Book Review

What Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuiston

Title: What Happens in Scotland
Author: Jennifer McQuiston
Publication Info: Avon February 2013
ISBN: 978-0062231291
Genre: Historical: European

Book Cover If I had to describe What Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuiston in one sentece it would be this: the hero and heroine don't really meet until page 140. Also there's a lack of shoes, but more on that later.

I really wanted to like this book. The premise is similar to The Hangover; a night of partying leads to confusion and regrets in the morning. The problem is, you can't have a romance novel where the hero and heroine are apart for 127 pages. The point of a romance novel is for them to grow and change together in order to find love. This was really just humorous historical fiction with some lovin' thrown in at the end, and that's not what I signed up for, folks.

Georgette, the very proper Lady Thorold, wakes up in a strange bed, in a strange inn, with a strange man. He’s hot, but still strange. Also her corset is hanging from the curtain rod and they’ve totally Charlie Sheened the place, broken furniture and all. She isn’t a lady who goes without a corset or shows her ankles or anything remotely scandalous so all this shocks her.

Even more concerning is the ring on her finger. She’s recently widowed and has no intention of ever getting married again, even to MacHotness who is just waking up. All these factors cause her to have a panic attack, and she does the first thing that comes to mind—crack MacHotness over the head with a chamber pot. The chamber pot was empty, by the way, because I know you were wondering.

Georgette dashes out of the room and into the street where she runs into her cousin Randolph. Recently out of mourning, Georgette came to Scotland to stay with Randolph, a botanist, for a nice visit. Instead of being an awesome and supportive family member, Creeper Cousin Randy pressures her to marry him. She remembers being sufficiently grossed out by his proposal which led to brandy which led to MacHotness in her bed. Creeper Cousin Randy notes that she’s pretty much ruined now and has to marry him, and he’s kind of pissed when she points out she might have tied the knot last night. Whoops.

Meanwhile James Mackenzie, aka MacHotness, wakes up with a concussion and vague memory of a gorgeous blonde he spent the night with. His head injury is making his memories fuzzy, but when he realizes his money purse is gone, he thinks the woman in question set him up as a mark and robbed him blind. He’s the town solicitor and not a wealthy man, and the missing money represents a month’s worth of earnings.

Georgette and James set out on separate journeys to figure what the hell happened the previous night and to track each other down. James wants to have Georgette arrested for theft, and Georgette wants an annulment because she’s wealthy and afraid James will use their marriage as a means to her inheritance.  All of this leads to a convoluted plot that involves half the town and plenty of misunderstandings.

But wait! That’s not all! For the low-low price of $7.99 we also get subplots involving missing horses, kittens hiding in boobies, ex-school chums turned villains, and Creeper Cousin Randy running around with the pinking shears.

I had a lot of trouble making it through the first half of the book because from page 13, when Georgette leaves the inn, to page 140, the main characters are not together. Georgette and James are on completely separate paths as they search for answers. Sure, some of these scenes were fun to read (like when Georgette finds out she hired Elsie, the town prostitute, to be her lady’s maid), but without the hero and heroine interacting I felt like the plot couldn’t advance in any meaningful way. We’re treated to plenty of backstory, but all sexual and romantic tension takes a cigarette break as James and Georgette stumble around Moraig looking for answers. I kept flipping pages thinking, “yeah, well they’ll get together in this next chapter,” and kept getting more and more frustrated when they didn’t.

I figured that if the crazy night of drunken sexytimes was that important, McQuiston would have opened the story there rather than focus on 127 pages of hazy memories and backstory.

I learned two things during this section of the book:

1. The blacksmith could and did marry people.

2. Ex-hookers make great maids. Elsie gets shit done.

When James and Georgette finally get together, things take off. The problem is that now there is too much to resolve in the short space left. It was difficult to believe that either was able to make the emotional journey necessary to fall in love in that span of time.

As they start to unravel the threads of what transpired the previous night, Georgette and James realize that neither of them as is nefarious as the other seems to think. They are also incredibly attracted to each other. This isn’t just the beer goggles talking either. Like a true romance heroine, Georgette’s shocked that James seems to be so attracted to her. She’s always considered herself unattractive with her white-blonde hair, pale skin, blue eyes, and huge boobs. I’m not even making this up. I had a mental picture of a fairer Kate Upton being all like “OMG I’m so ugly,” and in my mental picture I mentally punched her in her face.

Anyway, her late husband made it clear he didn’t really want her when he screwed his way around England, and she felt inadequate and rejected. Georgette’s sexual experiences with her husband left her less than enthused about lovemaking, and the fact that she even wants to kiss James is a revelation to her.

One thing that irked me, and I might be getting petty here, is that amount of time Georgette ran around without shoes on. From the moment she wakes up in the inn to the final pages, Georgette is either barefoot or wearing boots that aren’t suited for anything other than crossing a room in. At one point James steals her shoes so she can’t chase after him when he goes to confront the villain. What does Georgette do? Crawl out the window barefoot and go prancing around Scotland at night. Every time her bare feet were mentioned I was like GODAMMIT GEORGETTE WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES?! Ask Elsie for shoes. Elsie will steal a bitch some shoes.

Overall, James and Georgette were a couple I found myself cheering for. They’re both damaged, but not bitter or angry. They each want to help the other, and without realizing it, begin to heal themselves in the process. Had McQuiston brought them together from the beginning this book could have been stellar, but I couldn’t get past the stilted pacing.

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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    CarrieS says:

    I love this review!  Team Elsie FTW!  Kittens!  The horrible angst of being so very unattractive with a tiny waist and big breasts!  I’m gonna have to read this, aren’t I…

  2. 2

    I’m totally buying this book. This sounds like the most fun ever!

  3. 3
    Noelle Davidson says:

    Too bad about the slow beginning!  Sounds like this book could have been really good, but still, this one might be just unique enough to get me to read it, anyway.  :)

  4. 4
    Rosa E. says:

    . . . I might have to read this. Despite the iffy pacing, it sounds like exactly the kind of thing I need after a long day.

    Also, how much fun would a book from Elsie’s POV be? I love that—the sensible hooker, hired as a lady’s maid by mistake, who cleans up and gets shit done while the wealthy lady runs around trying to figure out just WTF she did last night. Somebody write this.

  5. 5
    Beggar1015 says:

    The review makes me believe Elyse would rather have read Elsie’s story rather than the barefoot contessa’s.

  6. 6

    The whole setup reminds me of Waking Up Married from Harlequin Kiss. Otherwise it sounds pretty amusing, but I suspect your review is much more enjoyable than the actual book.

  7. 7
    Charlotte Russell says:

    The book isn’t for me, but thank you, thank you for making me laugh out loud!

  8. 8
    Jessi Gage says:

    I haven’t laughed this hard reading a review in a long time. Love the cursing over Georgette’s shoelessness. Title should have been Shoeless in Scotland.

  9. 9

    This book worked for me.  The subplots came together at the end … I thought the resolution was clever. 

    Creeper Cousin Randolph was just that … creepy!

    Perhaps you’d like to start a shoe drive for deprived English widows vacationing in Scotland!

  10. 10

    The book may have earned a D but this review is definitely grade A.

  11. 11
    Christine says:

    I read “Lady Thyroid” at first… That would be different!

  12. 12
    Karenmc says:

    I read a sample of this a long time ago and really liked the author’s voice. The book is sitting on my Kindle, but I don’t know when I’ll get to it. In the meantime, I’ve read this hilarious review, which is some of the most entertaining writing I’ve read all week.

  13. 13
    SusannaG says:

    A Grade A review!

  14. 14
    Patty H. says:

    This book totally worked for me. Although they aren’t together for the first half, the H/H learn about each other through the people they meet, changing opinions of each other, so that when they do meet again, the sparks fly. Plus, the book made me laugh.
    This is just me, but Georgette’s perception of herself seemed believable because I know some very attractive women whose asshat husbands cheated on them—good for putting one’s self esteem into the chamber pot.

  15. 15
    BethSmash says:

    I picked this up at the library, because I liked the sample chapter, but I had many of the same problems with it that the reviewer did.  The thing I think that pissed me off the most was that the hero thinks the heroine is a thief, and keeps threatening her with jail.  Now, she knows she didn’t take his money and thinks he left it in the inn.  He says, fine, if it’s still in the inn (after the room has supposedly been cleaned – with who knows how many maids and others in and out of it) then I’ll believe you’re not a thief and won’t get you locked up forever.  AND SHE AGREES.  Anyone could have taken the money, it’s not like the room was sealed.  How was that a good idea?  I was so mad at the hero almost the entire time.  And also, creepy cousin freaked me out.  I almost DNF, but was so close to being done, I thought WTH and kept reading.

  16. 16
    Andrea says:

    So happy to know that it’s not just me. I agree 100% with the review.  I bought this on the recommendation of Sarah MacLean (love her).  I, too, was irked by the pacing and the fact that it takes so looooooong for the hero/heroine to meet.  Actually, I enjoyed your review of the book much more than the book itself.

  17. 17
    MJ says:

    Every time her bare feet were mentioned I was like GODAMMIT GEORGETTE WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES?! Ask Elsie for shoes. Elsie will steal a bitch some shoes.

    Can’t. Stop. Laughing.

  18. 18
    Sharlene Wegner says:

    I read this book & loved it! I will read it again when the 2nd book comes out! I have no problem with them being apart, because they were really together in the beginning, they just don’t remember it. And as the characters develop, you are routing for them to get back together. Besides, how about Sleepless in Seattle? Wasn’t that romance? And that was a whole movie of not being together!

  19. 19
    JennyOH says:

    From the title I at first thought it was one of the “XYZ In Scotland” series I’ve been reading, but turns out those are by Karen Hawkins.  While What Happens In Scotland may not have the hero/heroine in the same room for the majority of the book, it does actually take place in Scotland!  I remember giving daily updates to a coworker as I read one of Karen Hawkins’ on my lunchbreak “The Scandal’s supposed to be in Scotland, but as far as I can tell they’re still not in Scotland….nope, not in Scotland today either…”

  20. 20
    Belle says:

    She’s always considered herself unattractive with her white-blonde hair, pale skin, blue eyes, and huge boobs. I’m not even making this up. I had a mental picture of a fairer Kate Upton being all like “OMG I’m so ugly,” and in my mental picture I mentally punched her in her face.”

    One of the best quotes I’ve ever read anywhere. I LOL’d so hard! I also loved this one

    Ask Elsie for shoes. Elsie will steal a bitch some shoes.” XD

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