To Scotland, With Love
I have always liked stories where friendship turns into something more, which is why I chose To Scotland, With Love, the second book in Hawkins’ series on the MacLean siblings. When Gregor MacLean rushes to his friend’s aid, he suddenly starts seeing her in a whole new light. The ensuing relationship is full of sparks and bickering as the couple tries to come to terms with their new feelings for each other.
Gregor arrives at Venetia Oglivie’s house to keep a morning appointment, only to learn that she has been abducted by Lord Ravenscroft, who plans on whisking her away to Gretna Green and then the continent to escape a duel. Gregor is furious and rushes off to her rescue. Well, it so happens that Gregor’s family is bespelled by a weather curse that affects each family member differently. Because he is normally cold and in control, when Gregor loses his temper, he can call in snowstorms. During his flight up north, snow falls all over England, slowing the progress of Venetia and Ravenscroft, thereby making it possible for him to catch up.
Meanwhile, Venetia starts suspecting that something is off with Ravenscroft pretty quickly. If they are only going to visit her mother because she is ill as Ravenscroft has told her, why isn’t he allowing any stops and why is the carriage moving dangerously fast? Eventually, the snow and the speed collide and the carriage overturns. They find an inn a mile away and hunker down for the snowstorm. Gregor finds them shortly thereafter and, when Ravenscroft’s plot is revealed, arguments ensue. As Gregor tries to see why Ravenscroft would want to elope with Venetia, he realizes that there are a lot of qualities to her that he’s never noticed before. And a lot of those qualities are of the physical nature. Venetia has always known that Gregor is incredibly handsome, but he is just a friend. When he starts giving her probing looks, however, she starts heating up as well.
The “friends turned lovers” aspect of this story disappointed me. There were moments when I didn’t believe that the leads had been friends for nearly three decades. That’s a lifetime and they didn’t seem as ultra-chummy around each other as one would expect and hope with such a plotline. Perhaps that’s because there was no depiction of them as friends before they started looking at each other differently. Also, all of a sudden every touch sent heat shooting through their bodies. If their friendship was so long-lasting, I would think their changing physical reactions to each other would be more gradual, because they had certainly touched before this turn of events without bursting into flames. In fact, there had been no spark before and now there’s a constant fire.
The couple is at odds for a long time, bickering over charity of all things. Venetia is all about helping her fellow man, although a lot of times it could be called simple meddling. Gregor has the disturbing opinion that helping others shows weakness. Because there are several other guests at the inn, Venetia’s tendency to
meddle help keeps the tension between the two going. At the end, the resolution of all Venetia’s projects is a bit cheesy for my tastes, but it does make for an overarching theme. There are a few other conflicts strung throughout the book that keep the pace brisk: Gregor and Venetia try to fight their attraction for a while, and they must keep the thwarted elopement and their identities a secret from the other guests to stave off the destruction of Venetia’s reputation.
The plot takes off at the beginning, and the book moves quickly, but repetition slowed the pace more than once. Because the pace was generally so quick, I found it more irksome than anything. For instance, when the characters paused to reflect, they would run through their arguments for or against the relationship over and over…wasn’t once enough? Certain characteristics or phrases were also repeatedly reinforced, such as the hero’s scar.
One other thing that kind of disappointed me was that there wasn’t much mention of Scotland. Given the title and the tartan on the cover, I expected to see more of the country than the inside of a house. There were a couple names dropped and the MacLean family is Scottish, but that was it. This was just a personal preference, though, as I love Scottish settings.
To Scotland, With Love, provides plenty of tension and moves at a decent clip. The weather curse intrigued me, but could have been better developed. All in all, the good slightly outweighs the bad. Three other MacLean brothers will appear in books of their own, and it might be fun to check out their stories.