Monday, 5 November 2012

Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks: Book review

Drink with this: shot of Maker’s mark

Ersatz whisky for this faux Scottish historical romance. Even within the bourbon shelves this book would be in the cheap row at the bottom. It lacks the tingling warmth of Jack Daniels, let alone the buzz of oak-aged single malt.

What's what: 

I have no excuse for reading this, and I only have myself to blame for my lack of enjoyment. By all accounts Ms Banks is very well-respected in the historical romance community. But – I wanted trash yes, but I wanted the gourmet hot dog of the historical romance world, not the canned version! (Apologies for the analogy, I spent two hours waiting in line for this place last week and now need to make use of the experience however possible.)

I purchased this novel during a literary rampage through fiction set in Scotland. I envisaged it as a kind of low-rent Outlander. Sadly the plot, such as it was, soon left me longing for a nice, logical time travel romp spanning generations, invoking the power of standing stones and sparkly gems.

Never Seduce a Scot suffers greatly from its lack of any time travel or glittery jewellery whatsoever. Eveline, deaf-mute since a tragic fall from her trusty stead, is forced into a marriage with Graeme, the chieftain of a rival clan in 17th century Scotland. Her family are anxious as they believe her to be sweet but brain-damaged, yet they are powerless to resist as this decree comes from the King.

Of course, eventually the couple find true love in each other’s arms and Eveline’s deafness is miraculously cured also, through the power of an attractive man’s voice!

On to the positive. It was nice to see a deaf-mute character in a historical novel. This premise was part of the draw for me, and it seemed realistic that those around her would struggle to understand her condition.

That said, her recovery was just one of the coincidences in the novel which strained the bounds of credulity. The story had the fatal flaw of both being too ridiculous in its plot contrivances and too dull at the same time. There was a distinct lack of conflict following the marriage of the protagonists and no real tension to sustain the plot.
" 'I love you Eveline,' he whispered, though he knew she could not hear him. 'Somehow, I'll make you hear me and you'll know that I love you as fiercely as it's possible for a man to love a woman.' " pg 308 Never Seduce a Scot 

Sadly there was also a major lack of swoon to act as compensation. For a romance novel this was far from steamy. Graeme was no Jamie (red-headed hero of Gabaldon’s Outlander series) and Eveline was a text-book Mary Sue, winning the hearts and minds of everyone she meets through simpering niceness and good looks alone.

Lastly, the initial draw for me, the Scottish setting, felt pretty tangential to the story. Clearly Banks wanted to exploit the sexy highlander trope but there was absolutely nothing here which characterised this as taking place in 17th C Scotland except for a few token references to kilts and clans.

I get that this was designed to appeal to an international (cough American cough) audience, but would an aye here or a dinnae ken there have hurt?  

Maybe I’m the only reader who wanted a bit of realism along with the miracle healing and unsexy sex. But why can’t we have our romance tightly embraced by vigorous plotting and beautiful writing? 

Verdict: Much too silly even by its own standards. Fails to be entertaining, which is surely unforgivable for a fluffy romance.

On the big screen: Could work either as a deadly sincere made for TV movie which amps up the steamy glances and rain-swept hill shots, or as a 50s style melodrama, with more of the above plus some bonus symbolism.

Highbrow/lowbrow:  The cover says more than I ever could.  

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