 pages
Author: Nichole Van
Publisher: Fiorenza Publishing
Release Date: September 14th, 2022
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads


Viola Brodure, gentlewoman and celebrated authoress, faces a personal dilemma suited for a novel—everyone wishes for her to make a love match with Ethan Penn-Leith, the famous Highland Poet. And by everyone, she means everyone—her father, her adoring readers, the gossip columnists, and her patron, the overbearing Duke of Kendall. Why, even Queen Victoria herself has given a nod of approval to the match. After all, the popular novelist and the famous poet are the perfect heroine and hero for their own love story. A literary dynasty waiting to be born.

The problem, of course, is that Viola has never met Ethan, not in the flesh, at least. She has read about him and devoured his poetic writings, but does the man himself live up to his dashing reputation?

Malcolm Penn-Leith exists in twilight. He manages his farm, Thistle Muir, in the shadow of the Scottish Highlands. As the older brother of the renowned Ethan Penn-Leith, Malcolm tends to his prized cows while Ethan basks in the limelight. Harder still, Malcolm lives under a cloud of grief after the death of his wife five years ago.

But then Miss Viola Brodure arrives in Malcolm’s wee village, intent on meeting Ethan and beginning a courtship. Viola—petite, blond, shy, and English—is nothing like Malcolm’s late wife. And yet, Viola awakens a piece of his heart that he thought lost in the abyss of his grief.

For her part, Viola is surprised to find herself more attracted to the stoic Malcolm than the charming Ethan. So now what? She isn’t meant to fall in love with the man adjacent to Ethan Penn-Leith. That’s not the plot she had outlined. After all, Malcolm and Viola are not the match made in heaven that everyone wishes to see. As social pressures mount, can Malcolm and Viola overcome the weight of his past and the expectations of her future to forge a new path together?

Please note that the basic elements of this story first appeared in a novella entitled A Ring of Gold. This current novel is a greatly-expanded adaptation of that novella.

Thank you to Nichole Van for the eARC.



I don’t even know how coherent this will be because I am fully obsessed with all things Nichole Van and this book was another five star read from one of my favorite historical romance authors.

This book holds one of my biggest triggers: a widow/widower. I loved the way Van handled Malcom and his tender heart. The heart that missed his wife but also was starting to beat for someone new. I can’t count how many scenes and conversations had my eyes going misty. There were profound sentiments towards grief that I think would resonate with anyone who’s experienced a loss in their life.

AND VIOLA. She is my new favorite female main character. Because guess what? Being shy does NOT mean you are not also fierce and tenacious. It does not mean you’ll stand to be walked all over. I LOOOOOOVE that I got to read about a shy (hi, it’s me) woman who was a force and showing all that it’s not a weakness.

THE ROMANCE??? Holy heck. The fire between these two was off the charts. I loved the slow build. The nuanced looks and casual run-ins that turned to deep conversations. And when Viola went after what she wanted? I was squealing with joy at how an entire scene played out.

There’s even some cameos from some of the best men of The Brotherhood of the Black Tartan series. The epilogue is EVERYTHING. And I am in desperate need of Ethan’s book.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical Romance
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: make-outs
  • Violence: low
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: blackmail, loss of a spouse (recounted), depictions of grief, asthmatic attacks

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