HQN, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-78990-0
Historical Romance, 2017
Sometimes, reading a romance novel is like being shoved into a date arranged by a meddling friend or family member. “Go on, he’s handsome, has a great job, and is looking to settle down and have kids,” your friend will say, so what the heck, maybe you’d get lucky. So off you go, and there he is. Yes, he’s reasonably handsome, he has a nice smile, and oh my, glasses on a man make you melt a bit inside just because. But after a while, all you can see are those big ears on him. All you can hear are those big ears, and soon, they are all you can smell too. So no, at the end of the day, the dinner is nice and he isn’t too bad, but you’re not going to call those big ears out on a second date.
That’s what reading Sinful Scottish Laird is like. I have no issues with most of it, but the hero, Cailean Mackenzie, is the big ears of this story. I’ll touch on this later, let me get the story out of the way first.
Daisy Bristol, the widowed Lady Chadwick, married her husband as per her parents’ arrangement, and she eventually grew fond of him… until he died and left a soul crushing will that revealed just how little he thought of her as a person. You see, he assumed that she would run through the family money – silly women are like that, after all – so his will stipulated that she must remarry in three years after his passing, or all the money and other good things that are supposed to go to their son would be forfeited.
With just one year left and tired of having to beat off men who just want to marry her for the money, she is overjoyed when her first love Robert Spivey wrote to her. She once wanted to marry him, but because her parents had arranged for her to marry Lord Chadwick instead, he honorably broke off with her. Now that he seems interested in her again, this could be her opportunity to secure her son’s inheritance with a nuptial that will also be a most pleasant one for her. First, she will head off to her husband’s country home in Scotland to enjoy some peace away from those annoying suitors until Rob comes a-calling. Only, she has to meet her annoying neighbor, Cailean.
Oh, Cailean. He’s only half-Scots, so maybe that’s why he doubles up on the xenophobia factor. Like most Scots, our Laird of Arrandale not only run a smuggling ring to circumvent the crippling taxes imposed by England, he personally leads the crew in their manly seafaring adventures. Once, an English lass laughed at him when he proposed, so now he knows that all English women are vapid, vile, shallow, materialistic, conniving, immoral, and loathsome. Since Daisy is English, well, that means he will do his best to be judgmental. On one hand, he calls English women lifeless and vapid, but when Daisy shows some feistiness and sauciness that makes his kilt tent up as if he’s smuggling an entire crate of turnips underneath, he will only accuse her of being all flavors of prostitute.
The joke is on him at the end of the day, mind you, because despite all his protests, his Scottish pride is no match of the power of the English honeypot. But still, everything about Cailean annoys me. His patronizing attitude irritates me, especially when he starts lecturing Daisy and everyone else around him like he’s some 80-year old grouch. He shows little finesse, cunning, or even any ability to adapt and be nimble – his first instinct in any situation seems to be “CH-AAA-AAA-RGE!” without pausing to consider his actions. Cailean behaves too much like some dumbass lummox for too much of this book for me to take him seriously, and I wish the heroine had dressed him down harder for his ridiculous and boorish antics around her. Instead, the author has the heroine acting like Cailean’s boorish antics are just too cute. I suppose if this book has 5,000 pages and the author keeps telling me that long enough, I may start to believe it. As it is, I can only roll up my eyes and take comfort in the fact that Cailean would no doubt be dumb enough one day to get arrested and end up hanging for his smuggling. Okay, maybe that is too cruel – I’d settle for scurvy.
Still, as I’ve said, the story is actually a pretty fun read as long as I can overlook the hero’s resemblance to the rear end of a bull. The humor works, the heroine is endearing and she has a pretty good sense of awareness, and the story on the whole is easy to read and take in. But I’m also disappointed by the kid being another stereotypical weak and sickly plot device that blooms under the guidance of our Scottish Johnny Bravo, as well as Rob turning out to be such a predictable Mr Wrong. Yes, Rob is patronizing, arrogant, and controlling… which makes him pretty similar to Cailean, actually, with the only difference here is that Cailean is the designated romance hero, the brat likes him, and the author exaggerates Rob’s antics to a greater degree in order to mask the fact that Cailean is more like Rob than anyone would like to admit. You know how it is in romance novels: as long as the guy is hot, he can get away with pretty much anything when it comes to dumping on the heroine.
All things considered, I really dislike the hero of Sinful Scottish Laird. This dislike quickly spills over to affect my enjoyment of the romance, so by right, I really shouldn’t have a good time reading this one. Yet, I actually do, believe it or not. I suppose this is more of a testament to the author’s abilities than the merits of the story.