Almost a Princess

The Bachelor Trap

The Perfect Princess

Princess Charming

Strangers at Dawn

Whisper His Name
 

 
The Scot and I
by Elizabeth Thornton
(Berkley, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-425-22832-6
***
The Scot and I is an adventurous love story with complicated lead characters and a satisfying mystery. If you love a well-written, unpredictable storyline, you will love this story. 

Alex Hepburn is a divided man. He grew up under the authority of his grandmother, a seer who prophesied a vague prediction for his future. Alex is a psychic, but his powers are relatively new and he isn’t too sure what to do with them. Alex’s developing powers help him in his day job. He’s a powerfully patriotic agent for Her Majesty, Queen Victoria’s Secret Service, a code breaker who tried his hand at missions until the deaths of his comrades and the betrayal of his woman devastated him.  Alex now plans to hide in his office, breaking codes and interacting with as few people as possible while he figures out what he’s going to do with his dismal life.

Mahri Scot couldn’t be more different from Alex. While she too is in a tough situation, she survives on sheer guts and determination to make a better life for herself, and figure out a way to make things right. Mahri has survived the untimely deaths of her brother and mother. She isn’t unscathed but she’s managed to try to move on with her life. Unfortunately her father, known by most as the Professor, has stewed in his grief until the only thing he values is the radical group known as Demos, whose local organization he leads. Mahri idealistically joined Demos as a low-level courier, hoping to please her father and do her duty to Scotland.

Mahri’s world came down around her ears as she began to see the dangerous way that Demos was using to achieve their goals, and read some of the messages she was carrying as the courier.  She discovered a plot to murder the Queen, and struggled desperately between betraying her father and protecting the monarchy. Finally, she came to the decision that she would write a letter to the Secret Service to alert them of the Demos assassination plans.

At the Queen’s reception, Mahri attends to ensure the Queen’s safety and she shoots a young radical that had intended to carry out the assassination. Alex is also at the reception, to protect the Queen and catch the would-be assassins. Mahri takes off after the shooting and Alex gives chase, and catches her. While their chase is coming to an end, there is another murder, which is blamed on Alex. 

Now, Mahri and Alex are each other’s alibis and protection. Demos are searching to capture Mahri, and make her pay for her treachery. The Secret Service is looking to question Mahri and incarcerate Alex for murder, and meanwhile the Scottish countryside has experienced a terrible storm and is flooded, the trains and telegraph lines are down, making any kind of communication impossible.

The Scot and I is a very richly layered story, there are many characters that serve to entertain the reader with their interesting personalities and personal interests. Dugald, Mahri’s bodyguard and old friend, is stoic, long-suffering and sarcastic. He serves as a great foil to the impetuous, hopeful, daring Mahri. Alex’s younger, dashing brother Gavin is also a welcome opposite to our hero. He often spurs tenderness, parental concern and sometimes out-of-character enthusiasm in Alex.

The adventure portion of the story is written in a tight timeline, it doesn’t lag or lose its taut allure throughout the chapters. I appreciated the seemingly natural order of events, the characters think and plan out their reactions and strategies to the danger surrounding them. Although perhaps it started too soon in the story. I had no idea who Mahri and Alex were before they were stuck in this unfortunate situation.

As for the love story, Mahri and Alex come off as a bad match. Their attraction seems contrived and convenient, as if they may as well be lovers since they’re on the run together, with no lasting connection. While they utter a few trite romantic phrases and eventually pledge their love, it felt fairly hollow, considering their lack of trust in one another’s motives. The bulk of their conversations throughout the novel consist of Alex’s careful interrogation of what Mahri knows of Demos, and Mahri’s staunch refusal to talk. This kind of communication is not necessarily the path to a marriage proposal. 

Also, considering the entertainment value and emotional depth of the background characters, Mahri and Alex remain on the same level as these smaller parts. Neither of them ascend to where the reader feels like they are known, understood, or sympathized with. 

While The Scot and I had some good points, such as the fun adventure and the great background characters, its downfall was when the leading characters fell flat in both their attempt at romance and connecting with the reader.

--Amy Wroblewsky  


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