Caught by the Scot
Karen Hawkins may begin Caught by the Scot with a bit of tragedy; however her usual style of witty dialog and light humor carries the story out of its dark beginnings into a romantic misadventure full of marriage plans gone ridiculously awry.
The news should have been joyous. The Duke of Hamilton welcomed the birth of an heir and the duchess’ three brothers had gathered from various ports of call to celebrate. Sadly, complications took the new mother away from her son and the family has been dealing with their grief for days. For Conner Douglas the pain of losing his sister is mixed with anger once he learns of her final wishes for him and his brothers Jack and Declan. Anna Douglas had always been more of a parent to Conner than a sibling so it doesn’t surprise him that her hand in his life would extend from beyond the grave yet her deathbed wish that Conner and his brothers get married is too much to ask. The news becomes even worse when their brother-in-law tells the trio that if they fail to get married within four months of Anna’s death their portion of an inheritance will be forfeit and bequeathed to the enemy Campbell family.
The thought of getting married and having a life tied to land is abhorrent to Conner who has made his living on the seas as a privateer. Still, the least he can do for the woman who practically raised him is to fulfill her dying wish. Fortunately Conner has a good idea of where he can find a willing wife on such short notice. Miss Theodora Cumberbatch-Snowe is the younger sister of Conner’s good friend and has gone several seasons without finding a husband. Thea’s spent years helping run her father’s household, she has a sensible mind and Conner’s close ties with her family make him an excellent choice to save her from spinsterhood. With his mind made up that Thea will be his wife Conner takes the opportunity to sow his wild oats for a month before approaching her. Unfortunately for Conner he doesn’t quite know his prospective bride as well as he thinks he does.
Thea has loved Conner Douglas ever since she was a girl of sixteen. As each school break or London season rolled around and Conner came to visit, Thea hoped he would finally notice her and fall just as deeply in love. That never happened and when Thea finally took the initiative to learn more about the man it was a brutal reality check. Conner would never love Thea because he’d already lost his heart to the sea. Her dreams of creating a perfect and stable family with him could never be and Thea tried to move forward in her life without him. Putting aside her love for Conner is difficult; however when her friend Squire Lancelot Fox asks Thea to marry him she decides he’s her best chance to start a family of her own. Eager to begin her new life Thea agrees to Lance’s plan to elope to Greta Green and leaves a note behind for her family to assure them she’s making the right choice.
Arriving at the Cumberbatch-Snowe townhome hours after Thea’s departure Conner finds the family in distress and making plans to save Thea from her foolishness. Miffed that his perfect bride would have the audacity to run off with another man, Conner turns his horse around and rides up the Great North Road to catch Thea himself and sweep her off to Scotland to become his bride. Fate smiles on Conner when he finds Thea stranded at the first coaching inn he stops at; however Thea doesn’t seem very happy to see him or willing to accept his proposal. For Thea it seems that fate is cruel to put Conner in her path now, offering her the one thing she wanted for years just when she’s made the choice to move on. Conner’s uninspired and slightly offensive proposal reinforces her belief that the two of them could never suit as husband and wife; their visions of married life and the future are too dissimilar. When Lance arrives back at the inn from repairing their carriage Thea hopes that Conner will accept her choice but Conner isn’t ready to give Thea up. Sensing that Thea and Lance aren’t as perfectly matched as she believes, Conner follows along on their journey to Scotland to offer friendly and slightly manipulative advice to Lance while showing Thea he can be the husband she wants.
Caught by the Scot has such a sad opening chapter that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for Conner and Thea’s romance. Was it going to be a rough road for them to find happiness or would the author reward Conner with an easy path towards happily ever after? It’s actually a bit of both and that makes things interesting. When Conner is told that he has to marry it’s telling that his first thoughts are of Thea. He convinces himself that she’ll be eager to marry him because of his wealth and her spinster status but he can’t let her go even when faced with her engagement. It takes their journey towards Gretna Green for Conner to realize his affection for her. She represents constancy for a man whose life is regularly dictated by where the current takes him. As his feelings intensify Conner sees the value of the things important to Thea like home, family and stability which he’s been running from since his parents died.
Thea comes to some important realizations about herself and Conner while trying to keep him at arm’s length. Thea had ached for Conner to notice her for years and finally understood he was never going to see her as she saw him. Conner’s unwanted presence along the road gives Thea clarity about her fiancé as the inevitable comparisons between the men show her that even Lance doesn’t quite measure up to her dreams. Thea may want to be married, as her impulsive decision to elope illustrates, but not at the expense of her own desires to be wanted and loved by her husband. As her feelings for Conner resurface they’re more grounded in the truth about the man he is, not who she expected him to be. Thea forces him to fight for her and that battle makes their relationship sizzle.
The farce of an elopement and some comical side characters keep the mood of Caught by the Scot entertaining even as Conner and Thea go through some weighty emotional changes along the way. I brought my grade down a bit because of some historical inaccuracies that I just couldn’t set aside, but it’s nonetheless enjoyable to watch a man and a woman in need of a home finding it in each other.