Friday, February 17, 2017

Sinful Scottish Laird

Sinful Scottish Laird: A Historical Romance Novel (The Highland Grooms) by [London, Julia]

Sinful Scottish Laird- Julia London
HQN Books
Release Date: February 28, 2017

Rating (out of 5):

Synopsis:  Widowed and forced to remarry in three years' time or forfeit her son's inheritance, Daisy Bristol, Lady Chatwick, has plenty of suitors vying for her hand…and her fortune. But a letter from a long-lost love sends Daisy and her young son to her Scottish Highland estate to buy time for his return. Along the way she encounters the powerful Cailean Mackenzie, laird of Arrandale and a notorious smuggler, and she is utterly—though unwillingly—bewitched.  

Cailean has no use for any Sassenach in his glen. But Daisy's brazen, flirtatious nature and alluring beauty intrigue him. When her first love appears unexpectedly at her estate, Cailean knows that a passionate woman like Daisy cannot marry this man. And to prevent the union, Cailean must put his own life at risk to win her heart.


Sinful Scottish Laird is the second in Julia London's new Highland Grooms series and takes place about 30 years after Wild Wicked Scot.  Cailean Mackenzie (eldest son of Arran and Margot) may be set to one day inherit the leadership of the Mackenzie clan, but he seems to enjoy being on his own more than being surrounded by people.  He enjoys smuggling French goods with his brothers and building his own home in an isolated glen.  His isolation is disturbed when Daisy, Lady Chatwick, comes to the Highland hunting lodge her son has inherited. 

 Thanks to Daisy's first (older) husband, she can't enjoy being a widow and raising her son, Ellis, alone. Instead of appointing an executor to the estate to handle finances (which Daisy couldn't possible be trusted with, since she's a woman) the will says that if Daisy doesn't remarry in 3 years, she forfeits her son's inheritance.   Every fortune hunter in London is thrilled to try to win her hand and Daisy enjoys parties and flirting.  But she remains aware that they don't want her, just the money, and wishes she could meet someone who didn't care about the money.  A letter from Daisy's first love Rob announces that he will soon be resigning from the Navy and hopes to see her again.  To give Rob time to come back to London, and to take a break from the fortune hunters, Daisy packs up the household and goes to Scotland to see her late husband's hunting lodge.  Despite the disrepair and isolation of the house and the unfriendliness of her neighbors (until the local fortune hunters hear about the will), Daisy falls in love with the lodge and the Highlands.  And eventually, despite the reappearance of Rob, she falls in love with Cailean.

With a few simple descriptions, Julia London brings a little corner of the Highlands to life. Beautiful lochs, glens and rustic homes make the reader feel more comfortable than all the glitz and glamor of a London ballroom.  Despite this talent, and despite what the fast-paced and character-driven Scot promised, Laird fails to deliver.  The plot is plodding and we almost never see below the surface of the characters.  We learn that as a youth Cailean fell in love and proposed to an English beauty, who refused him because he was Scottish.  Is that the only reason Cailean is dour and anti-social?  This one event, despite being brought up in a loving and large family seems to be enough to turn him off marriage, love, and people altogether.  Despite his strong talk about how a Highlander grabs what he wants, he finds it easier to walk away than to grab the love that is offered to him.  Daisy's situation seems off from the beginning.  If her husband didn't believe she could be trusted to manage the estate for Ellis, why didn't he appoint an executor who would?  If marrying preserves the fortune for Ellis, Daisy isn't the one with the money and all the fortune hunters in the world wouldn't be able to access it.  Through Daisy's stubbornness in coming to Scotland and repairing the lodge we get glimpses of a strong and stubborn woman.  She recognizes that she was nothing but a means to an heir for her first husband and seems to rebel against that realization with flirtations and a somewhat desperate gayness after his death.  While Daisy is refreshingly honest with herself about what she wants from life (as well as regarding her desire for physical intimacy), the magnetic chemistry London proved she could write in Scot is nowhere present in Laird.  The politics of the time period get brief mentions in terms of smugglers and tension between England and Scotland, but unlike Scot where potential betrayal to the crown helped drive the story and prove the mettle of the characters, in Laird it only seems to offer an excuse for the few faceless Scots we meet to send dirty looks at the Chatwick family.  Since the ending of the book mentions that a mere 3 years from the setting of Laird will be 1746 and the Battle of Culloden (and the third book in the series) I would have expected a little more of the England-Scotland tension to be building here.

Overall Sinful Scottish Laird proves to be a slow book where the reader alternates between waiting for something to happen and the book to get moving, and hoping the book is almost over.  A disappointing and flat performance from London, who is normally a historical romance powerhouse.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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