The Scotsman's Lady Linda Madl
(Zebra, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-5989-2
**
London in 1828 and everyone in society seems to be preoccupied with boxing. Fisticuffs. Pugilism. Whatever. Charlotte St. John, a beautiful, rich redhead, is not impressed with the sport, but her hormones are in a tizzy over one of the sport's practitioners, a roguish kilt-clad honey bun who goes by the professional name of "The Brawlin' Scot." Sitting amongst the unwashed masses watching the Scot pound someone's brains out, Charlotte can only think about what his chest hair feels like…which is very unlike Charlotte because she's the bookish type and is practically engaged to a Byronesque poet named Edward. So why is Charlotte at the boxing match? She's providing an alibi for her twin sister Cassandra who is out making mischief of her own.

It's a pretty lame plot device as lame plot devices go, and the author abandons the entire masquerading twins thing by making the Brawlin' Scot one of the few people on earth who can tell the two apart. The boxer's name is Connor McKensie, and he's trying to raise enough money pummeling people to buy back some disputed family land that just so happens to be owned by Charlotte's father. Another Scot by the name of Forbes also happens to be interested in the land, and the author spends a great deal of time talking about this character, but he never so much as shows his face. I found it very disconcerting, like I was being set up for a sequel. Gee, I wonder why? Twin sister perhaps?

So the Brawin' Scot and Charlotte embark on a relationship whereby she decides to show him "her" London and he will show her "his" (which is pretty impressive considering it's his first time in town). The vague way in which this arrangement comes about is an example of what might be called "a convenient lapse of plot." In other words, things just sort of happen, and you're not sure how or why. It occurs numerous times throughout the book. Charlotte's father develops an unhealthy jealousy towards some Greek scholar that his wife is working with. We get barely a glimpse of the scholar, are never, ever given a reason for the father's jealousy, and then the character disappears as though he never existed. In another instance, Charlotte is transformed into a "new" woman virtually overnight. Her carnal knowledge of Connor aside, we are told that the "new" Charlotte can no longer stay hidden behind the "old" Charlotte and that she will only find fulfillment if she puts her poetry and Greek translations aside and volunteers in an orphanage. Okay, if you say so.

As for Charlotte and her reputedly close bond with her twin sister, it is nowhere in evidence. Cassandra is more like a bit player who occasionally steps in to remind the reader that the next book by Ms. Madl will feature her as the star.

The one saving grace in The Scotsman's Lady is the aforementioned Brawlin' Scot and his repeated attempts to kiss Charlotte out of her clothes. Quite the charmer in every way, Connor McKensie answers to no man but himself, setting out to achieve his goals in an honorable, albeit unorthodox, manner. His affection for Charlotte is never in doubt, although this reader would liked to have seen him chasing someone less whiney and with a lot more spirit. Be that as it may, as a pugilist, and hero, The Brawlin' Scot packs quite a punch.

But even Connor McKensie can't pull this one off the ropes. All told the book is disjointed, inaccurate in terms of social behavior, and just plain boring most of time.

--Ann McGuire


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