has also reviewed:

The Scotsman's Lady

A Whisper of Violets

The Scotsman's Bride
by Linda Madl
(Zebra, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-6151-X
The Scotsman's Bride is a sequel to The Scotsman's Lady although it could be more accurately described as a continuation. Not only were virtually all the characters introduced in the earlier book but the plot seems to pick up where the earlier left off. This is one book that leans heavily on its predecessor (note: ideally, sequels should be able to stand on their own). The motivating circumstances that drive the characters were established in the earlier book, and with only a sketchy review of various episodes and the historical background from Lady, the characters of Bride seem to be making much ado over nothing.

Set in 1828, the story begins when Dudley, the Viscount of Monksleigh cries off his engagement to Cassandra St. John in a public teashop. This scurrilous deed has been arranged by Ramsay Forbes, Marquis of Linirk who is resolved that Connor McKensie will not win back land through marriage to Charlotte St. John (note: see previous book for an explanation of the land dispute), Cassandra's twin. Ramsay witnesses the incident and follows Cassandra. He rescues her from an attack by footpads and identifies himself as Lord Ravencliff.

Cassie is intrigued by the sophisticated aristocrat. A gypsy fortune-teller warns her to "beware the dark one" (note: in historical romances gypsy fortune-tellers are always right), but Cassandra does not equate the elegant blond Ramsay with the "dark one" and eagerly pursues a better acquaintance with him.

She was certain that behind that stern facade there was so much to be discovered – humor, generosity, even passion.

How different a man's passion must be from that of a youth like Dudley.

Ramsay is bothered by accusations of dishonesty and rationalizes that he is not lying to Cassandra because he is the Baron of Ravencliff among his many titles. Ramsay begins to regret his scheme involving Cassandra, but it is too late – he is committed to his course.

Meanwhile, Cassandra's parents are concerned about her reaction to the broken betrothal as well as any possible plots by the ruthless Marquis of Linirk. Cassandra overhears her parents and is concerned that Linirk is a threat.

Passion between Cassandra and Ramsay inevitably results during their secret meetings, and Ramsay reveals his true identity. Cassie feels betrayed and informs him that she will never see him again.

Ramsay goes to her parents and discloses that they have been meeting secretly and asks permission to court her. Cassandra is outraged that after his deception he should have the audacity to suggest such a thing, but she believes that by allowing him to court her she will be in a position to protect her family from his plotting so she agrees. This decision will lead to conflict, danger, and murder.

What's wrong with The Scotsman's Bride is the Scotsman. Ramsay may be the protagonist, but he's no hero. He's a manipulator, accusatory and vengeful. In virtually all his encounters with Cassandra, he's self-serving, secretive, and inconsiderate (note: but he's enlightened too – he practices safe sex). The author attempts to make Ramsay more sympathetic by supplying him with a faithless mother and fiancée (note: most romance heroes have to suffer only one or the other) to explain his ruthlessness, but it just doesn't wash – this guy's a user. Cassandra has the good sense to realize that she's better off without Dudley; it's too bad she doesn't come to the same conclusion about Ramsay. Here's one romance where the heroine is more likely to achieve the requisite "happily ever after" as a spinster rather than by marriage.

Cassie's no prize either. She's one of those high-spirited heroines whose actions frequently seem primarily motivated by stupidity. I want an intrepid heroine who's capable of unconventional behavior, but I'd like some credible character motivation underlying her actions. Not once but repeatedly, Cassie lets Ramsay talk her into questionable situations (note: frankly this babe's just plain easy). Doesn't she have any sense? Despite all the evidence to the contrary, she's certain that his villainous reputation is undeserved and that he's really good at heart. And the set-up for the big love scene is downright silly, and Cassie falls for that, too. As for her explanation to Ramsay of why she went along with him, that's even sillier.

Readers who were first introduced to these characters in the previous book may want to check out this sequel, but I expect that most readers will find that these 350 pages are too much too long for so little.

--Lesley Dunlap

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