by Sabrina Jeffries, historical (2007)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4165-1610-1
Our heroine, Venetia Campbell, doesn't care for the generally witless and dull suitors her father Quentin, the Earl of Duncannon, throws her way. She does care for her father, however, and the poor man's health has been poor lately. Her father also has to deal with the fellow known as the Scottish Scourge. The Scourge clearly has something out for her father since he makes it a habit to rob any of Quentin's acquaintances who happen to step foot in Scotland. Lately, he's taken up robbing Quentin's factor, thus depriving Lord Duncannon of his rent money. You may be wondering why Quentin doesn't go to the relevant authorities to lodge a complain, but that's because the Scourge has a good reason to get back at Quentin and Quentin doesn't want this reason to become public knowledge.
Shortly before our story began, Quentin hired some thugs to beat up the person he suspected to be the Scourge, his neighbor Lachlan Ross, only to learn from the thugs that they had dealt him a blow in the head and saw his body fall into the river. They assumed that they had killed Lachlan, but we know better, don't we? Of course Lachlan isn't dead. He is the Scourge, and now, he wants revenge.
Three months later, Venetia is attending the True Highlander Celtic Society's masquerade ball in Edinburgh when Lachlan strikes. Venetia is happy to step foot in her native land for the first time in sixteen years because she's hoping to find a hot guy who catches her fancy enough to get married to, now that it seems clear that all the men she had met in London don't make her cut. But when this brawny, hot, but ooh, so arrogant rogue with a scar on his high brow and carrying himself as if he's a stereotypical romance hero has the nerve to kidnap her, she's going to make him pay. Or kiss her. Or... oh dear.
Lachlan, apart from his scar and nickname, is also an ex-soldier with a weak knee. He also behaves at times like the stereotypical romance hero that he resembles. However, Lachlan isn't completely a cliché - he only looks like one and he has the background of one, that's all, heh - because he isn't the usual hurrah-for-Scotland curse-you-English type one would expect him to be. Lachlan is a responsible landowner, which goes hand-in-hand with his resentment of what Scotland has become under the new regime and his blaming both the Scottish lairds and the English government for the condition.
I like how Lachlan is refreshingly sensible about how Venetia is innocent of her father's sins and he doesn't want to ruin her just to get back at her father. No, he intended all along to merely kidnap her and hold her hostage without seducing her in order to "persuade" Quentin - who wouldn't return to Scotland because of the issue between their families - to come see him face to face so that they can rip each other's head off or something. Of course, the fact that Venetia gets him all hot and bothered will make it very hard for him to remember that he's supposed to be just using her. Lachlan has his share of adorable moments. He's not some ridiculous alpha male bent on being cruel to the heroine, instead he's actually a nice fellow who wants to do the right thing by his people. He's also way too cute - can I say that about a hero? - when he's all flustered by his attraction to the heroine. He can be really too stubborn for his own good especially late in the story, but he learns the right things by the end so I'm fine with that, especially when Venetia gives him the perfect blistering set-down when he tries to be a martyr:
"You mean, you plan to atone for your sins by trampling on my heart."
There is more, but I'll let you guys discover the rest of her truly delicious dressing down of Lachlan if you are interested in reading this book yourself. Let's just say that I have never enjoyed watching a stubborn fool squirm the way Lachlan did in the last few pages of this book. In terms of making macho stubborn-ass heroes crawl on their knees, figuratively of course, I think Sabrina Jeffries can give Christina Dodd some serious competition if this book is anything to go by.
As for Venetia, she, like Lachlan, resembles a cliché of the feisty heroine who wants to marry for love but she is at the same time smart enough to put two and two together. For example, she realizes who Lachlan is when he'd rather keep her in the dark a little longer about his identity. She has her share of daft moments and even more daft ideas early in the story, but to me, that's because she is naïve rather than silly. Venetia exhibits a most welcome ability to learn from a situation in which she is out of her depth, which is why I don't consider her a silly bint. The silly one in this story is Lachlan. Venetia can think, in other words. One of the most attractive traits about Venetia, to me, is that she understands how the world doesn't just revolve around her. She doesn't make the issue between Lachlan and her father into one that is all about why nobody loves her. She understands that there is more to the situation. I like that. Come to think of it, I like how she oh-so-easily has Lachlan wrapped around her finger without even trying. She's a natural, that Venetia. She doesn't take nonsense from Lachlan too, as illustrated by the previously quoted set-down she gives Lachlan.
I also have to say that despite this being a kidnap story, Lachlan and Venetia can give lessons to other romance couples on how to communicate. I'm really impressed by how these two manage to clear the air between them whenever anything that has to potential to create dodgy misunderstanding crops up. Venetia knows very early in this story why Lachlan harbors a grudge against her father, for example. This bodes well for the believability of any instances of true love between those two despite the situation they are both in. Of course, with this being a Sabrina Jeffries book, there are also plenty of deliciously sensual love scenes and red hot chemistry between those two. It is also very well done of Ms Jeffries to have Venetia and Lachlan complement each other in their strengths and flaws. Whenever one of them is being silly, the other person would rein in this person in a manner that doesn't seem out of character. They both evolve in this story. All in all, I find it most enjoyable to follow the love story.
Beware A Scot's Revenge isn't without its share of predictable and sometimes outright clichéd scenes. Some of the secondary characters here like Annie are too obvious as plot devices that exist merely to hammer home to Venetia that Lachlan is a good man. But at the same time, this story also has such memorable lead characters that have enough tweaks here and there to make them come off as something far more than mere clichés and a satisfyingly believable love story between the two of them, so I don't really have much to complain about at the end of the day. Oh, and I have a few good laughs at some of the more amusing scenes too, which is of course good. This one is lots of fun from start to finish.
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