The MacGregor's Lady
I knew before starting to listen to this story that narrator Roger Hampton faced a Herculean task – to appropriately and consistently voice not only the hero, heroine and new secondary characters in this novel, but also to portray all the other MacGregor siblings and their respective spouses (four couples), plus their cousin-by-marriage and his wife, making a total of ten characters whom we’ve met in the previous books and audios. I’m happy to report that Mr Hampton has obviously done his homework. His interpretations of these numerous characters are consistent with their earlier appearances in The Bridegroom Wore Plaid, Mary Fran and Matthew and Once Upon a Tartan, with only a couple of minor slips.
The hero of The MacGregor’s Lady is the eldest brother Asher. He has recently returned to Scotland following an absence of such length that he was declared legally dead, leaving his brother Ian to assume the reins of the earldom of Balfour. This story picks up six months after Asher’s resurrection, which surprised me, as I had expected the book to tell the story of his return and re-integration into his family. (We do discover the reasons behind Asher’s long absence, although I felt that some of that information should have emerged sooner than it did.) Asher’s return has turned around the MacGregor family fortunes, not only because the earldom’s funds have become available (Ian refused to ‘borrow against expectations’), but also because Asher is a wealthy businessman who owns a fleet of ships and has a thriving trading empire. The story opens with him meeting a young American heiress, Miss Hannah Cooper, who has travelled to England aboard one of his ships. For some reason I can’t quite fathom, a distant, elderly relative has coerced Asher into squiring Miss Cooper around London and aiding her in her search for a husband.
The problem is that Miss Cooper does not want a husband. Her controlling step-father in Boston has tried – and failed – several times to marry her off to one of his cronies so that he can get his hands on her money. Now she has been shipped off to England to marry a title. All Hannah wants to do is go back to Boston to keep her beloved family safe from her step-father. She is anxious, heart-sick and determined to go back home as soon as possible without a husband.
Thus the plot of The MacGregor’s Lady is actually quite slight. Asher and Hannah are drawn to each other, but he has responsibilities to fulfil in Scotland, and she hankers to return to Boston – and that’s about it. But in the hands of Grace Burrowes, it becomes a whole lot more. Asher and Hannah develop an easy friendship, even as they are both very attracted to each other. Neither wants to marry, but the pull between them is so strong that it’s impossible to deny or ignore. The romance is beautifully developed and proceeds at a natural pace. Nothing feels rushed or out of place. We are listening to two people who have endured much finding a kindred spirit and falling in love, and it’s absolutely wonderful. Asher is a lovely romantic hero. He conveys much through gestures, whether it be providing a supportive hand, whisking Hannah off to skate, or secretly making lifts for her shoes to help correct her uneven gait and spare her discomfort.
If I have a complaint about the story, it’s that Hannah’s stubbornness gets in the way of her common sense. Even when Asher gently points out that remaining unmarried is no defence against a man like her step-father, she refuses to see the truth or let him help her. I also felt that the pacing around the middle of the story slowed down a little too much, and the ending was rather rushed. Overall, however, the strength of the characterizations and relationships helps to overcome these flaws.
I always enjoy the way Ms. Burrowes writes such strong friendships and familial relationships. It’s wonderful to see Clan MacGregor rallying to aid its Laird and to hear the good-natured teasing between the brothers and brothers-in-law with its strong undercurrent of love and affection. Some of my favourite exchanges were those between Con, the youngest brother, and Spathfoy, whose sniping was both funny and true-to-life. For me, the lynchpin of the family has always been Ian, and even though he’s no longer the head of the clan, he’s still very much filling the role of confidant, advisor and peacemaker.
Roger Hampton’s performance in this audiobook is very good indeed and, in fact, I think he’’s gone from strength to strength as this series has progressed. As I said at the beginning, he faced a challenge to maintain the consistency of his characterisations of the many characters appearing from the earlier books. But even though some of them only appear in one or two scenes, they are all easily identifiable and distinct from one another. There is one scene in which I felt that Ian and Connor sounded a little too much alike, but that’s a fairly minor point, as it’s a short scene and the dialogue tags are sufficient to prevent confusion.
Hampton does a particularly good job with Asher, who is given a very attractive Scottish lilt, something at which he excels. He perfectly captures the character’s gentleness and his feelings of guilt and frustration. Mr. Hampton’s performance in an important scene late on in the story is beautifully low-key, but highly emotional.
At first, I wasn’t convinced by his portrayal of Hannah, although I suspect that is more due to the fact that my ears found the American accent in amongst all the Scottish and English ones to be out of place. As the audio progressed and I got used to it, it became a non-issue. I know I frequently bemoan the inaccuracy of accents in my reviews, but as American accents aren’t my forte, I won’t comment on the authenticity of the accent Mr Hampton adopts for Hannah. I will just say that works to sufficiently identify the character.
The whole of the MacGregor trilogy has been a delight from start to finish and Ms Burrowes has maintained a very high standard of storytelling throughout. The MacGregor’s Lady brings it to a beautiful and emotionally satisfying conclusion.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: B+ and Book Content: B+
Unabridged. Length – 10 hours 17 minutes