My review contains spoilers and they are mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for anything based in the Highlands/Scotland; a good story full of fun, a sexy Highlander/Scottish hero paired with a strong yet loving heroine. What Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuiston had it all. In fact, I was very impressed with this debut novel, as for me, it had not one single boring moment. I loved the story, which was pretty original, loved the author’s writing and wicked wit that had me laughing a lot. This is a book I highly recommend to anyone who wants to spend some fun time with an engaging storyline with some interesting characters.
Georgette wakes up all dizzy, in a small, smelly room of a cheap inn, not remembering at all what happened to her the night before. In her mind she’s going like... umm, what happened last night? Ok things don’t look right at all.
(my version of what was going on in Georgette’s head *heehee*)
Oook... Where am I? *fuzzy crickets*
Naked? (check)... Damn!! *fuzzy crickets*
Big, burly arms of a naked stranger around me... huh? (check) Hot damn ... but no, no I hate men... erm... *fuzzy crickets*
Why am I wearing this big ring on my finger? *still fuzzy and more crickets*
(let’s just get back to the review now. :p)
So, Georgette jumps up to free herself of the stranger’s arms, even though she was tempted to stay there, all because she hates men. Well, ‘hate’ is a stronger word, dislike is more apt due to the way her cheating, a$$hole of a husband treated her throughout their short marriage. The cheater d*ck died but left Georgette with bitterness for a lifetime; bitterness that stemmed from being ignored all through the marriage except for hasty, painful couplings at night and being manipulated to be someone she’s not. Georgette has seen the end of it with her husband’s demise and she has nothing do with another husband anymore.
While she’s trying to figure out how she came to be in this room that is full of goose feathers everywhere(!) and then, in the arms of stranger, equally naked, sleeping a drunkard’s sleep, Georgette puts on her dress. She hates nudity, especially her own (and her reasoning were such, many of us could identify with those… I know I did.), so it baffles her all the more that she’d be this ‘wild’ woman to spend an equally wild night! To find some answers, she shakes the big, bearded stranger, who wakes, smiling sexily up at her, calling her ‘wife’ and asking her to return to bed. Ooh boy, there he did it and Georgette looses it entirely. Apparently she’s married to this stranger, and now has no knowledge of WTF happened last night. She remembers she’s in Scotland, came to visit her cousin, Randolph. So, this man could only be a Scot. Georgette is simply hoping that he’s not a footman or something, at least a nobleman by birth, if not with a title. She was married in title, and if words reach in England of her newly married status, she would not hear the end of it.
Then the stupidly sexy man had to sit up, half naked, making her shiver with want (a thing she doesn’t want to think about), Georgette’s head just snaps. Seeing his sexy, sleepy smile, Georgette does one thing to save herself. She hits the stranger on his head with the chamber pot and runs out of the door.
BTW: I think it’s necessary to mention that the chamber pot was clean. *heehee*
Outside, still all dizzy and poorly dressed Georgette tries to find some balance. The inn looked liked it has been broken down, so battered (really, what’dda hell happened?). The innkeeper looked positively frightened too. A while later, some filthy butcher with questionable bits all over his grimy clothes comes lumbering towards her, holding a kitten, telling her ‘she earned it’. Huh? With his gape-toothed smile, he admits that she actually ‘squeezed him’ good last night before going off with the other man. Huh???? Georgette takes the kitten and holds it against her like a shield from a very bizarre, confusing day and various dawning realizations one after another. She has done some really so-not-her-stuff last night in that inn, with men, in front of men present that had earned her a husband, an ill-fitted wedding ring, a kitten (and God knows what else)! Georgette begins to feel positively nauseous.
Then she remembers bits, like she was trying to escape her cousin’s marriage proposal, one she had never expected, nor encouraged. Randolph is a pale man, like her own coloring of pale hair and eyes. They’ve always known him as a studious man, though very fastidious about his appearance. He’s here in Scotland to do some ‘research’ on botany and all, so he’d rented a small cottage. Knowing her cousin’s fastidious lifestyle, Georgette was pretty taken aback by that small cottage and bad management without enough servants. She came here without any chaperone or lady’s maid, thinking this would be a nice little outing. But not once she thought that Randolph had something nefarious on his mind.
Randolph finds her there soon enough, and threatens her ruin. She has to marry him, apparently for her own safety hereabout. Georgette doesn’t care but she’s forced to follow him in his house. On the way she uses her newly acquired marital status to her convenience, which enrages Randolph even more. Still fuzzy, Georgette can’t help but be stunned by Randolph’s behavior. At his cottage, Randolph leaves Georgette to find the man she has married. From the innkeeper she knew the man’s name now; one James Mackenzie, the only lawyer of this town and apparently pretty famous with the ladies too. Another rake to deal with? Georgette can’t help heaving a sigh. After her cousin’s gone, the lone groom cum butler cum footman (all-in-one) of the cottage informs Georgette very discreetly that she has a guest. Can it be her ‘husband’ in question, came to talk to her? Georgette’s heart flutters even when she knows it has no business to flutter with the thoughts of this man. She runs to her room where her guest is apparently waiting, only to find... A fully naked woman bathing in her own bathtub and enjoying it too.
Oooook, this is just so wrong!
Georgette feels the heat rising on her face in embarrassment when the woman in question rises like Venus as if she owns the bathtub (and the room), informing her that she’s her lady’s maid, hired by Georgette herself, indefinitely when her most disastrous evening till date was on the make! Apparently, she’s one of the barmaids of that inn and used to be a prostitute before she took up a more ‘respectable’ job. She still goes ‘out in the back alley’ from time to time but now that she has been hired to become entirely respectful, Elsie, the maid, is looking forward to a fun ride. We later find Georgette, against her better judgment, liking the maid and her antics, and telling her that various things that lady’s maids aren’t supposed to be doing, something I found hilarious. From time to time, Elsie would grumble that being a lady’s maid is ‘no fun’, and you can guess what ‘fun’ is in her dictionary.
Back in the inn, James wasn’t having any fun at all. He woke up in his barer arse, with a headache, a hangover and his annoying older brother hanging over him with a sh*t eating grin on his face. As James rises shakily from the bed, and dresses, he tries to piece together what happened last night. His thought process is almost like Georgette; except for he is analytical and precise as his profession calls for. And then he finds that his wallet is gone, which makes him believe that the dreamy woman, who was the reason of his super headache and the big cut on the side of his forehead, was nothing but a doxy who made him drunk and stole big amount of his money. She might be beautiful and her discarded corset might remind him hazily of a pair of pretty breasts (which in turn makes him hard of course), James vows to find her and see that she’s punished for her crimes.
But then there was the matter of the money the innkeeper owned him, let’s see, for the rounds of beers to the whole inn last evening that he said was on him, for the broken glasses and chairs (apparently he was involved in a fight.. with the butcher, which explains his gaped tooth!), for their ‘honeymoon suit’ that was an utter mess. Soon James finds out that he has also misplaced his horse, and no money to pay for anything. Crap! William, his sh*t eating grin still on, acts as his ‘banker’ and pays off. James might not want it, but it was very apparent that William was thoroughly enjoying, mostly when James kept saying he’d pay back every penny when he gets his money back. The heir to the Kilmartie Earldom has had a different idealism that James’s own. Even though William loves to annoy the hell outta James, it is all out of brotherly love. From James’s musings, it becomes apparent that James didn’t want any help from him or from his father, the Earl, and just why is that. There was some debacle involving his rakish friend David (now the magistrate of the town) and a girl (duh!) a decade ago, a girl James loved. She commits suicide later when the father of her baby abandons her. The Earl’s interference without consulting him sent a sensitive and rebellious young James out of his house. Afterwards, he promised to himself that he won’t take his father’s help or money, but will study and earn himself. He has been living alone ever since, though now he is sharing his small cottage with another good childhood buddy, Patrick, the town veterinarian.
William takes James to his house, though he wanted to take him to the Kilmartie castle. James won’t set foot in it unless he’s bonked on the head again and carried unconsciously. He agrees to Patrick’s help, who was trying to hide his grin too after hearing everything. Patrick is the calm and sensible one, with a mysterious past that no one knows about; not even James since he never confided in him. He makes James sit and take his poking and prodding. But what James would most love is to return to his hunt of this woman who is the cause for all his trouble, or so it seemed. He keeps remembering things, hazy as they are, like how she walked in the inn as if she owned it. How her laughter and vivacious personality attracted every guy in the room, including himself. How her fair beauty turned heads, and James couldn’t have been happier when she chose to sit on his lap... which apparently led to a disastrous, drunken evening and a marriage he didn’t want. Well, James would ferret out the truth no matter what and see that this culprit is brought to justice!
I was a bit exasperated with James at times. His reasoning about ‘the thief’ was a bit too precise, and one-sided, on the verge of being foolish IMO. This didn’t ruin my fun though. He was what he was and he didn’t know Georgette at all, neither did Georgette for that matter. But she wants to. She finally escapes her cousin’s cottage with Elsie’s help to find this Mackenzie. Elsie knows him, though thank the Lord, not biblically (the talks and thought of which disturbed Georgette much more than she’d like to admit). Elsie’s sighs and pining for James, apparently, is a common habit among the women of the town. Everyone loves Mackenzie’s big brawny body, beautiful green eyes, his bearded face and charming ways. Now, it definitely was fun to read about Georgette’s jealousy; of how she would try to reason that she shouldn’t be jealous and yet, couldn’t help it. I loved it! But no matter what, she is determined to find him and ask for an annulment.
James, on the other hand, needed to be sure if there was a marriage or not. He remembers David was present and he performed the drunken ceremony. When he and William ride to his estate to ask him, they find him in almost flagrante delicto with some maid of his house in the stables. Good God, at first I thought he was... erm, in the middle of it (which would’ve make me wanna throw up on him since he’s the hero of the next book). William even cracks some joke on the whole thing because David is known for his blonde good looks and rakish ways. It’s hard to believe that he’s a pretty good magistrate when he’s into his job. They do interrupt (which was funny), despite David’s grumblings of spoiling his fun. After James’s query, David sobers up and informs him that the marriage isn’t valid.
At that moment, Georgette was with Elsie, trying to figure out what to do. There are some funny, some self-reflecting moments for her. One was that young man from the town, who comes with a vicious dog in tow, that Georgette apparently ‘ordered for’ to save herself from her cousin. This shy, young man kept saying something about her teaching him ‘something’ in the, ehmmm, back alley of the inn, never once going to the point. Georgette, good God, she cringed every time, thinking she, well... you can guess. It might’ve been comical for me but it was totally mortifying for Georgette. Here, in town, Georgette was trying to loosen up bit, knowing no one would care about her appearance. But what she really wanted was to meet this charming (and gorgeous) Mackenzie, her ‘almost’ husband. Elsie takes her to James’s office, thinking he might be here, if not anywhere else. And find him she does, caught red handed while trying to break in, thanks to Elsie. The maid turns tail as soon as James is out of the office, where, apparently he was doing some business.
I was really looking forward to the moment when they meet again in a, let’s say, less ‘messy’ situation. It was great! Georgette was instantly breathless seeing him again. But her breathy voice soon turned shrewish when James starts accusing her of thieving. Then Georgette begins to laugh as soon as he mentions the amount. James doesn’t understand at first, until Georgette explains to him that if he grants her an annulment, she’d give him 4 times of the amount he’s claiming to have been stolen. Now James is speechless. Yes, Georgette was not only married in the peerage, but she’s also filthy rich, a possible reason for Randolph’s sudden interest in her. James doesn’t believe her at first, so Georgette proposes that they return to the inn and search thoroughly. They were quarreling all the way, more or less, even when they were very much aware of each-other, the attraction quite palpable. I laughed so much when the innkeeper took one look at them and said ‘No’. It was plain hilarious. But James didn’t give a sh*t. In this search is where memory begins to return to them... things they might’ve done, things that involved drunken kissing and fondling. Georgette’s embarrassment and James’s annoyance at sudden, inconvenient erections made me laugh so hard! :p They find the wallet (and much of what happened last night), but the big revelation was yet to come; the proof that they were, in fact, married later, ceremony performed by the nearest town blacksmith. Hmmm... This does pose some difficulties!
But by now, James had come to terms with some things. In between, he has been attacked by someone he thought was Georgette in a man’s guise. But later, after meeting her, he dismisses it, even though the attacker looked eerily like Georgette in coloring. James was coming to believe that Georgette might not be the thief after all. The fact that she wanted annulment also didn’t sit well with him. He wanted her, and he wanted her to want him too, no matter how illogical it might sound. This was such a bizarre situation altogether! Her announcement of ‘buying’ an annulment made James feel less like a man, that long hidden vulnerability of not being wanted or needed taunting him again. James definitely was very sensitive, who read too much in other’s words and reactions; interpretations that might not always be correct. No doubt Georgette was attracted to him, and secretly, she wanted to be his wife. But the ugly memories of her bad marriage reared heads every time she tried to think of this. So there was no escaping this misunderstanding.
Meeting with Georgette definitely brings some positive things. After they really talk, the suspicion falls on to Randolph, which I already knew. Randolph has been acting strange and when she confides in James about her reason to flee him, he understood. The cottage Randolph was living in was, in fact, rented from the Earl. Georgette is not entirely unhappy that James’s father is a peer and she requests James to talk to his father, and ask for help. This time, James does though he tries to convince himself that it was to protect Georgette. But James needed to confront his past and his relationship with his father. It was such an emotional scene when two men, who resemble one another so much, meet after 12 long years. James kept that beard for so long, so that his face doesn’t remind him of just how much he resembles his father; maybe not only in looks but also in temperament. I loved that scene, especially when the Earl wiped away a secret tear. It is clear to James now that just how much slipped away from his life for his misguided POVs and silly misunderstandings. James’s mother takes to Georgette on their first meeting, as a mother would understand that she must be good for her son. William isn’t so nice though, because of James’s earlier suspicions of her. But James’s cousin’s kids remind Georgette of what she might have if she’s gives this marriage a chance; a loving family and someday, her own children.
The Randolph problem was solved soon enough. Georgette does something foolish to get herself in trouble. James is hurt again, when Randolph tries to kill him, again (the man must’ve had some tough constitution to weather so many cuts, bruises and finally, a bullet wound!). I thoroughly enjoyed the book till the end (sorry can’t help sounding like a broken record lol). For me, the best thing of this book was that in this very short span of time, JMcQ made me believe that miracles can happen and two strangers can fall in love in just one day! I believed in Georgette-James’s situation, their chemistry and subsequent falling in love. I also fell in love with the secondary characters. 4.5 stars. Now, I can hardly wait to get my hands on David’s book, which is coming out next.
This ARC was provided to me by Avon/HarperCollins via edelweiss which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.