It will come as no surprise to anyone who actually bothers to read my blog, or check out my Cannonball progress, that I read a LOT. So much so that, fingers crossed, while I severely doubt I will be able to complete the triple Cannonball this year (it nearly killed all my joy of reading last year), if I actually manage to complete my current backlog of reviews and keep going, I will at least have completed more than two and a half the requirement, which isn’t shabby, by any means.
Because just competitively reading and blogging and collecting money for cancer charities as a nice bonus somehow wasn’t enough, last year, inspired by one of my chief CBR competitors, Jen K (who sadly has not updated her blog since July), I started finding reading challenges. All sorts of reading challenges, to force myself to vary my reading material a bit and occasionally force me out of my comfort zone. One of the challenges I’m doing this year is Alphabet Soup, where you try to read one book starting with each letter of the alphabet (you’re allowed to remove articles like a, an and the from the start of the book) and for Q, X and Z the word with the challenge letter can actually be anywhere in the title. But where’s the fun in that? So this year, I decided to try to see if I could find books that ACTUALLY started with all the letters of the alphabet. No convenient shortcuts (we’ll see what happens with Q and Z, the only two letters I now have left this year).
This long preamble is all to justify why I would ever have voluntarily read X Marks the Scot. The title is dumb enough that I might have been tempted, but the cover, with a bronzed, oiled Highlander * didn’t exactly fill me with confidence. I read a lot of romance, though, and so when the universe saw fit to provide me with one starting with X (there are not a whole lot of books out there in ANY genre with titles starting with X), I pretty much had to give it a go.
* Seriously, have ANY of the cover designers for these things ever been to Scotland? Especially the Scottish Highlands – it is not a place to run around shirtless, and you would have to work pretty hard to get a tan. I used to live in Scotland, and I rarely in my six years there had to worry about getting sun burned.
So what is this glorious piece of fortuitous fiction about, you ask? Apparently the second book in the series awesomely titled Bad Boys of the Highlands, because OF COURSE it is, this book concerns the romance of Declan MacGregor and Lady Liadain Campbell. They clearly originally met in the first book, where there appears to have been some sort of kidnapping plot orchestrated by Liadain’s evil half-brother (now executed for his crimes), where Liadain selflessly risked her life to save women and children from the MacGregor clan and at some point there was a rescue operation where Declan’s dagger ended up against Liadain’s throat. Don’t you just love those 17th Century meet cutes? Now Liadain is a ward of King James (VI of Scotland, I of England) and the Campbell lands are her very tempting dowry. Declan keeps hanging around the court, allegedly to keep an eye on Liadain, and it’s clear that they find each other very attractive even though they’re clans were mortal enemies. Not that this stops Declan from sowing his wild oats all over the place and showing off his wicked archery skills. This bad boy of the Highlands has no plans of settling down.
Liadain was the healer of her family (because of course she was) and as she plies her healing trades, malicious tongues start whispering about witchcraft. Declan is worried about this and asks her to be more circumspect. Conveniently to the plot, Liadain’s ex, one of the king’s trusted advisers show up, and because he’s also worried that Liadain may be accused of witchcraft, he cunningly orchestrates an archery competition where the Campbell lands are the prize. Of course Declan wins it. But oh noes! There’s a catch. The only way to get the lands is by marrying the lady whose dowry it is. You don’t really refuse to marry one of the king’s wards, especially when it’s extremely beneficial to you and your family and so Declan and Liadain are stuck with each other until death do them part.
Which may be sooner than they may have thought, as this book also happens to take place right around the time of the Gunpowder Plot, yup that one, with Guy Fawkes and “Remember, remember, the fifth of November”. Oh yes. A number of noblemen plotting to assassinate King James, and for reasons that never became clear to me, although I think they may have involved gaining control of the Campbell lands, Declan is implicated as one of the chief conspirators (despite the fact that being very publicly back on route to his new estate in the Scottish Highlands should have been ample alibi for anyone). It’s very dumb.
Suffice to say, this is not a great book. If it hadn’t been such a perfect fit for my reading challenge, combined with the fact that I’m really rather stubborn and a book has to be either exceptionally awful or very long for me to abandon it, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. I am quite certain that I’m not going to go out of my way to seek out any other books by Victoria Roberts. I am certainly not going to bother reading the other two books in the series. If you’re curious, it’s not an awful book, by any means, and I did get a kick of the way the Gunpowder plot was shoe-horned to add drama to the story. There is, however, so much GOOD romance out there. Why would you read sub-par stuff. Unless you too are doing an A to Z challenge. In that case, you’re welcome – here is the book you need for X.
Crossposted on my blog.