This Scot of Mine
Sophie Jordan’s Rogue Files continues with This Scot of Mine, the cliché-ridden story of a lady who fakes her own disgrace and a laird who struggles under a dire curse. The plot makes use of pretty much every Scottish Romance trope known to man, the characterization is mediocre, the hero and heroine bicker like children, and frankly, the whole thing is less palatable than a plate of three-day-old haggis.
Desperate to escape a terrible betrothal to the nasty Earl of Rolland, Lady Clara, sister of the Duke of Autenberry, says she’s pregnant by another man (she isn’t) – and the resulting scandal sees her shunned by Good Society. She chooses to hide out at Kilmarkie House in Scotland, intent on spending the rest of her days in quiet disgrace and lonely spinsterhood there.
Stopped at an inn en route, Clara becomes fascinated by the handsome Scot that bursts in and proceeds to argue with his neighbor about his lost prize bull. Whatever she’s been waiting for all her life has, it seems, arrived. The brawl that follows only serves to reinforce this man’s masculinity and impresses her all the more. Then he literally falls on top of her and she gets very hot for him.
Laird Hunt MacLarin is struggling under the weight of a curse. Centuries ago, one of his ancestors did the dirty with a peasant girl, got her pregnant, and refused to marry her because Class Differences, and as she and her child starved and froze to death in the Scottish winter, she cursed the MacLarins with her dying breath – every chieftain is doomed to die when his firstborn son enters the world. Naturally Hunt isn’t interested in repeating the cycle and decides he will never marry.
Enter Clara’s brother, Marcus, who decides the best way to ensure that his (not) pregnant and (very) scandalous but still marriageable sister escapes spinsterhood is to contract a marriage to his friend, the doomed Hunt. Since Clara is already (supposedly) pregnant by someone else, Hunt thinks that this will cause the curse to skip him and he’ll end up with an heir he can claim, so he proposes. Clara thinks Hunt is her only chance for a life outside of her self-created scandal and that curses are a lot of bunk, but rejects him on account of his having a mistress – until a heroic action on his part causes her to see him in a new light and she changes her mind. After the wedding night the truth comes out and Hunt vows to keep his distance from Clara – but not until after he’s slept with her and got her pregnant for real – and then a series of violent accidents begin to plague him. Is Hunt doomed?
Well, of course not, but let me tell, you getting there was painful. To start with, Lady Clara, is one of those fish-out-of-water Sassenach misses who is going to Discover Her Womanhood Among The Scots, so naturally we must meet her as she flails around in a diaphanous pink gown and gets in everyone’s way during a Big Bar Fight, and she continues to be chronically helpless throughout the novel. She creates the stupidest, most irresponsible, harebrained situation for herself, but she moans and cries about what an outcast she is, and how much she hates leaving London and Society, when she could’ve done something sensible instead, like write to her brother or tell her parents how abusive the Earl of Rolland was. The fact they believe her unquestioningly just makes Clara’s stupid ruse that much more stupid. Clara seems to miss the trappings of London society life more than her family, which tells you what kind of bubblehead the girl is at heart.
And I ain’t kidding about that instalove. Clara’s attraction to Hunt is instantaneous, yet she hasn’t exchanged anything more than a glance with him while he fights with his neighbor and his men over the bull. In a thriller she’d be kidnapping his wife and boiling bunnies; in an historical romance this is fate, like Avon, calling.
Hunt, meanwhile, is one of those archetypal Scottish heroes who’s always drinking and brawling and hates those blasted English misses unless he’s looking at Clara, who has hair darker than the deepest loch. Of course he has a Scottish mistress to scratch his genitals against when he gets horny and whom he can conveniently discard for Our Heroine. Of course he has a salt-of-the-earth family. Of course he can Never Love because the curse is Going to Get Him which means No Penetrative Orgasms For You, Missy (Except for This Once.) Of course, Clara proves the exception to all of his rules. Of course he’s in a feud with one of his neighbors, who will eventually conveniently kidnap Clara and show her and Hunt how much they mean to each other.
For most of the first half of the book, Hunt and Clara snipe and snap at one another like little children as Clara tries to have dignity and fails and Hunt appreciates her spirit – which involves standing up for her individuality in a “quavering voice”. She becomes stuffy and autocratic when ‘tension’ is required, and he behaves like a mumbling, grumbling barbarian who dislikes her delicacy and sense of manners. Their love is so preordained that the author can barely conjure up a reason for them to loathe one another, but loathe one another they must, for ‘tis in the plot, aye?
There are many other problems with this book. Jordan’s sense of time and the way it passes is simply terrible. Is it day? Is it night? How much time has passed between the brawl at the inn and Clara arriving at Kilmarkie house? Heck if I know! At one point the author time-elapses us through Clara’s pregnancy in a way that left me with whiplash. And the Scottish characters mostly do not come off well here, seeming to mostly be oafs and slobs who are afraid and superstitious and angry, which allows the English characters to sigh about Those Silly Superstitious Scots while the Scots are feisty and primitive but Right. The effects of the curse start taking place the day after Clara and Hunt have sex – which absolutely doesn’t match the curse’s original parameters and seems to hint that death is some Final Destination-style ghoul who has been waiting around for Hunt to discharge his weapon on fertile ground and can’t wait out the nine months of his wife’s pregnancy to start trying to kill him. What makes him special? What makes the author think the ludicrous solution to this plotline works after playing it as deadly serious for chapters?!
Is there anything to like? I loved spirited Marian (Clara’s maid and former governess), who appears set to be the heroine of the next book. I loved Marcus and his (actually) pregnant wife, who are kind when they don’t need to be. I liked the bitter, lively, thrice-married and barren Catriona (Hunt’s mistress), who deserved better than one scene. But that’s about it.
I love Scottish romances. I love sweeping vistas of highlanders rushing off with their chosen lasses into eternity. But to enjoy This Scot of Mine you’ll need an extremely high tolerance level for Scottish romance clichés, insta-love, stupid heroines, boorish heroes – honestly that three-day-old plate of haggis looks lovely by comparison.