Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81791-8
Historical Romance, 2003
Kinley MacGregor’s fantasy romances, written as Sherrilyn Kenyon, are touch and go where I’m concerned, but her historical romances are generally reliable reading. However, in this, Taming the Scotsman, I’m sorry to say the author has completely lost the plot, missed the choo-choo train, and not only this book has jumped the shark, the shark has diarrhea from the horrible ordeal. 374 pages of relentless stupidity, bad sitcom moments, and atrociously shoddy writing all make this book an agonizing and traumatizing ordeal of a read.
Eleanor ingen Alexander, or Nora, loves her Daddy but doesn’t like the man she’s supposed to marry because the man eats raw eggs and… eeuw. So what she does is to sneak off alone, unarmed, into the cave where Ewan MacAllister is sleeping. Conveniently naked. What Miss Mensa did is to write a note telling her people that she has eloped with Ewan. And mind you, Miss Mensa has a crush on Ewan, but she doesn’t really know him at all, but it’s okay to run off like that to Ewan. After all, she wants to go to England and asks her aunt, who’s just Eleanor of England, to stop Daddy from being so bad. And what is Ewan doing sleeping naked in a cave? What happens when robbers come in or something?
Ewan agrees to take Nora to England. But along the way, Nora has troubles getting on a horse. She can’t stand the exhaustion of the journey. She hates him! He’s a jerk! She likes him! He’s hot! She hates him! What a jerk! Hot! Like! Hate! Like! I hate! Hate! Hate! HAAAATTTEEEEE!
“Put the book down!” my senses scream at me at page 23, where the author, without any hint of irony, writes down the following:
“You told them you eloped with me?” he asked.
“Well, what else could I do?”
“You could have done as you were told.”
“That is one thing I cannot do. Nor will I.”
“Because I will not allow myself to be some useless adornment. I am not some nothing to be ignored and patted on the head and tolerated like a pet dog. ‘Tis bad enough my father thinks me lack-witted, but to be married to such a man… Never.”
Page 35 tells me that Nora’s idea of a pleasant chit-chat ice breaker is: “Why does everyone say you killed your brother?” Which brings me to why Nora is supremely death-worthy: she is a total imbecile but that does not stop her from poking her nose into people’s affairs with all the subtlety of an imbecile stampede to the nearest Tom Green matinee.
Incidentally, Ewan is no better. His tormented past is like something out of Imbecile Does Othello: his brother’s girlfriend seduces him and he takes this harlot with him, causing the equally imbecilic brother to kill himself in a fit of grief. As for Ewan, he soon realized that the harlot had tricked him when she led him to her real boyfriend whom she then promptly jilted Ewan for. The harlot’s sexual contortions to get to her real boyfriend seems ridiculously convoluted, and not only that, seriously, what kind of overwrought nonsense is this?
I cannot describe how the rest of the story pains me. It’s horrible, how the author uses all the really stupid plot stuff in her story as it she’s being paid by the number of stupid moments in her story. That “I must sleep with him just one night, just one time” nonsense? Page 176. I quote Miss Mensa: “But something deep down inside told her that carrying this man’s child would be far from a hardship”. Miss Mensa must die. Women of the Stretch Mark Brigade will be issuing a fatwa on this imbecile: stay tuned for the announcement. “I am forever unworthy”? Ewan, shut up! The whole “We can have sex but we can’t love!” nonsense is triggered by Ewan’s insistence that Miss Mensa loves Ryan the even when this belief no longer makes sense. That and he’s haunted by his brother’s ghost. Since the whole brotherly tomfoolery is so ridiculous in the first place, excuse me if I am not shedding any tear for the Brothers Imbecile. Miss Mensa knows that he thinks she loves Ryan but for some ridiculous reason, our imbeciles can’t talk. Instead, they embark on an utterly juvenile merry-go-round of moronic antics that really, really make me hurt real bad in the head. The two characters are so stubborn, so rigid in their insistence on not seeing the obvious while suffering like martyrs… sigh. I have no words to describe the stupidity of these two.
And the writing is horrible. The author and the editor don’t seem to be keeping track of the writing, because there are some annoying repetitions in the story. For example, at one scene early in the story, the usual Old Wise Busybody Lady spills all about Ewan’s Soap Operatic Torment to Miss Mensa, and a few paragraphs after that scene, Miss Mensa wonders aloud why Ewan is so miserable and guilt-ridden. Which, of course, is another excuse for the author to launch into yet another explanation of Ewan’s Soap Operatic Torment again, as if repetition will make the nonsense more palatable. It doesn’t. Conversation is sloppy because the characters either talk as if they’re failed rejects from an audition for Becker in the “funny” scenes or it’s Miss Mensa psychoanalyzing Ewan like a talking, walking compatibility quiz from Miss Cleo.
As for character motivations, if overreliance on sex scenes and illogical and nonsensical actions aren’t what makes up lazy and shoddy writing, I don’t know what is. Nobody in this book does or think or say anything that show any speck of intelligence at work in his or her brain. Ewan keeps wheezing that he can’t have her because he is tormented and because she loves Ryan, Miss Mensa keeps wailing that she must go to England or she will be doomed because she will have to marry Ryan otherwise, and the author makes these two repeat their whining and wailing just to pad the pages. And then, when all the misunderstandings and self-pity finally clear up, suddenly Ewan decides that he can’t have Nora for the sake of his people!
And when the whole nonsense turns out to be a convoluted matchmaking scheme by the father?
Why would Daddy want her to marry a weirdo staying in a cave? If I’m Daddy, I’ll be convinced that Ewan must be the village idiot’s feeble-minded black sheep brother. Wait, if I’m Daddy, I’ll castrate myself to stop adding to the population of imbeciles in Medieval Café Scotland.
And if I smash my head against the wall until my skull cracks, will it stop my pain?
Oh sheesh, seriously, reading this book is a traumatic experience. Compounding to the agony is the realization that the author can and has done better in the past. Reading Taming the Scotsman, with its Alzheimer’s disease of a plot and shockingly slipshod writing, is like forced lobotomy without anesthesia. A part of me wonders whether the author is having a blast, writing a parody of all parodies of some sort. But with the non-stop bombardment of every atrociously stupid Bad Romance Cliché in page after page, I find it hard to appreciate any campy value of this story, not when the result is a painfully unfunny and just plain awful story. Whether this is an experiment in camp gone haywire or just an unbelievably bad book, the only consolation I get from this ordeal is that the next book by this author has got to be better. I mean, when you’ve reached the bottom of the barrel, there’s no way but up, right? Unless someone hands the author a shovel, that is, but let’s not dwell on that. I’ve enough agony for one day.