A Scot to the Heart
Grade : B+

I haven’t read many books by Caroline Linden, but I’m rethinking that oversight after reading A Scot to the Heart. A sweet story about two middle-class people (although there is the potential of a dukedom thrown in), I enjoyed the chance to read about a dance at an oyster cellar instead of a grand ballroom.

Andrew St. James is a tired army captain when the book opens, but determined to do his duty and provide for his mother and sisters. When his world is upended by the news that he is potentially the heir to the ailing Duke of Carlyle, it’s nothing but good news. Drew resigns his commission and goes to meet with the Duchess who informs him that her son (the current duke) is infirm and unable to have children due to an injury. Drew, a distant cousin, appears to be unofficially next in line for the title, and she would like him to learn about estate management before he inherits the position.

Excited by the new opportunities unfolding, Drew returns home to Edinburgh to share the good news with his mother and sisters. For all that he anticipates a new life in England, each day at home reminds Drew how much he loves Scotland – including his first night in town, when he becomes smitten with a woman he meets at a dance in an oyster cellar beneath a tavern. Drew is both surprised and delighted when it turns out that woman is none other than Ilsa Ramsay, a good friend of his sisters.

As a close friend of the family, Ilsa is apprised of Drew’s good fortune, and privy to his sisters’ many complaints that they do not want to leave Scotland. The family runs a fabric shop in Edinburgh, and it’s hard to imagine leaving the income and independence behind to fall in line with Drew’s plans. Ilsa deeply understands this – as a widow she is finally getting a glimpse of the autonomy denied to her all her life (although she remains under the judgmental eye of her maiden aunt). Even as she develops feelings for Drew, Ilsa can’t imagine being tied down by a husband again, let alone the responsibility of a dukedom.

One of the things I liked best about this book is how normal everyone feels. While Drew is excited by the prospect of having enough wealth to quit the army, he’s cognizant of the enormous burden of running multiple estates, and is not particularly eager to take up the title anytime soon. Ilsa, too, is smart enough to view the title as a drawback and not an enticement. So although this is a story about a duke’s heir, the characters don’t feel like high society (in a good way).

I also truly enjoyed the development of the romance. Drew and Ilsa have terrific chemistry, which is highlighted in the slow build of their relationship. It’s very clear what they see in each other, and how they fit together. Drew is particularly good at understanding Ilsa’s need for freedom and control of her own life, and shows her in many little ways how he respects her and encourages her spirit of adventure. I also liked how the couple avoids the drama around whether Drew’s inheritance of the dukedom would allow them to marry. Even when Ilsa is dealing with a scandal toward the end of the novel, Drew is confident that they can make a living without the ducal finances, and so there is no need to martyr himself and avoid her for the sake of the title. Such practicality can be rare in an historical romance!

While Ilsa does make some questionable choices in the wake of the scandal I mentioned, Drew’s calmer nature balances the story and makes for a satisfying whole. Overall, the characters and relationships in A Scot to the Heart are beautifully developed and a testament to Linden’s skill as an author. I will definitely be watching for more from her.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent retailer

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Reviewed by Alexandra Anderson

Grade: B+

Book Type: Historical Romance

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : June 29, 2021

Publication Date: 06/2021

Recent Comments …

  1. This author (Judith Ivory) used to appear frequently in “best of” lists for historical romance; and it seems that this…

Alexandra Anderson

College student by day. Book enthusiast around the clock. With any luck I'll eventually be able to afford food AND books. But I've got my priorities straight.
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