Wild Wicked Scot
I love “second chance at love” stories and most books revolving around troubled marriages are near cousins to these. In Wild Wicked Scot, our protagonists weren’t head over heels in love the first time around, so the dynamic is a little different. However, since the characters are layered and worth getting to know, this character-driven romance ultimately works.
When we first meet Margot Armstrong in the prologue, she is the flirtatious and perhaps somewhat spoiled daughter of an English aristocrat. On the eve of the Act of Union between England and Scotland, it is apparent that her primary concerns involve hosting parties and drawing male attention to herself and her best friend. The descriptions of beautiful gowns and powdered hair paint a very pretty picture – one that is very neatly shifted when Margot’s father calls her away from her party to inform her of her impending marriage to a Highland laird.
Unlike in the average Highland historical, Arran Mackenzie doesn’t immediately present himself as the perfect hero. He’s certainly imposing in appearance, but also very out of place in Margot’s polished world. In the first chapter, we learn just how great the gap between Margot and Arran’s worlds is. Three years after their meeting and marriage, we learn that Margot left Arran’s home at Castle Balhaire and returned to her father in England a mere four months after they were wed.
Margot is now back in the Scottish highlands, under orders from her father. She shows up at Balhaire and tells Arran she wants to work on reconciling their marriage. Given that Margot pretty much dumped him in front of his entire clan, Arran is less than thrilled to see her turn up again – and I couldn’t entirely blame him. As the story moves along and tales of Margot’s spoiled behavior from their married couple days come out, I REALLY couldn’t blame him.
However, London does a good job of making both characters appear both sympathetic and less-than-perfect at the same time. While Margot definitely has some spoiled snobbish brat moments, we also see her loneliness and her frustration at having so little control over her own life. Arran at his worst can be a tad overbearing and rather unyielding with regard to keeping things at Balhaire the way they’ve always been – no matter whether it suits Margot’s needs or not. However, at his best he genuinely loves his clan – both the humans and the animals. And while he can be overbearing, I can’t quite label him an alphahole because he does have an ability to listen to people and hear them out.
I’ll be honest. When I first started reading this book, I wasn’t sure I’d like it. In the opening chapters, it felt like Margot and Arran basically sniped at each other while having plenty of sex. I could understand neither one of them being willing to trust the other given their history, but that still doesn’t make “I can’t stand you but….boinkfest!” all that great of a plotline. However, London quickly shifts things and there were two main aspects of this book that made me warm up to it quite a bit.
First of all, there’s the historical backstory. While it has its moments of crazy, Wild Wicked Scot is ultimately rooted in a particular historical period. The main action of the book takes place shortly after the Act of Union between England and Scotland. It was a time of great intrigue and we have accusations and counter-accusations of everything from spying to smuggling to outright treason with the Jacobites flying back and forth between Margot’s English family and her Scottish husband’s clan. All of this political intrigue felt very immediate and kept me quite interested in the story.
The other aspect of this book that really worked for me were the characters. As one can probably tell from my description above, both Margot and Arran have multiple layers to them. While I thought Arran was a ridiculous name and couldn’t entirely get past it(I know it’s more trendy today but I know it primarily as a place name and it just didn’t seem t0 fit this hero), I did ultimately like watching the hero and heroine on their journey. Both characters undergo something of an evolution throughout the story. While there is plenty of plot action in this book, it’s ultimately a very character-driven romance so that evolving character arc is necessary if we’re ever going to get to a believable HEA.
There were some parts of this book, such as the hero’s name and the initial power struggles between the couple, that made me roll my eyes. I also really got impatient with Margot at times because while she did mature quite a bit, she certainly took her time about it. However, I did enjoy Wild Wicked Scot overall even with those quibbles.