What Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuiston

March 12, 2013
Close but no cigar.

Spoiler alert! I reveal the villain!
What Happens in Scotland, Jennifer McQuiston's debut novel, had a great beginning and what I thought was a pretty original concept.  We are presented with our heroine (Georgette) waking up naked in bed with a strange man.  The room is in shambles, her corset is hanging on the bedpost, feathers are scattered all around, some are even attached to her feet.  The problem is, she has no idea how any of this came about.  Our hero, the strange man (aka James) wakes up and smiles at her and asks her to return to bed.  Her reply is to boink him in the head with a chamber-pot, an empty one by the way.  She runs out of the room.  He is knocked out, but awakens later to a bloody head and a hazy memory of the events.  And, this was all in the first chapter.  Oh boy, I thought, this is going to be fun!  Smiling, I rubbed my hands together in glee and waited with an-ti-ci-pa-tion for more hoopla.  And, waited...

What happened?  We are introduced to two great characters, neither of them remembering much of anything.  They both go off in search of answers, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  Along the way, they run into some wonderfully quirky characters and situations.  There is a butcher who had his teeth knocked out, a prostitute Georgette hired to be a ladies maid, a young man Georgette taught something to in an alley, a wild horse, a missing horse, a kitten that hasn't been weaned, a dog that bites, a veterinarian roommate, missing money, a noisy brother, an old friend turned enemy who is also the magistrate, a cousin with a hairy nose.  And, by the way, why must we always have some kind of physical identifier for villains?  Usually they have yellow teeth or garlic breath...now, we have a hairy nose.  At least with the hairy nose we know he won't be a reformed villain and have his own book.  Of course we all know heroes have hair in their noses too, it's just that when we are wrapped in their manly arms we don't see the hair in the nose - or under the armpit for that matter.  You know, I cannot recall the last time I read about a hero with hair under his arms.  I digress.  Where was I? 

Oh yes, we have all these characters showing up, telling our hero and heroine about what they did the day before, but it was all done separately.  Our couple is each trying to find out what happened on their own...sort of.  James' brother William shows up to help him and Georgette kind of wanders around with her prostitute maid.  And, that's where I had the problem: this couple was finding out all of these wonderful things that had happened, but they are not together when they find out.  And, that's what weakened the story for me...for almost 50 percent of the book our couple is racing around trying to remember, having misunderstandings, but they are not together.  Because they are not together for most of the book, there isn't enough time to build a strong romantic love story.  They are like two sides to a shoe that should have been laced together more frequently.

When Georgette and James are finally together, w-a-y too much valuable time is spent in solving James' 11-year-old misunderstanding with his father.  And, let's talk about misunderstandings.  James, Mr. Jump-to-the-Wrong-Conclusion Guy.  Mr. She's-Guilty-No-She's-Not-Yes-She-Is Guy.  Mr. I-Don't-Have-Any-Evidence-But-I-Know-You're-Wrong Guy.  James was such a back and forth character.  He was a great hero when he wasn't doubting everyone, but when that Mr. Humbug sat on his shoulders he was a very annoying guy.  Is it any wonder his father didn't speak to him for all those years.

Overall, the novel had a great concept.  All this memory chasing takes place over a 24-hour period and it had all the elements there to make a great, funny book.  But, for me there were just too many things that never connected, the couple was apart too much of the time, there were too many "almost" moments in this story...too many plot-lines that didn't go anywhere.  Bottom line, for a romance novel to work for me the couple have to develop as a couple, whether in flashbacks or current time, even if it's only 24 hours...but there has to be a togetherness and sorry to say I just didn't see this couple as a couple.  When the story ended I felt they were still strangers.  

Time/Place: Regency Scotland
Sensuality: Warm


Phyl said...

I agree--this book had a great concept and I enjoyed the tension in the beginning as I waited for them to get back together again. I just wish it hadn't gone on quite so long so we could see more time with them together. And then they were apart some more while James goes off after the villain. As you say, close, but not quite. Still, I liked it well enough that I will definitely read the next book.

SidneyKay said...

Phyl: I plan on reading the next book also...I thought the author took a ballzy chance with this story, so I am interested in seeing how she does with another book. This one just didn't work for me.