My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
X Marks the Scot by Victoria Roberts was pretty damned good! Since my experience with book 1 wasn’t inspiring, I didn’t know what to expect from this one. But, VR made it all worthwhile for me! I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, but mostly, I loved seeing Declan and Liadain together. They were SO hilarious at times that I had a constant grin on my face throughout the story. These funny moments were definitely a plus point for this book.
In book 1,Temptation in a Kilt, we met the MacGregor brothers Ciaran, the laird, Aidan and Declan. Aidan, the middle brother is already happily married with a baby coming. Ciaran is an able laird to his clan, stepping into his father’s footsteps with ease, while Declan is the rogue of the family; the best-looking brother and the womanizer. Since I’m not fond of heroes/characters who drop their pants (in this case, kilts) in the slightest of provocative glance from the female kind, I wasn’t expecting anything fun from Declan’s story. Ciaran met Rosalia when she was running away from her callous and cruel family. I couldn’t believe how her mother used to beat her up because she’s ‘fat’ and won’t bring the money her parents needed to live their luxury life by marrying some old, lecherous goat of an English lord. Rosalia is half-Scot, and so she was running away to be with her seanmhair or grandmother. Ciaran was taken with her in the court. Then when he found that the ‘boy’ they picked up beaten and unconscious, is actually Rosalia, Ciaran makes it his business to protect her. When he brings her to MacGregor keep, Rosalia becomes fast friends with Aidan’s wife, Aisling, something I liked.
Now, I hated the fact that Ciaran had a mistress and she returned in the story over and over and over and over again, be it in Ciaran’s thoughts of her big boobs or how he’d like to shag her or that she proved to be the proverbial eeevail OW in the story. When she found that Ciaran is kicking her out, the b*tch also made it her business to make both Ciaran and Rosalia’s lives hell. She lies to Rosalia more than once about her and Ciaran’s relationship, preying on Rosalia’s already fragile self-esteem. I wish Rosalia was half as mad as I was and beat the b*tch up... at least to stand up to her and speak a few choice words. But she didn’t, to my utter frustration. Ciaran also was kind of a wuss to never show the b*tch the door in a proper way. Other than this, Ciaran was very caring of Rosalia. There were twists and turns, some revelations and finally the b*tch helping her cousin, The Earl of Argyll or the Campbell who was set to kill Ciaran with treasonous intentions. Knowing the fact that Ciaran harbors a soft spot for Rosalia, she helps Argyll kidnap her and Aisling, along with Aisling’s infant son.
Declan, the good-for-nothing manwhore, plays a vital role is saving his SILs and nephew’s lives. I already read that he was depressed after his mother’s passing, which is why he was acting what he thought was a ‘rebellion’ of his eldest brother’s rule. He also drank a lot, something Ciaran detested. Declan thought Ciaran is trying to rule is life too. But inside, there was a little boy who wanted to be heard, and be loved. When I read those things about him, I thought maybe, just maybe his book will be better than this one. Then, he meets Liadain, Argyll’s half-sister and almost did her in with his knife while in the mission But I assure you that in his own story, Declan was more than glad to have Liadain well and alive with him!
Book 2 starts quite predictably with Declan in the trouble of female kind. The latest conquest’s father bearing down on him to marry the daughter, who has no intention of marry Declan though f*cking ‘the pretty boy’ is alright!
Declan is now at the court, escorting Liadain. In Temptation in a Kilt, Argyll dies at Ciaran’s hands, which leaves Liadain without a guardian. She’s now the King James’s ward, who’ll see to her marriage sometimes soon. Liadain is a healer and loves her time with her herbs, healing and helping people. And she’s NOT looking forward to a marriage, most especially if her husband turns out to be a dictator like her now dead brother. But this MacGregor (as she calls Declan) can be a bit of a pain in the arse. Hmmm, he can be overprotective at times, showing up by her side when she is less expecting of him. What is his problem?
To Declan, the Healer (as he calls her) is a pain in the arse because the woman doesn’t listen to him, and wanders off alone when she should be with him all the time… oops, did he say ‘all the time’? Well hell, he wants her. Liadain is beautiful and Declan can’t keep her out of his mind. No matter what he’s doing, she’s there, to his utter annoyance... and yearning. Well Mister, I didn’t like the fact that you were still shagging unknown females when Liadain was staying so close by you in the court. Big NO NO! *sigh*
I was glad to see that Liadain at least acknowledged the possible troubles Declan can cook up, especially where women were concerned. In most books, the hs tend to overlook the Hs ‘reputation with women’ or see it something as swoon-worthy. Not to me! And so I thought Liadian was a smart girl. She didn’t let Declan get under her skin so easily. She knew Declan can’t be good news to any girl, and she shouldn’t be thinking of him... if possible, at all. But the rogue has such charm and beauty that he can, indeed, take your panties... erm, I mean their petticoats off easily. I knew what Liadain was feeling. No matter how mad you are with Declan, there was something undeniably sweet about him. He acted as if he had no care in the world, but inside, there was a man who knew when to be serious. Declan also knew that Ciaran’s worries were not entirely unfounded.
At some point, I started thoroughly enjoying Declan and Liadain’s banters. As I said, they were witty and funny... sometimes flirty, sometimes pointy (at each-other) but nothing foul or ill-willed. While they were at it, fate thrusts them into a mire of trouble, which starts with them being married off hastily by the King’s order and I was like, ‘Ouch!’.
Turns out, Liadain had a suitor 3 years ago; a man named Robert, who was Argyll’s close friend. Liadain was young and with a promise of marriage, she had given herself to Robert. It was not emphasized much, so I couldn’t understand for how long they were lovers. But Robert left her abruptly for Spain and never returned. Liadain was quite hurt by his abandonment. This was another reason she stayed away from men and hated them controlling her life. But in the court, she finds her past is waiting to haunt her, again.
Robert, who is now a viscount, acknowledges Liadain by talking to her. Liadain tries not to show any emotion but it was tough, more so when she finds out that Robert is happily married and his wife, Elizabeth is heavily pregnant at the moment. They can’t seem to wait to start their little family. Liadain is angry at Robert but not at Elizabeth. It was more than obvious that Elizabeth has no idea about their past relationship. Liadain can also see that Robert is devoted to his wife; there certainly is a lot of love. But one look at her composure indicates to Declan that something is wrong, who's now determined find out exactly what.
When Elizabeth starts feeling ill, at Robert’s request, Liadain takes care of her. I liked this. She could’ve been a vengeful b*tch and had reason aplenty, yet Liadain was gracious, though she kept her distance from Robert. Even though Declan didn’t like the man hanging about her, he couldn’t say anything because he had no fight with Robert’s wife and the coming baby. Declan was angry though, when he sort of guessed what might’ve happened between them. He was uncharacteristically jealous too. I totally enjoyed his possessiveness towards Liadain, when he wasn’t supposed to be feeling this way for any girl... or was it? Poor guy, tsk, tsk, tsk!
Robert is the one who convinces King James that Liadain should be married to Declan. The man was feeling his guilty conscience and he wanted Liadain to be safe. When someone put some foul smelling flower in Liadain’s chamber, she had to stay at Declan’s room because she had no other place to go. Declan doesn’t bring his conquests to his rooms (thank the Lord for that) because he likes to keep his room as a ‘sanctuary’ from all the trouble he keeps brewing... *eyeroll*. Anyway, Robert saw them together the next morning, and so this thought struck him. He also saw how attracted they were to each-other, so he decides to provide the push their relationship sorely needed. Unfortunately, neither Liadain nor Declan acknowledged this.
To get the plan in motion, the King invites all the best archers of the country to take part in a competition. Declan is probably THE BEST so he was sure to participate. Then he heard about the prize; the Campbell keep! Declan starts dreaming of his own home and with that in mind, he puts himself out there and wins the competition. Declan can’t wait to show his brother what he has finally achieved! But his happiness turns bitter when he learns that the prize comes with a chattel; the Healer herself. The woman he’s sworn to stay away from because she makes him feel confusing things.
Even though they don’t want to marry, the King is adamant. Liadain is mad at Robert and unhappy because she knows she’ll never have a real marriage with a womanizer like Declan. There goes her dream of a happy marriage filled with love and devotion. I could feel her insecurities. And there was no way to deny her thoughts on Declan, who was yet to prove himself anything but. Liadain has learned the hard way that charm won’t make her bed warm when he inevitably strays, no matter that she’s thoroughly attracted to him.
For Declan, he saw it as the end of his freedom and so, he starts acting like a jerk. On their wedding night, he got drunk as a skunk and start calling Liadain names, insinuating that she ‘doesn’t need wedding night as she has already had it with someone else’! OMG, I was so very pissed. I thought wow, and he’s judging her? How dare he? This book would’ve surely gone down if he kept at it, hurting Liadain but thankfully it didn’t. Then the time comes to leave for the MacGregor lands. Liadain is worried, scared. After what Argyll did to Declan’s family, could she live a normal life among that sea of hatred? Even her husband is avoiding her now.
The real fun of the story starts from here. Now that they were married, I felt that they’d consummate it soon, the chemistry between them was that palpable. Some really funny things happen along the way that might’ve something to do with Declan falling into some itchy bushes and Liadain trying to put mud on his... Erm... well, ummm... areas ... That was so f*cking hilarious, Declan, Good God! They also end up having sex later. I wish though, right afterwards they didn’t have an argument to botch up the moment and back the squire one; of not talking again. *eyeroll*
At the MacGregor keep, Liadain is relieved when she’s welcomed by Declan’s family. Ciaran and Aidan already thought that Liadain would be good for Declan, seems like Rosalia and Aisling agreed with them. They make things comfortable for Liadain too.
Some of Declan’s past whores try to engage his attentions for ‘sport’. I blamed Declan because he was still not easy with his feelings for Liadain, which made him think of just that; having some distraction. I was about to kick his balls for eyeing those women, and then got a bit scared that he might do something horrible to tick Liadain off. But, I didn’t have to worry about it since Liadain takes the matter into her own hands and emphasizes to those women that ‘her husband’ is not up for share, so they can hie themselves off to somewhere else! Way to go girl! That was one super scene that even took Declan by surprise. He probably wasn’t thinking that Liadain would want a true marriage with him, but this gave him some hope that she might, just might want him for real.
In the meantime, James Montgomery, whom we met in book 1 as Rosalia’s childhood friend, comes for a visit. James is a charming rogue too and he tries to sweet talk Liadain, something Declan doesn’t like. Ciaran was already growling seeing him because he never approved of the fact that James and Rosalia are so close to each-other. These scenes of overabundance of charm from James, Rosalia’s mockery of his so-called charm were really funny. As soon as Declan discovers Ciaran’s dislike of James, he makes him the head of his army, just to annoy Ciaran.
Meanwhile Declan decides to take a look at Castle Campbell because he was ready to assume his responsibility. But he doesn’t take Liadain, who was eagerly looking forward to be there. Declan wanted to investigate the castle thoroughly, and so, he asks Ciaran and Aidan to leave him there. He also wanted to have a look at Liadain’s room. After finding it, Declan makes a plan of doing something nice for Liadain... Soon, Declan meets a young boy who turns out to be the son of the previous cook of the castle. Declan likes the family immediately and asks the woman, Anna to move into the castle again. She’s assigned to her previous position and Declan requests her to find help from the village before Liadain is back. Anna is more than happy to help since they all love Liadain. Her son, John helps Declan building that ‘nice gift’ which takes up some time and he decides to stay at the keep for that night. Over the course of dinner, Declan tries to get some information about the happenings of clan, but whenever John’s father’s subject came up, Anna wouldn’t talk. I had instant suspicion of who that might be... Declan was kind enough not to force Anna to reveal the man’s identity.
Liadain was in a snit that she was left behind but when Declan doesn’t return in time, she becomes worried. The next day at breakfast, Rosalia points Ciaran out that Liadain is missing Declan much (though she won’t admit it), and so, a plan is made to visit Castle Campbell. Waking up, Declan is surprised but very happy to find his whole family here. Liadain soon finds out Declan’s ‘gift’ for her, which makes her feel warm inside. As they start living here, Declan and Liadain try to find some footing on their shaky relationship. Declan was already determined to win Liadain over, if it means courting her properly, something Liadain thought was funny as they’re already married (and sweet, which made her melt a little more). Later, as promised, she shows Declan the hidden tunnels of the Campbell keep. These outings sometimes would turn into heated kisses, and then, into passionate arguments. They both wanted to be with each-other and make this marriage work, but can they do it?
Meanwhile, an assassination attempt on the King goes wrong. He’s quite badly injured and because it was an arrow short from quite a distance, the King becomes suspicious of Declan. Lord Dunnehl, the English lord who was to marry Rosalia, and now living with her mother, convinces His Majesty that it WAS Declan since no one can shot an arrow from a distance like that. An arrest warrant with the charge of treason is brought upon Declan’s head and men are dispatched to catch him.
Declan had no idea what’s coming his way because he was nowhere near the court at that time. His relationship with Liadain much improves in the short time they spend together. They’re also happy hearing the news that Rosalia is expecting. After a night of passionate love making, Liadain has to leave the next day when they receive news that Rosalia is not doing well. James accompanies her.
I was feeling the climax of the story nearing when Lord Dumbo comes to arrest Declan just after Liadain leaves. He also has Anna killed when she tries to protest. John is left with the few Campbell men to bury her body, as the King’s men drag Declan back to the court.
John runs to the MacGregor keep with the news. One look at his lost, dazed face, Liadain knew something was horribly wrong. Her heart clenches, thinking Declan might be in danger. When she listens to John’s babblings, Liadain remembers the papers detailing treason, which she found in a secret room used by her brother. Now she’s regretting the fact that she hadn’t informed Declan of that earlier. But no time for that, she needs to save her husband’s life and soon! With that in mind, Liadain requests for Ciaran and Aidan’s help. But I will refrain from mentioning what she did to James to get away when she’s left behind by the brothers so that she remains safe in the Campbell keep. It was kinda gross, as well as hilarious... *facepalm* I mean I just kept shaking my head but was also impressed by Liadain’s determination.
When the story finished, I could only grin all over again because it was just so sweet. Overall, I had no major complaints about X Marks the Scot. Totally enjoyed VR’s writing. Though I’m a little disappointed to see that the next installment is not James’s book (I want his book something fierce!), eagerly looking forward to read that one. 4.25 stars.