Narrated by James Langton
Grace Burrowes has returned to her popular Windham family for her latest series, the Windham Brides, which follows the romantic fortunes of four sisters, the nieces of the Duke and Duchess of Moreland. The ladies are in London for the Season and are residing with their uncle and aunt while their parents – the duke’s brother and sister-in-law – have taken an extended holiday-cum-second honeymoon in Wales. As is the case with all Ms. Burrowes’ books, regular readers and listeners will welcome cameo appearances from other characters from both this series and some of her other books, but newcomers need not be too worried, as these are usually secondary characters whose presence is easily explained and knowledge of their stories is not usually essential to the understanding of what is happening in this one.
In the previous book, The Trouble with Dukes, Megan Windham, the third youngest sister, met her match in the big, braw, brooding Hamish MacHugh, a former army officer and the newly minted Duke of Murdoch. In Too Scot to Handle, the author turns her attention to his younger brother, Lord Colin, also formerly of His Majesty’s army and who has remained in London so that his sisters can continue to enjoy the Season while Hamish and his new bride have decamped to Scotland. Like Hamish, Colin, though resourceful and more charming than his brother, is somewhat uncomfortable in the world of the ton and finds the process of learning its ins and outs and dos and don’ts rather trying. Even though he is the brother of a duke, a Scottish dukedom doesn’t rank quite as highly with the snobby sticklers of London society, so Colin is having to tread carefully to make sure of his acceptance. He is being helped in this endeavour by the advice of Winthrop Montague, a man who is invited everywhere, knows everyone and, in spite of not being wealthy, is regarded by all as an arbiter of excellent taste.
Anwen Windham is tired of being molly-coddled by her over-protective sisters. She’s the youngest of the four and, having suffered a serious childhood illness, is still thought of as being weak and somewhat delicate, while in reality she’s strong, tenacious and determined. The focus of these things is currently the Home for Wayward Urchins, an orphanage for young boys from the streets; she is absolutely dedicated to improving the lot of the boys currently in residence, but the home is rapidly running out of funds, and due to the indolence of most of the committee members – and its chairman, Winthrop Montague – Anwen is having to sit by and watch things go from bad to worse. As a woman, she cannot be on the board of directors of the home, merely on the ladies’ committee, and they have no influence over the business side of the venture. Frustrated yet again by the committee’s failure to act, she storms out of a meeting with the headmaster only to run smack into Colin MacHugh, who has arrived to escort Montague’s sister home. Lady Rosalind, however, didn’t bother to turn up to the ladies’ meeting just as her brother didn’t bother to turn up at the committee meeting and Anwen is furious. Colin, whose familial connection means he now sees quite a lot of the Windham ladies, is rather taken with this hitherto unseen side of Anwen, and he escorts her home instead, along the way discovering much about the source of her anger, and then offering his help in whatever way she feels will be most useful.
Colin and Anwen bond over a shared vision for the orphanage, and with Colin’s army background and his own particular talent for organisation and getting what he wants out of people, he’s the perfect mentor for the four older boys we meet regularly during the course of the story; they’ve grown up on the streets as thieves and pickpockets and have never had a decent male role model until Colin takes them in hand. He’s the sort of man they don’t wish to let down; not because they fear punishment, but because he makes them want to do and be better.
Bonding over a shared vision leads to other sorts of bonding as Colin and Anwen develop a strong friendship at a sensible pace that slowly turns into something more. The romantic chemistry between them bubbles along nicely and I liked that they are honest with each other about how they feel and what they want from life. Colin may have been trying to avoid the matchmaking mamas, but when the right woman comes along, he’s not at all shy about making his feelings known to her.
Naturally, however, not everything in the garden of romance is rosy, and the snake in the grass in this instance is Montague, who, while purporting to be Colin’s friend, has in fact made him the subject of a rather nasty “prank”, whereby he and many of his cronies have run up bills at various places –tailors, bootmakers, watering holes – in Colin’s name and left him with rather an enormous tab. Not surprisingly, Colin is furious and begins to realise that Montague might not have been such a good friend after all – a fact borne out by later events when Montague levels some unfounded and unpleasant accusations at Colin which could have very serious consequences indeed.
When I listened to the previous book a couple of months ago, I pointed out to my fellow AudioGals that James Langton was doing sterling work, switching between accents from all the corners of the British Isles! The same is true here, as we have Colin (a Scot), Anwen and her sisters (from Wales) and Rosecroft (an Irishman) as well as the other characters, like the Duke and Duchess, Montague and his sister and various others who speak with upper-class English accents. Mr. Langton’s interpretation of Colin is perfect; that slight Scottish burr is sex-on-a-stick and while Anwen’s accent isn’t exactly Welsh, it has enough of a lilt to convincingly be “not-English”. As is ever the case, his character differentiation is very good and his vocal characterisations expertly convey subtleties of personality and expression. For instance Montague’s slightly nasal tone immediately conveys that this chap might not be the convivial fellow he paints himself as, while Rosecroft is jaunty and no-nonsense, but still the sort of fellow one wouldn’t want to cross. The four older boys at the orphanage are very well portrayed, too, a range of timbre and accent used to define them and make them sound age-appropriate.
Too Scot to Handle (and honestly – who comes up with these dumb titles?) is pretty much standard Grace Burrowes fare: a gently moving, sweetly sensual romance without too much conflict in which the protagonists’ wider family circle play an important part. Colin and Anwen are perfect for each other, their conversations are honest, flirtatious and sometimes revealing, and the listener is left in no doubt as to the strength of their feelings for each other. James Langton delivers another accomplished, nuanced performance that adds much to the story and I’m happy to recommend this audiobook to fans and newbies alike.
TITLE: Too Scot to Handle
AUTHOR: Grace Burrowes
NARRATED BY: James Langton
GENRE: Historical Romance
STEAM FACTOR: Glad I had my earbuds in
REVIEWER: CazBuy Too Scot to Handle by Grace Burrowes on Amazon EXCERPT: