How to Be a Scottish Mistress
Although I do love reading romance novels, I would be the first to admit they often have ridiculous titles. I know quite a few people who refuse to try them based on their often outrageous covers and names. But I know better, and so when I opened How to Be a Scottish Mistress I put aside any and all initial skepticism and let myself get sucked into the story.
Lady Fiona Libourg is living at the border of England during a time of turmoil. Tensions are rising between England and Scotland as Robert the Bruce gains supporters, and Fiona knows that the small corner of the world where she rules as the Baroness of Arundel will not long remain peaceful. Still, she doesn’t expect danger to arrive as abruptly as it does in the form of Lord Gavin McLendon. He seeks shelter for himself and his men, many of whom have been wounded in a recent battle, and he knows he can trust her husband, his secret ally, to provide it for him.
A year later it is Fiona seeking shelter from Gavin, as she and her stepson appear in Scotland at his doorstep. Fiona has been widowed, stripped of her lands, and her son has been injured and left with a constant limp. Although Gavin’s presence on her lands was the reason her husband was suspected of treason, she knows he is the only person able and willing to help her now. However, when she goes to ask that he take her and her stepson in, and that he train the injured boy to become a knight, Gavin declares that she must give him something in return.
And thus she becomes his mistress.
The enjoyable thing about this book and its characters is how serious they are. I don’t mean that they’re deadly dull or over-dramatic, just that the gravity of the current political situation is acknowledged. When Fiona arrives in Scotland and the earl falls in love with her, no one tells her she “used to be English.” She still is English, still is Gavin’s mistress, and she is ostracized for it.
Gavin, on the other hand, deals with a different aspect of the Scottish-English tension. He’s asked to marry a girl from a clan that hasn’t yet decided where to stand, so as to help drum up support for Robert the Bruce. Having had two arranged marriages before, Gavin is fairly comfortable with the politics of it, which is why it’s strange to him that he should feel so resistant this time. But still, he knows his duty, so he chooses a girl to marry.
Up until this point the book was fairly realistic, which I liked. Gavin and Fiona fell in love, as people are wont to do, but as soon as she found out about his betrothal Fiona broke it off. They’re both miserable, but well aware of their duties and of how unsuitable a match between them would be. This is fate and they’re stuck with it.
Except suddenly they’re not. Gavin’s fiancée realizes she’ll never come first in Gavin’s heart and decides she won’t have him. Then Gavin and Fiona admit their love, which was odd because they seemed to have before, and decide to get married. Sure, Robert will be angry, but who cares?
I care. I wanted this book, which began without rose-tinted lenses, to end the same way. Although I enjoyed it—a solid story, pragmatic characters who I could empathize with—the end just felt a little off to me.