Grace Burrowes’ novels cause me to shake my head and roll my eyes. In my review of Windham series,
I poke fun at her. And yet . . . .
And yet, I continue to read and enjoy them. Ten of them so far. Why is that? I’m not sure I can explain, but essentially she writes wonderful, multifaceted characters that you come to care about. Her plots are satisfyingly complex (albeit too repetitive in some cases). Her dialogue is engaging (albeit a little too modern in some cases). She is simply a very good, well-rounded storyteller, which is what we seek most in a novelist.
On to The Bridegroom Wore Plaid
. Ian MacGregor is a Scottish earl, with a large estate and little income. Ian and his two brothers, Gil and Connor, along with their sister Mary Frances, are reduced to hosting “paid guests” every summer just to make ends meet. It’s the early 1850s, and all things Scottish have become fashionable due to the Queen’s favor, and Balmoral Castle is just next door to Ian’s Balfour House.
Ian must marry for money, and the wealthy English Baron Altsax has a daughter, Genie, of marriageable age. Altsax, eager to have a title in the family and caring nothing for his daughter’s happiness, has arranged for Ian to marry her. The whole family (minus the mother, whose absence seems strange under the circumstances) pays a visit to Scotland. The “whole family” includes, Altsax, Genie, Hester (the younger daughter), and Matthew (the Baron’s Army officer son), along with the widowed Aunt Julia and the spinster Cousin Gussie to act as chaperones.
As soon as they alight from the train, we get the picture. Altsax is uncouth, pompous, and dismissive of the uncivilized Scots. Genie is a fragile English rose and not at all happy to be in Scotland. Hester is young and enthusiastic. Matthew is reticent and courteous. Aunt Julia is lovely, but a little sad, and quite rich. Cousin Gussie is drab and awkward but has beautiful eyes.
Ian finds it impossible to connect with Genie; she is uninterested in getting to know him but prepared to marry him to satisfy her father. After a few days in Scotland, she seems more comfortable in the company of Ian’s younger brother Con (or was it Gil? I could never tell them apart).
Ian find himself becoming friends with Cousin Gussie, who asks him to call her Augusta because none of her family ever uses her full given name. Right there all the indignities heaped upon a poor relation are summed up. Nice touch.
Of course, Ian and Augusta are more and more drawn to one another, even though they both know that their fates lie elsewhere. The relationship grow slowly, and it’s wonderful to go along for the ride. At the same time, Augusta gradually stops being a mouse and becomes more confident. Confident enough to have steamy sexytimes with Ian, and confident enough to thwart her uncle’s schemes.
While all this is going on, Aunt Julia is fooling around with Gil/Con; Genie is becoming closer to Con/Gil; and Matthew is falling for Ian’s sister Mary Frances. There’s a lot of romance under the beautiful Scottish summer sky, to the point that the ending plays out like an episode of the Love Boat.
By the end of the cruise, everyone is paired up. I could almost hear Jack Jones singing.
Meanwhile, Snidely Whiplash, uh, oh -- Baron Altsax is plotting to do away with Augusta, thereby ensuring that his embezzlement from her estate is never discovered. Actually, it turns out that he has stolen more than just money. At the dramatic climax, when Altsax has a gun pointed at Augusta, Ian emerges from the shrubbery like the Lone Ranger and says, “Not so fast, Baron.” It was a laugh out loud moment for me.
And yet I read on. And here’s why. There’s a scene where Ian and Augusta are discussing the various hardships each of them faces.
“It’s hard being the one to keep hope alive for the others. Hope that those who’ve emigrated are faring well in foreign lands, hope that this year’s crop will be better than last, this year’s prices at the yearling sale, this year’s receipts. We live very much in the future, and yet we dwell in the past too. That’s difficult as hell when you’ve a past like ours. . . .”
“I hate it, the hoping.” He scrubbed a hand over his face. “When things go well, I hate it even more, because it’s all going to come crashing down around us— it always does. . . . We’re getting on our feet again, barely, and I dread finding out what hardship the Almighty has in store for us next.”
“Because it’s increasingly difficult to rise to the challenge.” She finished the thought for him, her tone neither judgmental nor bleak, merely stating a fact.
It’s scenes like that that keep me reading Grace Burrowes. Even though she throws in Americanisms like “scoot over.” Even though she totally does not understand that neither younger sons of earls nor brothers of the earl’s heir have titles. (Pay no attention. Screwing up British titles is just one of my pet peeves with American authors.) Even though every hero in her books loves to brush and braid a woman’s hair. Every. Single. One. Even though every time two characters sit down to talk a beautifully filled tea tray magically appears. (They seem to eat and drink all day long. Hope there's indoor plumbing.)
Yes, I keep reading, and it looks like I’ll have the chance, as this book is just the first in a trilogy. I’m willing to bet that Ian’s older brother, Asher, the true heir to the Balfour earldom who’s been missing in Canada for seven years, will make an appearance. There’s a subtle hint on page 246 -- “Three letters they’d had from Asher over the course of several years— only two Ian could tell his family about— then nothing.”
Yes, I’ll be reading. [b:Once Upon a Tartan|15713729|Once Upon a Tartan (MacGregor Trilogy, #2)|Grace Burrowes|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1366089760s/15713729.jpg|21382136] is only a couple of months away.