Some of the earliest romances I read were by Teresa Medeiros. I remember staying up all night reading Charming the Prince. Medeiros is one of those authors who is abidingly constant in her writing. Sometimes it knocks me over and I have to lie there for awhile savoring the feeling, and sometimes I read it with a smile and a quick-moving eye, eager for more. While I didn’t read the vampire books she wrote, as they came at a time when I was Vamptired, I was very curious about The Devil Wears Plaid. Medeiros writes great dialogue, and has a way with plots where there’s very little stagnant time. She’s continually solid in her writing, and I love that her career spans so long with such strength.
When I saw this book, I was unsure whether to read it. I’m not normally a fan of Scottish romance. I love romances set in Ireland and Scotland, but I get very tired very quickly of the brogue, ye ken, lassie? Ach. It makes me irritable, it does. Really, if you want to transcribe brogue, try, like, a Proclaimers interview or something, and bring it and bring it ACH ALL THE WAY LASSIE. Scottish accents are some fine hotness, and the written version never really measures up.
So while I always remember Medeiros’ books favorably, I was hesitant to read this because of the ach and the wee and the language possibly driving me barmy. Ultimately, though I came away pleased that Medeiros is still writing solid and entertaining books, and not at all annoyed by the very light hand she employs with the transliterated (I think that would be the right word, or transcribed, perhaps) brogue. In fact, one of the funnier jokes in the book is based on the hero’s accent, and it’s worth the inclusion right there.
Emmaline Marlowe is at the altar, about to marry a decrepit older man to save her family’s financial stability and position in society, when Jamie Sinclair comes busting into the church on horseback, interrupts the wedding, and gets all The Graduate on the festivities (except he doesn’t know her personally), kidnapping Emma and riding away before anyone can do much of anything to stop him (he’s huge, and he’s on a horse after all).
Sinclair rides away with Emma, whom he does not know and doesn’t much care about, into the mountains of the highlands, where he plans to hold her for ransom until his lifelong enemy, the old goat fiancee, better known as the Earl of Hepburn, coughs up what Sinclair wants. Sinclair is surprised that Emma is rather brave, strong, and not cowed much by his treatment of her; he was expecting wailing and shrieking and fear (she is, ye ken, English and shit). Emma is not terribly surprised that Sinclair is a much more attractive man in her eyes but she’s horrified by how much she’s attracted to him, as she knows that the future of her sisters and her parents is solely on her shoulders, and those shoulders, along with the rest of her, need to marry the Earl of Oldness back down the mountain.
There’s layers of problems to be addressed and solved in this book – why is Emma’s family destitute? Why is she responsible for the solution and not her parents? Why is Sinclair so ready to ruin Hepburn’s wedding and possibly Emma as well? – and Emma and Sinclair are both entertaining characters to read about. This is a very friendly story for the reader: it’s easy to enter, easy to get carried away with Emma, easy and fun to read as an adventure story with a snowswept romance at its core. It’s not deeply and painfully emotional and it focuses very firmly on Emma and Sinclair.
The more I thought about the book after I finished it, though, the more I had questions as to how the happy ending came to be. The question of whether Emma’s ruined as soon as she’s out the door of the church and away from the eyesight of any reputable chaperone isn’t addressed really, and I kept picturing Emma like a new car driven off the lot – already worth 20% less the minute the tires leave the curb. Emma is already strong and brave, resourceful and resilient, and I liked her a lot – but she didn’t have far to go in terms of character development. She learns to be more vocal about her desires and in defense of herself, but in the end, everyone around her changes and adjusts to what should happen for her to have her happy ever after. I’m not saying she doesn’t deserve it; she does indeed. But she doesn’t have a long way to go in terms of growth and development, whereas many of the surrounding characters need to grow up, grow a pair, get over themselves, or all three.
Sinclair, on the other hand, is all hate and simmer, but when he meets Emma, he has to make room for the opposite of those emotions. He’s never hateful to Emma, but he carries a long, firm, solid… grudge (you thought I was going somewhere else with that, didn’t you?) and doesn’t place her above the revenge he has to settle against Hepburn. Ultimately, I thought the villainy and the revenge were a little too easily dealt with, and the emotional turmoil that Sinclair might have felt was resolved simply and painlessly, belying its narrative significance.
The Devil Wears Plaid is the romance novel equivalent of a pasttime. It’s not an obsession or a fixation when you read it, like some books are that you can’t put down or even take a deep breath while you’re reading. This book is pleasurable, enjoyable, and fun and friendly. Reading it means that you’ll likely smile and be taken along on the adventure with Sinclair and Emma for an escape and mental vacation that leaves you with a sigh and a grin at the end. It won’t rip your heart out, so if highly emotional historicals are your thing, this probably won’t blow your kilt up. If you are looking for a read that’s adventurous and entertaining, this is one you’ll enjoy, especially if you’re a Medeiros fan.
Guess what? I got me 10 copies to give away, lads and lassies. So – leave a comment with your favorite Scottish dialectical word or phrase – or food name! – and I’ll pick winners at random. Comments close at midnight Saturday 25 September. International entries welcome, and standard disclaimers apply. I’m not being compensated for this giveaway. I don’t own any plaid though I’m told I am of Scots descent. Your mileage may vary. Shake well. Refrigerate after opening. It is unlawful to whistle while chewing gum on Sundays.