|Jen Holling’s My Devilish Scotsman is a terrific read. It’s the second book in Holling’s paranormal “MacDonell Trilogy”, and the fact that one doesn’t regret having to read the books out of order is the perfect indicator of Holling’s talent.
Gillian MacDonell’s mother was hanged as a witch and Gillian’s two sisters have a great deal of magical power. Although Gillian has no magic, her entire family lives with the threat of accusations of witchcraft. Gillian’s dying father needs to see her married before he passes away so she’ll have a husband’s protection in the event accusations are made. Gillian’s choices for marriage are limited and difficult. She could marry a fat Frenchman and move to his home, away from her sisters and the land she loves, or she could marry Nicholas Lyon, Earl of Kincreag, a man suspected of murdering his first wife. Gillian prefers Nicholas because his home is nearby and because he is young and handsome, and her father assures her the rumors about Nicholas being a murderer are untrue. She also feels that becoming a countess will make her “somebody” and compensate for her lack of magical power.
Nicholas has reservations about marrying any woman, much less a MacDonell. His first wife was a murderess, psychotic and evil, and her strange death caused the rumors that named Nicholas a murderer. Later, Gillian’s sister, Isobel, jilted Nicholas to marry another man. Because Nicholas owes Gillian’s father a debt, Nicholas resentfully agrees to marry Gillian. When Gillian starts to get blinding headaches whenever she tries to recall the circumstances around her mother’s death, Nicholas becomes even more worried about his decision. He wonders if Gillian isn’t perhaps insane like his first wife.
One of the more entertaining events occurs prior to Gillian and Nicholas’ wedding. Gillian finds she falling in love and wants Nicholas to feel the same, so she purchases a love-philter and spikes Nicholas’ wine with it. Nicholas’ first wife was a poisoner, so Nicholas is wary of what he drinks and sees right away that the wine has been altered. A dog drinks the spiked wine and doesn’t die, which leaves Nicholas wondering what in the world Gillian was attempting, and adding to his reservation about marrying her. But Gillian is a full-figured, beautiful woman, and is so honest and brave that Nicholas finds himself letting down his guard. Gillian feels guilt every time Nicholas acts lustful or affectionate toward her, thinking his feelings are all false.
Bad things start to happen soon after Nicholas and Gillian marry. While enroute to Nicholas’ home, their party is attacked and Gillian is almost killed. In distress, Gillian calls for her sisters to visit and use their powers to help her.
One has to admire the character of Gillian. The imminent death of her father and the attempts on her life leave her feeling bruised emotionally and physically, and yet she doesn’t resort to the weeping hysteria one might expect. Nor is her character developed as a risk-taking idiot following whispers into the dark.
My Devilish Scotsman is not all murder mystery and mayhem, however. The romance between Gillian and Nicholas is a major plot element, and watching these characters fall in love is beguiling. In the midst of some very ugly situations, Nicholas and Gillian find time to get to know one another, filling lots of time with lovemaking and sweet pillow talk. The love scenes are some of Holling’s best.
Holling’s writing is very descriptive without being weighted. The reader can easily picture the people and settings in My Devilish Scotsman, which could be a bad thing, I suppose, given some of the eerie things that happen. While this is not a book that causes you to turn on every light in the house and spend a frightened sleepless night, my best advice is to turn on a bright lamp, settle back and enjoy.