Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-233747-4
Historical Romance, 2015
In Your Wildest Scottish Dreams has a story that is, unlike its exuberant title, one of the most fascinating yet depressing romance stories I’ve read. It is fascinating in an “I can’t stop staring at that cobra rearing to strike at me” way is because the characters are falling in love for all the worst possible reasons out there.
Seven years ago, Glynis McIain was a stalker with a crush. She constantly looked for ways to ambush Lennox Campbell with her attentions and when the prologue opens, she has planned her latest assault to such a zealous degree that I can only laugh when everything crashes and burns spectacularly the moment her desperate efforts to “prove” to Lennox how much she loves him are interrupted by a Russian beauty who shows signs of possessiveness over that man. Glynis flees the scene and on to London, where she marries a diplomat just because she doesn’t want to go back to Scotland and face Lennox. He turns out to be a brute with twisted tastes in sex, because a late husband isn’t a late husband unless he comes with extra over-the-top villainy. Not that I feel sorry for Glynis, I’m too busy laughing at her, sorry.
Today, Glynis is a widow who comes back to Glasgow from Washington to visit Lennox’s ill father. In the meantime, Lennox has built a fortune making ships for Confederate armies fighting for the right to be proud and free slave owners in America. He’s making his money even as Glynis’s family business slowly crumbles due to blockades on silk and such. Perhaps it’s a good thing that these two seem to be still very into one another, but oh, someone from Glynis’s past shows up in Glasgow too, a Union spy wanting to poke his nose into Lennox’s dealings with the Confederate folks.
First off, I have better warn you guys. I don’t know why the author does this, since in the past many authors – the white ones, mostly – wave the “I support the Confederate States of America because I’d give anything to be Scarlet O’Hara and have Rhett Butler’s babies” flag loud and proud in their romance novels without bothering to make any justification. After all, everyone knows that romance readers are all white small town Southern Baptist women torn between wanting to hump Clark Gable’s leg or Colin Firth’s.
Here, however, Lennox claims that he’s against slavery, but he’s also against “bullying”, thus implying that owning slaves is at the same level as bullying. Some people may find that kind of comparison to be trivializing the institution of slavery. Glynis doesn’t even bother to pretend to be anything but pro-Confederate – she will not help the Union, never, because people in Washington are all meanies and creeps! To be fair, here are two white people in a time when they do not have to pretend to care even a little about the slaves or understand their plight, so such attitude can’t be considered out of character. But some people may get annoyed by such element nonetheless, so I’m just warning those people in case they read this.
Back to the story, the biggest problem here is that Lennox and Glynis spend nearly all their time sighing and reminiscing about the versions of themselves seven years ago, it’s apparent to me that these two are not going to happy together in the long run. They idolize a idealized version of the one that got away from seven years ago, and I don’t know what they will do when they learn that the person they have married may not resemble that fantasy version anymore. Lennox does mention very often how Glynis seems to have changed – she’s now very guarded and even cold at times – but he spends even more time thinking about the Glynis of seven years ago. These two live so much in the past, to the point that this book is swamped with flashbacks, that I don’t believe they even know the person they are hooking up with at the present.
I can’t see how these two would last. Both are passive people prone to melancholic daydreaming about what could have been and what have been, that it takes some danger to get them to actually do something. Someone will probably have to die to keep them from divorcing some time down the road.
I don’t know what happened here, as the author usually writes lush and beautiful prose, but here, things are very repetitive. Our sulking lovebirds repeat and rehash the same things all the time that I wonder whether there would be a pop quiz to test what I’ve memorized at the end of this book. Also, the characters can be hilariously lacking in self-awareness. For example, Glynis derides everyone in Washington as creeps and liars while insisting that everyone in Glasgow is honest and open. And yet, when another woman starts complaining that Scotland is lacking compared to London, Glynis immediately pegs that woman as the worst thing to ever slithered out of a hole. The thing is, that woman and Glynis are not different at all. Glynis uses hyperbole to tar all of Washington in a negative light while going all “Scotland is the best, I’d cut you if you disagree”; that other lady is just doing the same for London versus Scotland. The author never acknowledges this hypocrisy on Glynis’s part, so I wonder.
Yes, this book has pro-Scotland, anti-Britain and pro-Confederate, anti-Union sentiments. It’s like the very embodiment of the entire political spectrum found in romance novels.
At any rate, any resemblance In Your Wildest Scottish Dreams has to wildest dreams probably stem from the fact that one can fall asleep easily from all the repetitive psychobabble and tedious navel gazing by the main characters, and end up dreaming of doing the wildest stuff to a couple of hot French boys. But I personally find it hard to fall asleep despite the best efforts of this story, because the romance feels so wrong, it’s like a train rushing towards me while I’m tied to the tracks and I just can’t look away.