My Scottish Summer
by Connie Brockway, Patti Berg, Debra Dier, and Kathleen Givens
(Warner, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-446-61045-3
***
My Scottish Summer is a quartet of stories based around the notion of American women traveling to Scotland and meeting their true loves. One works, two are unmemorable, and one provided more irritation than entertainment. Och, aye, ‘tis a wee mixed bag.

Connie Brockway’s “Lassie, Go Home” is the charmer of the lot. It has an unusual premise: a woman travels to Scotland to buy a champion border collie, with plans to use the dog to haze geese off upscale golf courses in the Twin Cities area. Anyone who has seen the havoc Canada geese wreak on suburban settings in the North will empathize. But what really sets Toni Olson apart from the usual romance heroine is that when we first meet her, she’s half drunk. After five shots of Scotch at a highland festival’s whiskey- tasting booth, she’s giving Devlin Montgomery a feminine leer. Little does Toni know that Dev is the man who owns the dog in question, and he has no idea it’s been sold.

When next they meet, it’s to find they’ve both been duped and the dog has been dognapped by Dev’s kennel manager. Toni and Dev chase after him, fighting their attraction to each other. Toni’s smart, funny, and doesn’t plan on going home without her dog. Dev is smart, hunky, and plots to keep her in Scotland. Fast-paced, but completely centered around Toni and Dev, this story works just fine.

”Sinfully Scottish” by Patti Berg is a big disappointment. The story opens at Dunbar Castle, where Emily Sinclair, bestselling author of dessert cookbooks, is plotting a way to sneak away and corner the elusive owner, Colin Dunbar. Emily wants to use the castle as a backdrop for her photos of Sinfully Delicious desserts. When the tour guide explains that there is no secret room, and the owner likes his privacy, Emily is undeterred:

She’d planned to find the enigmatic heir of Dunbar Castle and photograph the interior of his home- something that had never been done before. She might be short, but she was extremely tenacious - and in business she always got what she wanted.

Meanwhile, Colin Dunbar, master distiller, is watching the tour group from a bank of security monitors and is instantly intrigued by the short redhead who slips away from the group and tries to get into the distillery. Right away this felt false. Here’s a guy who is presented as rich, handsome, has his pick of females, and he’s irresistibly attracted to a pushy woman who tries to sneak into his home? Surely she’s not the first obnoxious tourist he’s dealt with. But Colin is a nice guy, rescuing Emily when she gets her foot stuck in a crypt and inviting her to stay for dinner. Emily, for her part, lays out her business proposal. Colin schemes how to get her into bed. Emily retreats to the local inn, where the villagers make bets on the outcome of this seduction. Oh, and there’s a curse on the Dunbar family, too - only one happy marriage in the last 800 years.

I found little to like about Emily - she seemed to embody too many “ugly American tourist” stereotypes. “I want it, I’m gonna get it, and to hell with this guy’s privacy - I’ve got a cookbook to sell!” Colin came across as a stereotype, too: rich, handsome ladies’ man who happens to own a castle and be a millionaire. I couldn’t imagine them together at the outset and at the end, it felt no more likely.

“The Maddening Highlander”, by Debra Dier, has American professor Ann Fitzpatrick descending on Dunmarin Castle with an old journal and a yen to find the fabled Dunmarin jewels. Iain Matheson has other ideas. He’s a handsome millionaire whose face has been listed among the 50 Most Beautiful in the world and he’s not too happy about this woman arriving to poke around the castle, at his grandmother’s invitation. Ann, for her part, has Iain all figured out from the tabloids her Aunt Evie reads. She knows he’s a flirt and a homewrecker who dates emptyheaded supermodels and participates in outrageous escapades. (And she’s supposed to be a college professor?)

Ann also gets her foot stuck (in a sea cave this time) and Iain rescues her. Iain looks interested, so she fends him off with a few barbs about his love life. Iain, in his defense, protests that hey, that supermodel graduated with honors from Stanford with a degree in engineering. Sure, and her next career will no doubt be with NASA.

Again, why would this man fall for this woman? Aside from the “instant attraction” thing, there’s little to convince the reader. This one fell flat.

“Castle in the Skye” by Kathleen Givens is a bit softer and gentler. Maddie Breen takes a two-week vacation from her job at an advertising agency to attend a birthday party in Scotland. Her friend Sara has invited her to stay on Skye. Maddie no sooner arrives than she in nearly run down by a man on a horse, and he’s wearing a kilt, no less. This is Iain MacDonald, another millionaire who now restores castles.

Iain is smitten with Maddie, but she doesn’t believe a love that ignites this fast can possibly last. It will be up to Iain to convince her. Their romance is sweet with enough sexual spice to keep the reader's attention.

My Scottish Summer ends up an average summer read. You could do worse, but at $5.99, you could also do better.

--Cathy Sova


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