Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-226800-6
Historical Romance, 2016
The Groom Wore Plaid is closely tied to The Wrong Bride, so while it may try to be a standalone story, perhaps it is best if those two books are read in order. This is also an example of a story that is crammed with so many things that the author can’t give any aspect of the story a decent kind of treatment.
After the events in the last book, a McCallum and a Duff still need to get married to ensure that there is peace between both clans. Owen Duff decides to marry Maggie McCallum. It won’t be any hardship on his part since they were secret friends back in those days, and he’d always wanted to get her up the Duff. I know, I know, but come on, I can’t resist. Maggie begs to differ. They were secret friends and she’d love them to be more… until he revealed that he was engaged to marry another woman after they’d kissed. Oops.
Maggie has a special ability to see things that will come to be in the future. She soon saw the death of Owen’s betrothed, and rushed to warn him. He didn’t believe her and accused her of being jealous, so the woman eventually died. Owen lost no sleep over that, but Maggie was like boo-hoo-hoo, he didn’t believe her when she told him that she was a special snowflake so it was a painful betrayal and she would never be nice to him again. NEVER. Oh, and poor dead woman. She should have warned that woman directly.
So, in the present day, she is not too keen to marry Owen because ooh, pain and betrayal and dead woman. Also, she sees Owen dead as a result of marrying her, so she can’t go ahead and marry him anyway, because, ooh, pain and betrayal and dead woman and dead Owen, Owen doesn’t understand why Maggie isn’t quickly rushing to marry him. Okay, some of his people hate her, and he’s let that woman believe that she is basically some leftover choice of woman to wed, and he also knows that all women are emotional creatures that a man could only humor if he wants to get laid… so why isn’t he getting laid? Look at him wag that thing, it’s beautiful and it is calling her name. Why doesn’t she want to play with it?
Oh, and then someone wants to kill her.
And there is a possibility that Maggie and Owen are some kind of fated lovers thanks to some woo-woo magic from the dreamland.
There are so many things here, and I don’t know why it has to be like this. Take away Maggie’s magic eyesight and the dream lovers woo-woo stuff, for example, and there would still be enough things to keep everyone busy here. Then again, the rest of the story is standard, formulaic New Highland Chick in Hubby’s New Clan story, complete with the usual That One Guy and That One Woman who hate the heroine, the chatty and friendly maid, the stern mother-in-law that eventually opens up a bit to the heroine… perhaps the woo-woo stuff is a deliberate effort to keep this one from being too generic? If yes, it doesn’t work – it only muddles up the story considerably.
The romance suffers badly from all of this. Because there are many things happening here, the two main characters are barely developed.
Maggie’s motivations are messy – her thoughts and emotions often seem muddled and confused, a jumble of angst involving pain and betrayal and dead woman and dead Owen. The pain and betrayal thing seems exaggerated, as it happened ten years ago and it’s not like he is the first person to be skeptical about her woo-woo. The guilt thing for not approaching the now dead woman directly is more understandable, but she barely dwells on that. She is far more hung up over the whole betrayal thing, which seems more childish than anything else. The dead Owen thing is perhaps the most understandable reason to whine and mope over, but she spends more time playing passive-aggressive games with Owen than to actively try to convince him. Maggie’s thoughts and behavior are all over the place here.
Owen is just one note – he is as stubborn as a donkey. He is always right, everyone else is wrong, and he will never believe anyone who tells him otherwise. He is like this all the way to almost the bitter end, making him seem more like a mule than a hero to root for. Also, he keeps thinking that shagging Maggie will make everything okay again, as he knows that Maggie is just being an emotional mess – all women are like that, you know! I know there are some men who feel that way, but unless they can detach their penises and beat the troublemakers senseless with those things, no darling, penises are never that amazing. He doesn’t seem to change enough by the last page to be a good fit for Maggie, and I’m convinced that Maggie just psyched herself into falling in love with him in the end because it’s not like she has anything else to do with her life.
The Groom Wore Plaid is at its base level a formulaic Highland romance, but the author has crammed so many things over it that the romance is buried and everything just feels woefully underdeveloped. It’s readable, but then again, why would you want to read this anyway?