A Scot's Surrender
Lily Maxton’s series about the Townsend siblings continues with A Scot’s Surrender, in which the good-natured, carefree Robert Townsend meets his match. It’s a short, but entertaining read, and the author crafts a tender, sensual romance between Robert and Ian Cameron, the estate’s handsome factor – but while the interactions between the leads are generally charming, the plot which gives rise to those interactions is rather silly, and I knocked down my final grade a bit as a result.
We first met the Townsends – two brothers, two sisters – in Enchanting the Earl, in which war hero Theo Townsend unexpectedly inherited a Scottish earldom and a remote, somewhat bleak castle in the Highlands. Now, a couple of years on, Theo and his wife, Annabel, are blissfully happy, and the eldest Townsend sister, Eleanor, is married and living with her husband in Edinburgh. Theo’s younger brother Robert is a happy-go-lucky type who has a ready quip and a smile for everyone, thus giving the impression that he doesn’t have a care in the world and is happy to live a life of idleness, but the reality is somewhat different. Robert, though kind, warm and witty, is struggling to find his place in life; a second son, he has always felt overlooked, and though he loves his siblings dearly, has never felt any of them have ever really needed him.
With Theo and Annabel temporarily away, Robert is charged with overseeing the management of the castle and estate, and is determined to make sure all runs smoothly in his brother’s absence. This means regular meetings with Theo’s factor, Ian Cameron, whom Robert is sure dislikes him. Robert is a little put out by this, as he’s used to being liked by everyone he meets, but Cameron never smiles, never responds to Robert’s humorous remarks, and is generally very reserved – yet regardless of all that, Robert is in the grips of an attraction to the other man the like of which he’s never known. Robert has been attracted to men in the past, but never to this degree; his sexual experiences have so far been with women, yet he can’t ignore the desire he feels for Ian, even though he is sure the other man can’t possibly feel the same way.
Ian Cameron doesn’t like idle aristocrats who do nothing useful and live off the wealth of others. And Robert Townsend, with his easy manner, his handsome face and gorgeous, smoky voice is exactly the sort of man Ian despises. Except… Robert is extremely hard to dislike, and worse, Ian is intensely attracted to him. It’s easier to maintain a gruff, abrasive manner around Robert than to risk rejection (or worse) and Ian is sure that as soon as he is back in a home of his own and the earl returns, his stupid infatuation will disappear.
But fate takes a meddling hand in events when one night during a storm, a group of stranded travellers seek shelter at the castle, and Robert, quite naturally, offers them hospitality for as long as they need it. He quickly comes to regret this offer, however, when one of the ladies, Miss Worthington, discovers an item of jewellery is missing, another that she is missing gloves and a fan – and Mr. Worthington insists that Robert must make sure it is found and the culprit punished or he will take the matter to the authorities. When nothing is found in the servant’s quarters, suspicion falls on Ian – and seeing it will be faster for two to search the castle, Robert suggests that Ian helps him to find the missing bracelet and other items.
Their search naturally throws them together more frequently, and Ms. Maxton does a good job of gradually thawing Ian’s frosty outer shell and creating a strong emotional bond between the two men. There’s plenty of witty banter, some very funny moments (such as when Robert and Ian get trapped under a bed while an amorous couple do what amorous couples do on top of it!) and the scenes where they share a dram or two and gaze up at the stars are beautifully poignant. But sadly, the book is rather let down by the weakness of the ‘theft’ storyline (and the identity of the thief – huh?) and the ensuing bit of eleventh hour drama which is contrived and then dealt with in the space of a couple of chapters.
Were it not for the silliness of the plot, I’d probably have given A Scot’s Surrender a B grade; the central love story is tender and rather sweet as Ian gradually sheds his preconceived ideas about Robert and Robert discovers what it’s like to be needed and loved unconditionally. But the parts of the book that don’t relate to the romance are poorly conceived, so I’m going with a B- and a qualified recommendation.