by Karen Hawkins, historical (2007)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-312-94980-8
This is going to come off as really insulting, but I don't know any other way to say it: To Scotland, With Love is a book that is best read without thinking too much about it. In a way, this book is somewhat a mess, but it's very entertaining, although the entertainment comes from the secondary characters. The lead characters are as boring as a turtle race.
Our hero, Gregor MacLean, can cause snow to fall when he is angry. Don't worry too much about this aspect of the story. This story can very well function if this fellow is an ordinary guy, which is part of the reason why I think this book is a bit of a mess. The paranormal element seems to be inserted - and rather poorly at that - just to get this book to stand out in some way, which is good considering that this generic and most formulaic historical romance needs as much help as it can get when it comes to standing out from the rest. At any rate, Gregor's... well, if you have read a historical romance by this author or Stephanie Laurens, you have met Gregor already.
Likewise, if you have read any historical romance by this author or Stephanie Laurens, you will have also met the heroine Venetia Oglivie. She likes to meddle in people's affairs (clearly, she must have read Emma one time too many), she wants to marry for love, she is the sensible one in a family full of flighty dolts (although she's not that sensible in this story, heh), and she is willing to sleep with the hero although she will never marry him because she doesn't think that he loves her.
These two stereotypes are childhood friends. When Venetia is taken off to Gretna Green under false pretenses by a bumbling fellow named Ravenscroft, Gregor takes off in pursuit. Alas, the snowfall that results from his temper culminates in a freak snow storm that forces him, Venetia, and Ravenscroft to stay at an inn for a while. Most of the drama that happens over the course of the story takes place in the inn, what with Venetia finding her nose stuck deep in the affairs of a rather susceptible companion to a haughty old biddy and a young teenage girl who believes that she knows all about love. Venetia and Gregor start to see each other in a different light as well.
The main characters and their relationship are, frankly, too dull for words. It's all according to the "I'll sleep with you, but sir, I will never marry you because I know you don't love me!" formula, from the boring heavy petting to the fact that the hero is too silly to woo the heroine and instead heavy-handedly tells her that they are getting married. Were not for the secondary characters, I'd have suffered from rigor mortis by page 250.
The secondary characters are the life of the story. From the silly Miss Higginbotham to the uppity companion who swallows Venetia's BS about women having choices in life with amusing results, these characters steal every scene they are in from the wretchedly stereotypical main characters. Even Ravenscroft is an amusing dolt as he is a bumbling kind of dim-witted fellow rather than a villain. They bring out the best from Venetia and Gregor in their interactions with those two dullards. This story is most amusing and it makes me laugh often, but that's because the secondary characters are such dolls. They are the most memorable aspect of the story.
I like this book because it's entertaining and too funny at times, but that's pretty much the only reason why I like it. To Scotland, With Love is a hopelessly dull and even dreary story when it focuses on Venetia and Gregor and comes to life only when the secondary characters are in the scene. Perhaps it is fair to say that I find this book a pretty good way to entertain myself, but if I want a memorable romance story, I will have to look elsewhere because this book is a far better comedy than romance.
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