Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-233750-4
Historical Romance, 2015
Scotsman of My Dreams is the closest recent release by the author so far to resemble those older, intimate, and introspective romance stories that I really enjoyed in the past. This is good news if your reading taste is like mine, and bad news if you are looking for a more fast-paced, less babble-heavy story with good closure and a more in-your-face kind of romance.
Dalton Maclain was once the Ton’s most infamous rakes, and, naturally, he was as celebrated for his scandals as he was infamous for them. Not that Minerva Todd is one of those people who do the celebrating. She blames him for being a bad influence on her younger brother Neville, and Neville, like Dalton’s closest buddies/acolytes, followed that man when Dalton decided to volunteer in the American Civil War. Now, Dalton is back, but not Neville, and Minerva won’t stop bothering Dalton until he tells her where her brother is.
Dalton joined the war because he was basically bored and supremely stupid. He decided on a side to take in the American Civil War by flipping a coin. As you can probably guess, the war forced him to undergo a brutal kind of growing up, and he comes back blind in one eye and badly damaged in the other eye. Fortunately, the other eye would recover in time, but for the most part of this story, the fellow couldn’t see much of anything. He has all kinds of demons in his belfry: he survives when so many of his idiot followers that he took for granted didn’t; he realized how just how callously he treated people in the past; he couldn’t get used to being blind and he hates the pity he is certain that everyone around him is feeling, and so forth. Oh, and it probably won’t do to just tell Minerva that Neville was the one who blinded him when that fellow, for some reason, tried to kill Dalton.
Meanwhile, Minerva has a blind spot where Neville is concerned: he is her darling and innocent little brother who was clearly meant for good things, great things, until he fell into bad company. As far as she is concerned, Dalton is the devil incarnate who used and abused the people around him callously. Of course, she also has to find him attractive, and it can be hard to keep the scowl on one’s face when one’s hormones are going crazy for that guy.
The two main characters are actually quite screwed up in many ways, and they definitely do not fit the description “likable” easily. Dalton was really a rake and a spoiled brat in the past, and he spends most of his time wallowing in self-pity and generally being an ass because the world has shown him its ass. Minerva’s blind spot when it comes to her brother can be quite exasperating – when Dalton tells her that Neville tried to kill him, she knows that he is wrong because she just knows. Even Dalton cynically calls her on this. She is furious at him for “implying” that Neville could be a murderer. He has told her upfront that Neville tried to kill him – I don’t think there is any “implying” here, try “state outright”. One character is in perpetual self pity, the other is in denial.
Therefore, normally Scotsman of My Dreams could very well turn out to be a repetitive annoying read under another author. Here, however, the result is one truly ugly yet fascinating kind of story. A big part of this is because the author doesn’t rush the relationship development at all despite Minerva’s rather contrived instant “HE’S SO HOT UGH I HATE HIM BUT… UGH!” thing. These two’s duel of will is pretty gripping: sometimes they are unexpectedly funny, sometimes they just annoy the other person completely. Romance, even animal lust, is rarely presented in a direct in-your-face manner – the tension is simmering there, yes, but these two would rather die than to admit it… at least until that crazy moment when they realize that, somehow, the line between hate and love has blurred so much that they aren’t sure what they are feeling anymore. He just knows that he wants her to be in his life, annoying him like that, always, and she doesn’t know how to shake him off anymore. Interestingly enough, Minerva is no innocent. She took a lover when she realized that, at 28, she isn’t going to get married anytime soon, and she is also pragmatic enough to realize that she likes the sex more than the man she took to her bed. Therefore, she’s an equal participant in the bedroom romps – no tutored by the rake routine here, she’s the one calling him to go harder and faster.
Still, I must confess that I don’t find the romance particularly memorable. I’m more intrigued by the journey than the end game, so to speak – the interactions between Minerva and Dalton, from the various nuances in their conversations to all those small gestures that say a lot of things that nobody put to voice, all these things keep me turning the pages because they are all so riveting. My only annoyance is when the author introduces a suspense subplot that is never going to developed halfway decently due to all the emotional drama already eating up the space. This brings to me another point: closure isn’t particularly strong here as there are some matters still up in the air. so I’m sure some readers won’t be happy.
Still, this one makes me happy, and just when I’m becoming really disillusioned with the author’s more recent output too. Scotsman of My Dreams may not be my kind of perfect dream book, but it’s a great step back in the right direction, and I’m in a good place as a result.