Saturday, 23 December 2017
#CBR9 Book 112: "The Bridegroom Wore Plaid" by Grace Burrowes
Rating: 3 stars
Ian MacGregor isn't even officially the Earl of Balfour yet, that title technically belongs to his older brother, who went off to the Colonies and is presumed dead. It's been nearly seven years and everyone certainly believes Ian to be the head of the MacGregor clan. While they're not penniless, they don't have a whole lot of money to keep the estates going, so Ian is looking for a rich bride to support himself, his two younger brothers, his widowed sister and his niece, not to mention the countless servants and tenants they have.
Luckily, Queen Victoria's love of the Scottish Highlands and her summer visits to Balmoral have made Scotland very fashionable, and the wealthy Baron Altsax really wants his daughter to marry someone with a title, even if it's a Scottish one. The baron shows up with his two daughters, his son, a widowed sister-in-law and a penniless cousin (the latter two along as chaperones).
It soon becomes apparent that the baron is arrogant, uncouth and pompous, while his widowed son Matthew seems to be suffering from PTSD after being a soldier. He certainly doesn't live up to his father's ideals of masculinity, but does seem to enjoy the company of Ian's sister, Mary Frances. Eugenia (frustratingly called "Genie" for most of the book - is that period appropriate), the eldest daughter, and Ian's intended, seems incredibly unhappy with the whole arrangement and while she will happily speak to other members of the family, seems to recoil every time she's asked to get to know Ian better. Her younger sister Hester is cheerful and friendly to everyone, but clearly far too young to be an adequate substitute bride for Ian, who with each new encounter gets more smitten with cousin Augusta (given the horrible nickname "Gussie" by her entire family). Of course, Augusta is penniless and wouldn't in any way be able to help save the MacGregor fortunes and estates, so a match with her would be both unsuitable and impossible. Finally, there's the wealthy widowed aunt Julia, who initially seems rather sad, but finds the company of the youngest MacGregor brother to cheer her spirits rather a lot.
This romance is pretty much standard length, but Grace Burrowes manages to cram four romances into the story (Ian and Augusta, Matthew and Mary Frances, Eugenia with the middle brother and aunt Julia with the youngest), as well as a rather heavy-handed subplot where someone is trying to do away with Augusta through nefarious means. It's not even left a mystery who the villain is for very long, and you don't need to have read a lot of books to figure out why there may be a motive for murdering the seemingly penniless and inconsequential spinster cousin. As such the "woe is me, I can't marry you because you have no money" didn't really work so well. There is also a cameo from Prince Albert, because if you make your hero's estate neighbour Balmoral, you should probably get at least one royal appearance over the course of the book, right?
This is not a bad book, although Grace Burrowes doesn't seem to realise that there is no such thing as the second son holding a courtesy title in Scotland, so Ian, and later his younger brother, would not, in fact have had a title of their own. The eldest son would be the Earl of Balfour, the others would be Misters, that's it. There also seemed to be quite a lot of anachronistic language (and I hated the nicknames of both Eugenia and Augusta), but my biggest problem was the rather big (and initially rather interchangeable) cast of characters and the fact that none of the romances really got enough time to develop, as Burrowes was determined to have four HEAs rather than just one. I would have especially liked to see more of Matthew and Mary Frances' romance, which is probably given the least time of all four. Both widowed, with a lot of emotional baggage, it could have made for a very interesting book in its own right. Alas, it was not to be.
I'm not going to complain too hard about a book that I apparently got for free (or so my LibraryThing records tell me), but based on this book, I'm also not going to rush out and try other romances by Grace Burrowes right away. There are so many better writers out there whose books I could be spending my time with.
Judging a book by its cover: This book does have a lot for the reader to take in. A brawnyy dude dressed in nothing but a kilt, a lady in an excessively lacy gown. Pastels AND tartan. The tartan border and the kilt are especially important, because you may not have understood that the book is set in Scotland, featuring a Scottish hero, if you just read the title. So the publisher has done the reader a solid right there.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.