For lovers of Scottish brogues and dashing tartan, these historical romances combine dangerous action and fiery heroines while oozing tropey goodness. Kerrigan Byrne’s All Scot and Bothered follows its heroine as she tries to keep her identity a secret while running a recently inherited gaming hell. Meanwhile, a gruff highlander’s best friend’s sister becomes his unlikely rescuer in The Highland Laird by Amy Jarecki.
All Scot and Bothered is the second book in the Devil You Know series, featuring a trio of redheaded women (the Red Rogues) with a lasting friendship. Lord Chief Justice of the High Court Cassius Gerard Ramsay (a stuffy title for a stoic man) has launched an investigation against London’s gaming hells amidst the rumors that the most scandalous of them is run by a woman.
Cecelia Teague has always felt like a rug is about to be pulled out from under her. Her life as an orphan took a drastic turn after an enigmatic benefactor sent her to an affluent boarding school, entering her into high society. But now, she’s living a double life following her surprise inheritance of a gambling hall. Caught between her persona as a respectable lady of the ton and her new role as owner of a notorious establishment, Cecelia knows that the man she’s falling in love with is the same one looking to close her hall’s doors forever. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know she’s the mysterious owner he’s sworn to hunt down.
There never was a heroine more adaptable than Cecelia, who takes every drastic turn of her life with aplomb. She always seems to land, cat-like, on her feet; readers will applaud her willingness to tackle a problem and throw herself into a sticky situation. Fearless and fearsome, Cecelia’s quick thinking and breadth of experiences on her journey from rags to riches make her a great foil for the arrogant Cassius.
Cassius is a frustrating hero, with his walled emotions and frankly judgmental interactions. He has a long road to travel on his way to both opening himself up to those around him and broadening his opinions of society (and those who do and don’t get to participate in it in the ways he does). It’s a redemption arc worth reading; readers’ patience is definitely rewarded by the happily ever after.
Byrne makes her couples work for their relationship. She rarely makes it easy on them or on readers. Her historical romances feel almost epic in scope with the number of physical and emotional obstacles needed to be overcome by the heroes and heroines, but by the end of them, you’re left breathless at how she managed to pull such a story off—again. Pick up All Scot and Bothered for a roller coaster ride of smoldering glances, sniffly moments and steamy, sigh-worthy romance.
A dashing forbidden romance is at the heart of Amy Jarecki’s The Highland Laird, the eighth installment in her Lords of the Highlands series. Laird Ciar MacDougall has been imprisoned and is suspected of having murdered a British soldier. Emma Grant has carried a torch for Ciar for the longest time, but there are several reasons why their romance is off-limits. For one, Emma is the sister of Ciar’s best friend, a frequent complication in many romance novels. Secondly, Emma has lived in a rather protected circle of family and friends. Emma has been blind since birth, and was never afforded the same freedoms as her clansmen and women. When she hears of Ciar’s capture, she (and her trusty dog, Albert!) make haste to set him free. It’s a move no one quite expected from the demure Emma, certainly not Ciar.
The scene in which Emma becomes Ciar’s rescuer is both surprising and sweet, and becomes the catalyst for her to start expressing herself as a woman with her own wants and needs. The Highland Laird is as much a story of self-love and identity as it is a romance novel. Full disclosure: I am not a historian and I do not know if the ways Emma has trained Albert to support her are historically accurate. However, any books that include a helpful and/or adorable animal (see my review of A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane) get bonus points from me.
Though not as dark or angsty as All Scot and Bothered, there is still a delightful push and pull between this main couple. Ciar is particularly tormented, caught between the duty to his clan and the feelings he has for Emma. Is loving her a betrayal of his friendship with her brother? Will it jeopardize clan politics? Will his escape from prison only put her in further danger? These are all questions he faces while on the run with Emma, though their close proximity only muddles things more.
Since the Highlands of Jarecki’s books are teeming with hot Scots, you’d think they’d all start to blur together, but there’s always something new to be found in her leading men and women. Come for Emma’s grand rescue plans and her valiant hound, stay for Ciar absolutely melting for his leading lady.