by Maya Banks, historical (2012)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-345-53323-4
There's a new king on the throne of Scotland, and King Alexander has signed a treaty with England for some moments of peace between the two countries. Now that he has some time to spare, the king decides to unite the feuding clans, starting with the Armstrongs and the Montgomerys. It's simple. He'd have the laird, Graeme Montgomery, wedded to Eveline Armstrong. Okay, there is the problem of a Montgomery father killing the Armstrong father - or is it the other way around? - and Eveline is said to be on the not-quite-there side, but he's the king and the boss of everyone, so if those two clans don't like it, tough.
Eveline isn't crazy. She's actually deaf. What happened was that her parents arranged for her to marry some guy who turns out to be the biggest cartoon villain this side of the world, and she decided to run away one fine day on her horse.
You know romance heroines, I'm sure - she soon fell from the horse, slipped into a coma for a few days, and when she woke up, she couldn't hear a thing. Her clan thought that the accident caused her to lose a few screws in the head, and automatically jumps to the conclusion that she will never be a proper wife to anyone. Her engagement was called off, much to her relief, and she decided to continue the charade that she was crazy so that there would be no chance that her ex-fiancé would want to get engaged to her again. Well, she's now going to marry Graeme, but that's okay, he may be the laird of her family's most hated enemies, but he's hot, I mean, she has special snowflake instincts that tell her that he can be trusted.
Graeme detests the idea of marrying some woman from his most hated enemies, but one look at her and he realizes that she's hot, er, she has this vulnerable sadness that convinces him that marriage to her won't be such a bad thing after all. But Eveline will have problems fitting in with his people, so it's never a smooth sailing for this couple.
Never Seduce A Scot is the start of a new series as well as related to the author's previous series for Ballantine, but you don't need to know what happened in previous books to understand what is happening here. What is happening here, by the way, is a straightforward rescue fantasy. The heroine is the most awesome, amazing and rainbow-cuddly-sparkly human being in existence, and once the hero uses his powerfully alpha-masculine muscles to thrust the oppression and subjugation off our heroine's beauteous form, her inner snowflake goddess shines through. Every conflict, every obstacle, and every hater - no matter how big - is obliterated from existence because our special heroine deserves nothing less than absolute perfection in her happy ending.
Oh, I know, the previous historical romances by this author have the same theme. In fact, her contemporary romantic suspense stories also have the same theme, which is why I waited this long to read this book. Maya Banks is one of the more formulaic authors out there, so I need to space out her books considerably or the similarities among her stories would be very distracting.
Back to the rescue fantasy thing, Eveline is the epitome of a special snowflake. She may be deaf but she manages to teach herself to read lips with 100% accuracy. She practically walks on clouds with a trail of pink sparkling butterflies in her wake, as her entire personality can be summed up as "the most sickeningly sweet martyr of the year". She is beautiful, sweet, loving, caring, willing to please, and has some kind of good instincts that tell her which well-hung muscular hot men would be the right one to come to her rescue. For all her virtues, she lets herself be bullied and taken advantage of by Graeme's people, and her dramatic response to all this horrible subjugation and persecution is to burst into tears and get captured by the bad guy. Eveline needs rescuing - she's created to be the one that Graeme will spend his life protecting from the cruel world out there, and she'd reward him with plenty of creepy hot sex. I say "creepy" because Eveline often behaves like a wide-eyed innocent little girl, but she's also at the same time gagging for a big well-stuffed... haggis.
Graeme starts out full of bluster and hot air - he needs to convince everyone that he's an alpha male, of course - but one look at Eveline and his protective instincts immediately stand at attention. He will protect her, but since he's convinced that she's daft, he can't bear to feed her his haggis. The usual "Pork or no pork, darling?" consummation woe ensues, followed by the villain making his move for the grand finale. In other words, this story is very familiar if you have read many romances of this theme, and the hero is also a generic alpha male protector type that comes with his own band of brothers primed and ready for their own stories.
Familiarity can be entertaining, and indeed, the last third or so of this story is pretty fun, especially when Graeme starts showing his own people that he means business when he would crush any of his people that show their middle finger to his wife. (Graeme is a nice guy, by the way, and for a while he isn't fully aware of Eveline being bullied by his own people because Eveline is that kind of heroine.)
Getting there can be tough, however, because the author has this annoying tendency to have her characters think and say the same thing over and over. In the first fifty pages alone, various characters repeat the same things about how the Armstrongs and Montgomerys hate each other, how Eveline is special but considered daft, how Eveline became deaf, and so forth. The same things are repeated with little variation each time, so much so that I wonder whether the author is worried that I have very poor memory. The constant repetition drags down the pacing a lot in the first half or so of the story.
Since this story only comes to life in its last few chapters, and even then, it's a familiar kind of drama played out by familiar characters, it ends up being solidly on the average side. Sure, nobody will contract anything fatal reading this story, but I suspect that it will be very easy to forget this story entirely a few days down the road.
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