To Tempt a Scotsman, by Victoria Dahl

>> Friday, September 11, 2009

TITLE: To Tempt a Scotsman
AUTHOR: Victoria Dahl

PAGES: 352

SETTING: Regency England
TYPE: Straight romance
SERIES: Related to A Rake's Guide to Pleasure

REASON FOR READING: Impulse buy during a visit to the (sadly, now defunct, I believe) huge Borders on Oxford Street.

She Has Nothing Left To Lose--

After finding herself at the center of a very public scandal that left one man dead and another on the run, Lady Alexandra Huntington has exiled herself to her brother's estate and is content to manage his affairs. But the arrival of darkly handsome Collin Blackburn awakens her curiosity and her desire--and the advantage of being a fallen woman is that she can be ruined only once...

Except Her Heart...

After a promise sworn to his father, Collin Blackburn is compelled to seek the aid of the woman who brought about his brother's death in a senseless duel. Yet Lady Alexandra is not the shameless femme fatale he expected. In fact, Collin suspects she is guilty of nothing more than a hunger to experience passion, and the brawny Scot is certainly equipped to oblige. But the quick-witted, keenly sensual Alexandra has a few lessons of her own to impart--on life, love, and the delicious joys of succumbing to temptation...
This was my first Victoria Dahl book, and I think I'll be reading her again. While in the end, I wasn't completely convinced by the romance (more on that later), there was enough to like there that my overall grade is good.

Alexandra Huntington was involved in a huge scandal during her Season. She was caught in a compromising position, which resulted in a duel being fought over her honor. One of the participants was killed, the other fled abroad, and Alexandra went into exile in the country. As the book starts, she has been living practically in isolation in Yorkshire for the last year, caring for her brother's estate and finding she quites fancies the freedom of it.

Collin Blackburn is the brother of the man who died in that duel. He's determined to get the man who killed him, but hasn't been able to find him. As a last resort, he turns to the woman he holds partly to blame for his brother's death, demanding her help.

Their first meeting surprises him. She's clearly not the selfish, thoughtless twit he thougth she must be, and in fact, he finds her quite attractive.

Nothing comes of this (reciprocated) attraction at first, but it turns out that Alex and Collin have some relatives and friends in common, and this causes them to spend quite a bit of time together. And since Alex has been ruined, anyway...

I really liked that Alex is quite forthright in her determination to go after what she wants, and what she wants is Collin. I usually tend to go more for hero-in-pursuit stories, but I quite enjoyed this role reversal, especially when Collin ended up practically blushing.

I liked Alex herself, as well. She's refreshingly sensible and is not just forthright about wanting Collin. She's not glad society considers her ruined, but since it's happened, she's ready to enjoy the good things about not having to conform to its rules.

Collin's mostly a likeable character, as well. Mostly, I say, because his jealousy really goes out of hand in the second half or so of the book.

One of the most interesting things about this book was its treatment of this aspect of Collin's character. The man's crazy jealous. He constantly keeps assuming Alexandra's sleeping with someone else. If she smiles at another man (even a good friend of his) and seems comfortable speaking to him, Colin just knows they're lovers.

"Interesting" is not necessarily positive or negative, and the way Dahl writes this situation has elements of both. The positive bit for me was that this insane behaviour of Colin isn't treated as simple possessiveness and portrayed as something sexy. It's very clearly a problem, something everyone in the book, even Alexandra and Colin themselves, see as a threat to their relationship, and not an unimportant one, either. And Alex is not willing to stand for Collin's unfair treatment of her, and goes toe to toe with him on that, each time, which really made me like her even more.

But on the negative side, I didn't see enough evidence by the end of the book that the problem had been resolved, or even that it was likely to be resolved with a bit of work. Colin would fly into a jealous rage, lash out at Alexandra and whatever man he was imagining she was sleeping with, realise his mistake, be remorseful and castigate himself and vow never to do it again. And then the next time Alex did anything even remotely suspicious, there he'd go again, repeating the whole cycle. The last time he did it, right before the end of the book and the HEA, I didn't see any difference from the last few times. Why should I believe that this time he'd learned his lesson, that this time was the last time?

MY GRADE: A B. There were enough good things that I still liked the book on the whole, in spite of the jealousy.


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