The Taming of a Scottish Princess
Grade : B

Picking up the last book in a series without having read the earlier stories is a bit like showing up to a party populated by friends-of-friends. It can be fun, but part of you is distracted by the need to work out the backstories and interrelationships of the other guests. Reading The Taming of a Scottish Princess was a bit like this – I had a good enough time, but I spent a lamentable amount of it wishing I had read the four previous novels in the series, and possibly also the five books in the related MacLean series, and the original novella.

From what I understand from both this book and the cover copies of the other books, the hero of this story, Michael Hurst, has spent the rest of the books in the series imprisoned in the Middle East. The other books involve his sibling's attempts to rescue him, each attempt coincidentally ending in marriage to an attractive Scotsman or - woman.

The Taming of a Scottish Princess opens in London, where Michael, just arrived back in England, is trying to secure funding for his next Egyptological expedition, and making a hash of the socially-aware role that this requires. The first four chapters are from Michael's POV alone, and this drags a wee bit. The story gets a breath of fresh air when heroine (and assistant extraordinaire) Jane pops in at the beginning of the second chapter, and it gets even better once we start getting chapters from her POV. When we leave London, following Michael and Jane north to Scotland (questing after the Hurst Amulet, a long-lost family MacGuffin), my wish to have read the earlier stories evolved. Michael still occasionally name-dropped siblings I didn't know, particularly at the very end of the book, but for the most part I just wanted to know what I might have missed about Michael and Jane. This, I think, speaks for and not against The Taming of a Scottish Princess. I was engaged enough by Michael and Jane that I wished I had the full story of Michael's time in prison and Jane's attempt to get him out. Actually, I never found out how Michael came to be in prison (something to do with finding the amulet?) or how he got out again (did his siblings finally get their act together?). Those would have been nice to know.

The plot shifted under me twice. First, I found that the Egyptological aspect was not what I was prepared for. While Egyptology is Michael's profession (and, as she is his assistant, by extension Jane's), it is almost nonexistent in this book. The two lead characters have spent the last few years in Egypt, but this story is set in Britain, so it doesn't much signify. Michael likes to swear by Ra, but while it was cute when Jane unconsciously picked this explicative up, for the most part it just seemed like a signpost saying "See, This Character Likes Ancient Egypt, Remember?". Secondly, I expected a plot about the hunt for the Hurst Amulet, but that takes a backseat, too. The amulet, it turns out, is hidden on the Isle of Barra, a remote Scottish island that Jane just so happens to be the princess of. Well, she disagrees with the title. Laird's daughter, not princess. But, like the missing amulet, Jane is also long-lost. The local politics of her childhood on Barra and her back-from-the-dead homecoming take center stage, with the amulet tagging along behind. It was an interesting storyline, just not what I expected.

The romance between Michael and Jane is a bit choppy. When the novel opens, Jane has been Michael's assistant for four years. She's an attractive young woman, but he's never really noticed this; he's focused on his work and her prim competency. I was willing to accept this, but Micheal’s shift to noticing Jane seemed a bit abrupt. It begins when another man notices her at a party, and within a few chapters Michael doesn't know how he ever saw her as anything but beautiful. I couldn't help feeling that, at any point in the past four years, someone might have shouted “Jane has pretty eyes!” and completely rocked Micheal’s world. Except that, in fact, he has seen people attracted her Jane before, and ignored it. Why he finally notices, this time, is a bit unclear. While it made sense that he would fall in love with her (hint: Jane's awesome), I didn't entirely see him do it. He respected her and couldn't live without her organizational talents, and then he also found her attractive, and then they were also sleeping together, and then... he wanted to get married.

Oddly enough, this is actually the second book I've read in two years about a brilliant Egyptologist who, on brief furlough from his African adventures, finds himself adventuring in Scotland with an equally clever and headstrong girl whom he's known for years but never been attracted to before. The first such book, of course, was Last's Night's Scandal by Loretta Chase. While The Taming of a Scottish Princess pales in comparison to Chase's book, the two books are so very distinct that the similarity of their setups did not occur to me until after I'd finished reading this one.

I will probably read the previous Hawkins novels (and novella) that relate to The Taming of a Scottish Princess at some point. While I have no burning desire to run to the nearest bookstore, I am interested enough that I will likely wander towards the H Section, when I am next there. Though it works as a stand-alone novel, I know that I would have enjoyed this story more had I read the previous ones. Despite its flaws (the regular chapter epigraphs extracted from Micheal’s diary were unnecessary and redundant to his characterization), I spent an enjoyable few hours reading this one, and my interest is piqued enough to check out Hawkins' backlist.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Cimaglia
Grade : B

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : August 2, 2012

Publication Date: 2012/06

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Recent Comments …

  1. Yep, that’s the long and short of it – I like her more as a contemporary writer because of this.…

Elizabeth Cimaglia

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