The Scot Beds His Wife
I loved The Scot Beds His Wife. It’s romantic, captivating, and the principal characters are charismatic and well-matched. Readers familiar with earlier books in the series will enjoy a return to Wester Ross (in the Scottish Highlands), and getting to know Lord Gavin, the Earl of Thorne, whom we caught brief, tantalizing glimpses of in The Highlander (he’s half-brother to the eponymous hero of that book). Unfortunately, despite my wholehearted enjoyment of the story and its principals, the frequent use of profanity is totally off-putting. I’m no prude, but FFS (wink!) this novel is so overly full of “shit”s and “fuck”s, it distracts and detracts from the story, and it’s the primary reason I can’t give this novel an A grade. Swearing has is place, but although it works some of the time here, it began to border on the ridiculous. That criticism aside, The Scot Beds His Wife features two characters with dark secrets, fiery temperaments and painful pasts who find refuge and forgiveness in each other and I couldn’t put it down. The novel marks a nice return to form for Ms. Byrne after the misfire of the last Victorian Rebels novel, The Duke.
Twelve-year old Gavin stands with his two older brothers and their father, the cruel and evil Laird Mackenzie, watching a naked and restrained prostitute writhe on a bed for their entertainment. Gavin is aroused until the Laird pulls out a whip and lashes it across the woman’s back. He then insists the boys do the same or he’ll do it for them; Gavin flinches away in disgust and is only ‘saved’ from lashing the sobbing prostitute when his older brother Liam, whom he loved with all the gentle ferocity his young body could contain, says he’ll do it. Six lashes. Six long, hellish, screaming eternities. But the horror of the evening doesn’t end after the whipping, or after the other unspeakable things he’s forced to do to the woman. Filled with shame, Gavin flees to his mother and confesses what happened. She comforts him, pleading “Do not be his son. Do not be a Mackenzie,” when they’re violently interrupted by the Laird. Gavin attempts to defend his mother from her husband’s brutality and is thrown out of a window and forced to listen to it instead.
Twenty-four years later, Gavin has made one last gamble to free himself of the Mackenzie clan. He’s selling his portion of the Ravencroft Distillery and has a plan in place to buy the abandoned Erradale Estate and its cattle. As soon as the crown grants him the emancipation he’s also requested, he’ll no longer call himself a Mackenzie.
Samantha Masters didn’t have a choice – she had to shoot her husband to save an innocent stranger, Alison Ross. Orphaned as a toddler and raised by a strict mormon cattle ranching family, Samantha married Bennett Master in order to escape an arranged marriage. But that freedom came at a cost. Bennett and his brothers are violent criminals; what should have been a routine train robbery has turned into a massacre. Unwilling to watch her husband kill the innocent woman/witness she befriended earlier in the day, Samantha kills him. When a shot rings out in the train compartment – Bennett’s brother Bradley, shooting from his horse – Samantha grabs her gun to shoot back when Alison stays her hand,
“I know a way to keep your neck out of a noose,” she said, her blueberry gaze surprisingly steady through the tears. “But we’ll have to … to get rid of the body.”
The women push the body off the train which stops Bradley, and Alison pulls Sam – terrified, convinced she’ll either be killed by the surviving Masters or the hangman’s noose – to sit beside her.
“Where I come from, in my country, saving a life is no small debt. Also, in my savage part of the world, from the time we’re very, very young one law is paramount to all others. Tha an lagh comraich.”
“Comraich?” Samantha blinked rapidly at the lovely, obviously wealthy woman. Either she’d gone mad, or Alison was speaking in tongues.
“It means sanctuary.”
She quickly asks Sam if she was telling the truth about her childhood on a cattle ranch – “You can shoot, obviously. Can you ride, herd cattle, work figures?” and then asks a bewildered Sam if she’s ever been to Scotland.
When I started writing this review, I was reminded of Shannon’s review of The Highlander,
Have you ever read a romance novel that feels like it was spliced together from two different ideas into a single super-story? This is a lot like that.
Well, so is The Scot Beds His Wife. Gavin St. James’ childhood destroyed him, and since then, he’s kept himself closed off from anyone who tries to get close. His older (estranged) brother Liam became the Demon Highlander in an attempt to deal with his past; Gavin turned to women and vice. He’s handsome, strong, intelligent and guarded. He finally believes luck is on his side when he offers to buy Erradale from the long absent Alison Ross and he’s waiting for her when Samantha Masters, disguised as Alison, steps onto the train platform. Orphaned as a child, Samantha lived a hard life with an adopted family and then an abusive husband. She’s a foul mouthed, tough sharpshooter, and after learning that Alison’s father was killed in a duel by Hamish Mackenzie, she has no intention of allowing Erradale to fall into Mackenzie hands. Erradale is her chance to build a new life for herself, and no matter how handsome he is, Gavin St. James won’t stand in her way.
I struggled a bit to get into this story – Ms. Byrne has to do a quite bit of jumping around to bring our principals together – but once Gavin meets Samantha on the train platform, the novel soars. He tries a few different approaches – flirtation, domination, seduction – and she delivers vicious set downs whilst demonstrating she’s no shrinking violet, and the sexual tension between them simmers. He’s naughty and wicked and sexy; she’s a total badass with a foul mouth and an excellent aim, and she masterfully runs the Erradale estate – in breeches.
There’s quite a bit happening in this awesome story (which I’ll let you discover for yourself), but eventually, Gavin and Samantha are forced into a marriage of convenience, and eventually, to reveal their flawed pasts to each other. The penultimate scene – wherein Gavin learns just who his wife really is – is moving and masterful. The Scot Beds His Wife, much like the first two Victorian Rebels books, is sexy, intense – and dark and Ms. Byrne is does a terrific job balancing all three elements. Her heroine is flawed but fierce, and Gavin is masterful, protective, though surprisingly tender and gentle in love. Theirs is a steamy, sexy love affair (OMG the sex scenes are EXCELLENT), and I loved spending time with this pair, in and out of bed. The secondary characters – and a second chance love affair – add great depth (and laughter) to the relationship, and I’m torn over whose story I want next!
The Scot Beds His Wife is a terrific addition to the Victorian Rebels series, and is a wonderful reminder of why I fell in love with this author and this series in the first place.