The Trouble With Scotland
I love good contemporary romances set in the UK, so this fifth in the author’s Kilts and Quilts series seemed a natural choice. I was also excited to discover a new-to-me author, but by the time I was a few chapters in I knew I would not be reading any more of this series. And if not reading for review I would have closed the book and put the town of Gandiegow out of my mind.
Fisherman Ross Armstrong wants to change his life, but isn’t sure how. His longtime, arranged engagement recently ended when his fiancée fell in love with someone else, but Ross isn’t too unhappy about it. Rather, he’s unhappy everyone in the town of Gandiegow thinks he needs to be married, and are trying to set him up with every eligible woman for miles around. Yes, this is another small town romance filled with meddlers, and Ross wants none of it; he wants to play the field and “wear it out.” However, throughout the book Ross makes no moves to play the field, let alone wear it out. Instead, he quickly becomes involved with looking out for a young American woman who arrives in town to attend one of the Kilts and Quilts retreats.
Twenty-two year old Sadie Middleton was dragged across the Atlantic by her brother Oliver to attend the retreat. I cringed when I first encountered Sadie; she acts far too young for Ross. But I quickly warmed to her as we learned she’s gone through a lot in recent weeks, including the death of her beloved grandmother and her own diagnosis of Chronic Kidney Disease.
The ladies at the quilting retreat remind Sadie of her grandmother – quilting was their shared love – and she can’t stand to be around them, so Sadie abandons the retreat and manages to meet Ross. Through a series of odd circumstances the two run off to a B&B together, with Ross serving as Sadie’s protector; it’s all purely innocent although the townspeople think otherwise. While Sadie is attracted to Ross, she thinks of herself as a plain girl who doesn’t deserve someone as handsome as he is. And Ross thinks of Sadie as a “lass” who needs to be protected.
Ross is the king of mixed signals. He tells Sadie they’re just friends, tells everyone in town they’re just friends, and minutes later hugs or kisses her in a non-friendly manner. Sadly, Ross’ attitude toward Sadie is just one of my issues with the book.
Quilting Central – the home of the quilting retreats – seems to be the hub of the town, with everyone popping in and out to interfere in each other’s lives, and particularly in Sadie’s life. Despite being a virtual stranger, within a little over a week Sadie is asked to babysit village children, start a reading group for two troubled young boys, read to homebound elderly residents, and organize a library for the town. And as a topper, Ross takes her to Glasgow supposedly to buy books for the library and to stay with his mother and aunt. While there Ross decides to fix her up with new clothes.
I found it all frustrating, because I liked Sadie. With an interesting back story, a kind heart, and lots of interests and skills, Sadie’s deserving of a better hero. Throughout the book she’s on a rollercoaster of emotions; at one moment feeling welcomed by the villagers and the next thinking their kindness is based on pity. And this confusion stems mostly from Ross’ treatment of her. For most of the book he treats her as a young girl (and it doesn’t help that he consistently calls her “lass”).
In addition to a hero I disliked, The Trouble With Scotland features too many characters from previous entries, too many typical small town busybodies. Maybe if I’d read the earlier books I would find them interesting, but have no desire to test that supposition. With the exception of Sadie, everyone feels like a caricature, and it’s only Sadie that keeps the grade as high as it is.