Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday Review: When a Scot Loves a Lady by Katherine Ashe

Hellion’s pros and cons list for WHEN A SCOT LOVES A LADY:
Gorgeous cover—I love red!
A gorgeous Scottish hero—I love kilts! Oh, wait, he never wore a kilt. He spoke in Scots, close enough
Real emotion in each of the characters
Excellent backstory and secrets—well done!
Did I mention the hero was rather charming too? And skilled at lovemaking?
Empathetic heroine
Well-paced, good action voice
Interesting storyline on the whole
I read THE HUNGER GAMES in the middle of the book
First I want to say that the fact I read The Hunger Games in the middle of reading this book is not Katharine Ashe’s fault. It’s a bit like starting a Sophie Kinsella novel and then reading a new J.K. Rowling novel in mid-stream. I love Sophie Kinsella and want to write like her someday. It would not change the fact that I’d drop her to read J.K. Rowling in a New York second.
But I did return, and I was able to pick up where I left off again without much confusion on my part. Only once did I go, “Where are the Tributes?” Oh, yeah, wrong story. So bear with me as I recount the book—and ignore any sentences that may suggest this book features a young woman with a bow and arrow, fighting for her life. Any mistakes in recounting are my fault alone. What you should remember is the hero is very, very yummy; and he gets her in the end. That's really all that matters.
What WHEN A SCOT LOVES A LADY starts with is an asshole. Our heroine, Lady Katherine (Kitty), is at the end of a bad breakup with Lord Poole, who has shredded her self-esteem, made her believe no other man would ever have her and she should be grateful for the crumbs of pleasure he tosses her way, and been an all-around douche-canoe. You know the type. We’ve all dated him. She’s at a costume party, contemplating the various ways to cut up the man she loves into little bits and toss him to the fishes, when in walks the most annoying man in the world, talking nonsense in a dreamy accent and accompanied by two of the biggest dogs she’s ever seen. Lord Poole has, of course, said something hateful; and Leam, the Earl of Blackwood, steps in and says something delicious.
Then like all stories where the love of your life meets you, three years pass without you seeing him. Lady Kitty is traveling with her friend Emily to spend Christmas with her. (I believe the goal is for her to be there when Emily is forced to entertain some horrible suitor her parents have picked out for her, to keep Emily from drowning herself in the nearest pond to get away from him.) But what really happens is that Lady Kitty and Emily are snowed in at an inn in the middle of nowhere, just miles from Emily’s house, and they’re snowed in with none other than Lord Leam Blackwood, his hounds, and his friend Yale. They’re following at a polite distance because Kitty might be in danger and needs to be kept an eye on. This is a spy story.
What follows is some very entertaining friendship-building and romance-building scenes and fun banter. Hints of Dark Secrets belonging to Leam as well as Kitty. (Yes, the Dark Secrets needs to be capitalized.) Wretched despair that these two will ever get to be together. Finally a delicious love scene! And then Kitty is shot and it can’t be decided if the shot is intended for her or for Leam.
To keep her safe, Leam sends her away; then he goes home to the country, to his family, and is out of the spy game forever. Of course, because this is what he wants, he can’t have it, and is soon dragged back into his old occupation when he finds that the Home Office keeps asking Kitty for help…and trick him into asking her for help. Finally he negotiates a deal that he will stay in service to the Home Office if they’ll leave Kitty out of it, even if this means he’ll break his promise to his family to be home more.
Meanwhile, against his better judgment, because he knows he’s not destined for someone as wonderful as Kitty, he is spending time with her again…and falling for her…and there is this kick-ass scene in the kitchen. Seriously sublime. I would recommend this book for the kitchen scene alone. Where was I? Oh, yes. They’re bonding. They’re in danger of getting their hearts broken…and then all hell breaks loose.
I’m not kidding. The last third of the book, if it could go wrong, it did. It was as if the first third of the book was an elaborate set up for the final third where you couldn’t set the book aside. (The Hunger Games reading came in the first third of the book.) So my only recommendation is if you start this book, hang in there because it will make sense and then it will be a flying read.
What Katharine Ashe gets right, I believe, is her characters. It’s that old adage I’m constantly quoting: if your characters are believable, you can do anything you like. Because honestly there were a few quibbly plot points where if I took them out of context I was like, “That couldn’t have happened because of X,Y,Z.” But in the heat of the story, you were like, “Of course!” It was totally elementary, Dear Watson, in the heat of the moment. I found both of the characters extremely likable, empathetic, and real. They both bore very hurtful, real secrets that would have hurt them if revealed to the wrong people. I felt these were characters who existed before the start of this book; their backstories were rich with detail. Like I was talking about yesterday: they had motive and it was in their backstories, their secrets, and their M.O.’s. The characters felt authentic as did the emotion that played out in the story, which is really what I think true romance novels are about: the emotion.
My favorite bit was right at the end where Kitty asks Leam to talk in his accent because every time he talks like that, she wants to throw herself at him urgently. It made me roll with laughter because, well, that’s exactly the action I have when I hear Liam Neeson or Gerard Butler speak.
It’s a good, solid read, pirates. You should give a try—just don’t read The Hunger Games in the middle of it.
Do you like Scottish set stories? What is one of your favorite books set with a Scottish hero? What matters more: the kilt or the accent? Have you ever read two books at once? How did that go?


Maureen said...

Well, I'll have to let her know how much you enjoyed it! She's the Scottish author in the MadLibs Panel at RT...

I've read her pirate books and yup, the place I got lost was the last third. Didn't mean I didn't finish or want to finish...I just got a little...lost...

I adore Jennifer Ashley's Scots books...and really can't wait for the new one!

TerriOsburn said...

You know, Hellie, you are a master at writing these reviews. You made me laugh AND gave me enough info to make me want to read the book. Brilliant, as usual.

I haven't read a straight up Scottish book in a while, but the first that comes to mind sort of starts in England and moves to Scotland. That would be Eloisa's Kiss Me Annabel. Ah, Ewan.

Can't read two books at a time. I can barely read one! LOL!

regencygirl01 said...

lovely cover can't wait to read it

MsHellion said...

@Mo, please do. I remember seeing one of her blogs about this book, and she said she wrote emotional books. And I remembering thinking, "A little bit bragging on yourself, aren't you?" but full credit to her. She does write very emotional characters (but not overwrought characters.)

@Terri, THANKS! I was afraid I was giving too much away yesterday when I wrote this...and that I was being too cheeky, but I thought, "What the hell! Who's going to read this? 8 people? They know me!"

MsHellion said...

@regencygirl01--make that 9 people! How lovely to meet you! I'll put you in the drawing for the book. I'm giving away the copy I got. Good luck! I hope you do read it--it's lovely.

Sin said...

Accent. Hands down.

Janga said...

I love your reviews, Hellie. They are not generic. The voice is distinctly you.

As you know, the dialect in this one was a problem for me, but I agree that the book has definite strength.

I'm not as much of a fan of romances set in Scotland as many are, but I have enjoyed some. Like Terri, I adored Ewan in EJ's Kiss Me, Annabel, and Mary Stewart's Wildfire at Midnight is an old favorite. I also have an old trilogy by Emilie Richards, written when she was writing for Silhouette, on a keeper shelf. I have reread Duncan's Lady, Iain Ross's Woman, and Macdougal's Darling several times.

MsHellion said...

@Sin, I almost didn't recognize you! You came out because you saw "Hunger Games" didn't you?

@Janga, I admit I had some difficulty following some of his words. A few I knew from other books; a few were hooked-on-phonics words. And a few were just me going, "I think this means XYZ." Many times I'd just keep repeating the sentence aloud until it made some sort of sense. Later on, the more I read, the more natural deciphering his words came a bit more natural. I was quite relieved his accent was a persona though and dropped it much of the time. *LOL* Incidentally I thought it was humorous the way she had to keep asking him what the heck he was even saying. *LOL*

I think we all have Kiss Me, Annabel on our list--it was a great book! *LOL* I'll have to find some on your list. You always have great recommendations! I myself love Jill Barnett's Scottish novels...and Julie Garwood's.

P. Kirby said...

And "douche-canoe" wins the Internet! LOL.

I'm often reading two books at once. Probably because I come home from the library with a pile, start one, then pick another up, read a few pages, a few more, and then...crap, I'm reading two books. It's not as efficient as it sounds, since I lose track of who's who and doing what to who, and have to re-read. I imagine its a function of my short attenti--Look, something shiny!

TerriOsburn said...

I'm so glad Pat found us. LOL! She's so cute.

Maureen said...

I seldom read two books at once. I have, however, been guilty of writing two or three at the same time...

Maureen said...

Though I have been guilty of taking several months to read a non-fiction book and tucking into a few fictional reads in the meantime...

MsHellion said...

@P.Kirby, I can't take credit for "douche-canoe"--that's from the Bloggess.com. She's brilliant. She has a book coming out soon. I just feel free to use her term of endearment for random asshats and assclowns in my everyday vernacular.

I love shiny stuff...and mascara. I was a raccoon in a former life.

MsHellion said...

@Mo, I can't claim to write 2 or 3 at the same time if I refuse to finish any of them.

I have also read non-fiction between fiction...and take a long time to do it. Years, in fact.

quantum said...

Gorgeous cover, though the guy seems a bit overdressed for the occasion. I see the lady is keeping his hand from straying!

I'm not particularly drawn to Scottish or Irish romances, far more interested in whether we English beat them at soccer and rugby.

I would really like to see some Welsh romances though. The Welsh are a musical nation with a love of poetry (check out Eistedfodd!) and reputedly hot blooded. Perfect romance material. I'm 50% Welsh so figure that if you will. LOL

I love Sophie Kinsella and want to write like her someday. It would not change the fact that I’d drop her to read J.K. Rowling in a New York second.

Swop Kinsella and Rowling and you have me in a nutshell! 'I've got your number' is the latest I've read and it's superb. And the author is Irish I think.

Helli, your review almost makes me want to read this book. But alas, I have so many others waiting in the wings.

Janga is spot on with her comment characterising your review. I heartily agree! *smile*

MsHellion said...

Q! Delightful to see you in the afternoon! (Don't let the cover fool you. The madame is far more willing to let his hands wander in the book and encourages it too.)

Little known Hellion fact: the original Thomas Colley who came over to the states (before they were states) in the early 1700s was from Wales. I don't think I can claim 50% Welsh at this point of the dilution process, and I certainly cannot sing--but I do have a poet's soul so that must be the Welsh that's left in me. I'll see what I can do to put a bug in the ear of the publishers for more Welsh set or Welsh heroes...or even a Catherine Zeta-Jones Welsh heroine. :)

I'm glad I *ALMOST* make you want to read the book. (Though I don't think I'll put that in my soundbites when people ask me about my reviews. "Well, it makes people ALMOST want to read the book.") But I understand the hearty sentiment just the same! Thank you.

I haven't yet read "I've Got Your Number" but it's on my list. I love her stuff and am always recommending her when people ask me for authors who write funny.