Her Scottish Groom
by Ann Stephens
(Zebra, $6.99, R) ISBN 978-14201-0868-2
Here is a book that feels like it is divided into distinct sections and each one has good and bad points. When all is said and done, Her Scottish Groom falls in between an acceptable story and one that you will want to be wary of. And a lot will depend on which of the sections you think outweigh the other.

Part I is really the beginning of an arranged marriage. This is a rather tedious section that the reader will need to get through in order to get to the better parts. Diantha Quinn is the daughter of an American shipbuilder who is determined to marry her off to a peer of the realm. The choice is made for Kiernan Rossburn, a Scottish lord. He meets her in New York, they have a very short betrothal and they marry. They board a ship for Paris, end up briefly in London and head off to Scotland.

Diantha is a secretly wild girl with a lot of spunk. However her parents have just about knocked it out of her, often with threats and physical punishments, so what Kiernan sees is a complacent, sad-eyed, quiet wallflower. Kiernan is also a bit stuffy. He is marrying to help ingest some needed funds into his family coffers so he can rebuild the land he loves in Scotland. Throughout this part the two have a stilted relationship. There are hints of their real personalities, but basically they do not get along except in bed, and even that is questionable.

Part II takes place as they arrive in Scotland. Kiernan relaxes and we start to see his more normal nature. He has one oddity however, that seems to rule his life. His mother is crippled with painful joint inflammations. As he was growing up, this got worse and ultimately, she was in pain almost all the time. Her husband, Kiernanís father, took mistresses and everyone knew. Kiernan misinterpreted his parentís relationship and he always blamed his father for distressing his mother. He swore no one would get close enough to hurt him and he would not get close eitherÖhe has a healthy libido and assumes that he too will stray once he is married and bored.

Diantha starts to realize her true self as she is freed from her motherís oppressive nature. She stands up for her rights when Kiernanís aunt seeks to cause her humiliation for her merchant upbringing. She slowly wins the hearts of the servants and others. She also falls heavily for Kiernan and she suspects he is falling for her. But their relationship is tenuous. I did like the two in this section. They start to learn of the other and seem to like what they see. Their romantic interactions are cute at times, heartwarming at times and generally sexy.

The author then throws in a ridiculous plot of jealousy and vengeance. Both Kiernan and Diantha are in danger and they end up saving each other. The beginnings of a good relationship are carried forward in this section, but the whole premise is a bit far-fetched. The resolution is even more coincidental as to be almost insulting to the reader. The ending is salvaged only by the resolution of their love affair, not by the plot to kill them.

This is a long book at almost 350 pages, yet it is difficult to describe much real action. It is definitely a character driven story and yet for much of the tale, I wasnít sure I liked either of the central characters. Therefore it is this very inconsistent feeling that straddles the sense that I liked the book with the sense that I really didnít like the book that keeps the rating in that middle of the road no-manís land.

The Scottish Groom is set in the late 1870ís and the settings vary, yet could be just about anywhere. The characters are engaging and are also not. Overall, this is just a run of the mill tale that at times takes the wrong fork in the road.

--Shirley Lyons

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