Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks

The Montgomerys and the Armstrongs have been feuding for over a generation -- and Scotland's king wants peace between the clans, so he decrees that Graeme Montgomery, laird of the Montgomerys would marry Eveline Armstrong.

An accident has left Eveline deaf and unable to speak -- but she has kept her disability a secret. She is content to have the world think she is daft and touched -- and is happy to live with her clan, who cherish and protect her.

When she learns about her arranged marriage to her father's worst enemy, it devastates her -- but she must do her duty to her king and to her clan.

Their first meeting leaves Eveline entranced -- Graeme's voice penetrates through her mind, like a song -- and, to her surprise, she isn't afraid but excited to be with this man.

Graeme doesn't know what to make of his new wife. Her reaction to him and her beauty disarms him. But, is she as crazy as the stories say she is?

Maya Banks' Never Seduce a Scot is an homage to the classic historical romances of Julie Garwood and Judith McNaught but Banks adds her own special touch to the story. Eveline's deafness is a challenge for both the writer and the heroine: how will she understand the world around her? How will she come to fall in love with a man she cannot speak to or hear?

Even before she met Graeme, she could already feel some sounds, especially when they were deep enough. And it was both a magical and meaningful moment for Eveline when she could "hear" Graeme speak -- it gave her to courage to consider that, maybe, she can use her new life with her husband as a chance to start afresh.

But, as with stories of feuding families, Eveline's reception at Graeme's clan was cold and cruel -- but Eveline was able to find a friend in Graeme's younger sister, Rorie. Banks was able to work around Eveline's deafness/muteness by making her other characters speak for her. In this, the author's challenge was to make sure her heroine's actions are eloquent -- and she succeeds in doing so. Whenever a character "translates" Eveline's actions, it doesn't come across as trite or tedious -- but possesses its own charm.

"Eveline, is there something you want to discuss?"

She twisted her hands in her lap and then glanced toward the pillow on the bed. Then she looked back at Graeme and pointed at the pillow she'd slept on the night before.

She pointed back at herself, then gestured at his pillow and pointed to him.

He frowned, uncertain of what she was asking. She frowned as well and her expression became pensive. Then she pulled back the furs on the bed and crawled beneath them, taking her place on the far side, her head resting on her pillow. She gazed over at him and then patted the space beside her.

His eyes widened as he finally understood her intent. She wanted him to come to bed with her.
- p. 132

How our hero and heroine fall in love is the other challenge. Their families hate each other and Eveline isn't having an easy time adjusting to life in Graeme's keep. Add to that, Eveline doesn't talk.

This part felt a bit flat -- somehow I did not feel the chemistry between Eveline and Graeme -- for most part of the book, they spent time apart: Graeme was busy with running his keep and Eveline was busy trying to fit in. Their only connection was that Eveline could "hear" Graeme -- and sex.

The love story really took a back seat to the intrigue, hostilities and threat of insurrection in Scotland during Alexander II's reign. I will have to say, Maya Banks did a very good job portraying the fragile peace that existed in Scotland during that time -- and she handled the conflict between the Armstrongs and Montgomerys very well -- showcasing the different emotions that the lairds felt and how this affected their families.

"You have a sister as well, do you not?" Robina questioned.

Graeme's expression hardened. "I would never bring her here. She is home and well guarded. She is young yet, and I would not have her exposed to a potentially ... hostile ... situation."

"And yet I am forced to send my daughter into the bosom of our enemy," Robina said in a near whisper.
- p. 38

How the conflict was resolved in the end was a bit predictable, which led me to reflect on historical romance stories set in Scotland and feature Highlanders. Most stories focus on:
1. Clan Feuds
2. Scotland vs England

Said stories usually follow either an enemies to lovers/forced marriage storyline -- I will admit that I haven't been reading a lot of Scotland-set historical romance novels lately (I read all of Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, and a lot of Karen Ranney) -- so, my question is, are there novels out there that offer a new twist/new perspective on Scotland and Highlanders?

Would love some recommendations. ^_^

Never Seduce a Scot is the first book in Maya Banks' new series, The Montgomerys and Armstrongs. The next book, Highlander Most Wanted
will be released in March 2013. To find out more about Maya Banks and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.


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