Narrated by Derek Perkins
In The Scot Beds His Wife, author Kerrigan Byrne returns to the Scottish Highlands and the Mackenzie clan, this time focusing on Gavin St. James, Earl of Thorne, brother of Liam, the Marquess Ravenscroft (The Highlander) and half-brother of Dorian Blackwell (The Highwayman). [His mother was the old Marquess’ second wife and Gavin’s title comes through her side of the family, for anyone who is wondering (because it’s the sort of thing I wonder about!)]. Like his brothers, Gavin also suffered horribly at the hands of his cruel, depraved father; in fact, in the high-stakes, high-drama prologue which has become a trademark of this series, Ms. Byrne revisits the events of the prologue of The Highlander in which the debauched, ruthless old Laird forced his sons to torture a whore. When his father discovers Gavin pouring his heart out to his mother afterwards, he beats him and then literally throws him from the window and leaves him to the biting cold; bruised and with a broken collarbone, Gavin can do nothing but lie out there and listen to the beating his father then gives his mother until his best friend, Callum, finds him and gets him away.
As one would expect after an experience like that, Gavin is determined to disassociate himself from the Mackenzie family once and for all, and it’s this long-time driving force that leads him to want to purchase the abandoned neighbouring estate of Erradale. He currently manages the distillery owned by his older brother Liam – whom he once idolised and now hates – and wants out; Gavin has set his sights on cattle farming, and the extra land and the stock currently roaming Erradale will be just what he needs to get started while he waits for the Queen to grant him emancipation from the Mackenzie family.
Nobody has lived at Erradale for a decade, but it belongs to a young woman named Alison Ross, whose family emigrated to America a decade earlier. When Alison is taken hostage in a train-robbery-gone-wrong, she is rescued by the young woman with whom she had been conversing, who shoots the robber in the head. Samantha Masters was actually part of the gang, her role that of a decoy hostage – but she wasn’t prepared to let an innocent woman be killed. Grateful to her saviour, Alison Ross tells Samantha to make for Scotland; she gives Sam the necessary paperwork to prove that she is Alison Ross, the owner of Erradale and tells Sam that she can stay there as long as she likes and do whatever she wants with it – provided it never finds its way into the hands of the Mackenzie family. Alison plans never to return to Scotland, and tells Sam it’s Comraich – sanctuary, in return for her life.
When Gavin learns that Alison Ross is returning to Scotland, he isn’t too perturbed. He’ll either offer to buy the land for more than it’s worth, or if that doesn’t work, it shouldn’t be too difficult to intimidate a lone woman to such a degree that she’ll change her mind and quickly leave. But Gavin has reckoned without the stubborn determination of the woman he meets on the train platform. She may be diminutive in stature, but ‘Alison Ross’ is no wilting flower and makes it clear in no uncertain terms that Erradale is not for sale under any circumstances.
His plan thwarted, Gavin decides that if he can’t buy the land or win over the infuriating Miss Ross, he’ll seduce her instead and get what he wants that way. Gavin is reputed to have had more women than Casanova and Lord Byron combined (as we’re told several times over) and looks forward to getting the gun-toting spitfire into his bed. He knows how he affects women, and he knows Alison Ross is not immune to his good looks – but she steadfastly refuses to be charmed by him, and his attempts to kiss her into submission are just as unsuccessful.
This antagonistic push-pull between Gavin and Samantha continues for around two-thirds of the book, and throughout that time there is little progression in terms of character or relationship development, which, I have to admit, made it a bit of a slog. In fact, there were times I zoned out and was engaged more by the smooth cadence of Derek Perkins’ lovely voice rather than by the words he was reading. There’s a lot of seemingly endless description and repetition; I lost count of how many times Samantha went ga-ga over Gavin’s god-like gorgeousness, and while I have frequently thought that Ms. Byrne’s prose has been distinctly flowery, she’s now fallen over the edge into the definitely purple sort that sometimes had me laughing out loud:
A fucking miracle of biblical proportions, that was sex with Gavin St. James.
Or just rolling my eyes:
She’d have asked him what the hell “fash” meant, if his eyes hadn’t stunned her mute. Samantha had never in her life seen anything so verdant or so shockingly, absorbingly beautiful. Not the quaking leaves of the sparse aspens on the Nevada homestead where she’d been raised, or the brief spring grasses that quickly faded to gold, then brown beneath the relentless desert sun.
I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler given the title of the book to say that Gavin and Samantha enter into a marriage of convenience, and it’s after this – at around the 65% mark – that the story really starts to gain momentum. Ms. Byrne does a terrific job of showing the emotions between the couple shifting from that initial, almost uncontrollable lust to something deeper and unselfish; their happiness together shines through, and it’s here that I finally saw the writer who so impressed me in The Highwayman. Of course, things cannot be allowed to continue that way; Samantha’s secrets (of which she is carrying more than one) catch up with her and an ill-judged association on Gavin’s part comes back to bite him in his lovely, firm arse.
This, the fifth instalment in the series, is an improvement on the previous book, The Duke, which suffered due to an extremely unlikeable hero. That said, I didn’t really connect with either Gavin or Samantha either; Gavin is defined in terms of his hatred for the Mackenzies (especially Liam – although their relationship is not well delineated) and his prowess as a lover; and while Samantha’s situation is one to elicit more sympathy and I admired her strength and determination, she holds onto her secrets for far too long, which made the ending feel rushed and the book as a whole seem unbalanced.
In the plus column, however, The Scot Beds His Wife boasts another very fine performance from Derek Perkins. He’s become so strongly identified with this series now that I can’t imagine anyone else narrating it; his character differentiation is faultless, his pacing is perfect, he injects just the right amount of expression into the dialogue, and his regional accents – Scottish and Irish here – are excellent. The purple prose doesn’t faze him; he just grabs it by the throat and seems to relish every bit of it, whether Gavin is snarling through his teeth or Samantha is swooning in a fit of abject lust, but he doesn’t go over the top – even when the writing does! This is the third or fourth audiobook I’ve listened to recently in which a British narrator is called upon to voice American characters, and Mr Perkins is easily the best of the lot. His American accent feels and sounds a lot more natural than those other narrators, and although I can’t speak as to its authenticity, it doesn’t grate on the ears or sound obviously fake. He delivers an excellent performance all round, and I’m glad I opted to listen rather than read this particular instalment in the series.
One word of caution; there is a fair amount of swearing in this book, probably more than in any other historical romance I’ve ever come across (and I’m not going to debate its historical accuracy or otherwise here). I’m no prude and can swear like a trooper on occasion, but it’s something that is almost certainly more noticeable in audio than in print; so if you’re someone for whom swearing is an issue, you might want to take that into consideration before opting to listen to this title.
Ultimately, I feel I can give The Scot Beds His Wife a qualified recommendation, based on the final third of the book and an extremely strong performance from Mr. Perkins. Ms. Byrne has yet to top The Highwayman, but I’m still willing to give her the chance.
TITLE: The Scot Beds His Wife
AUTHOR: Kerrigan Byrne
NARRATED BY: Derek Perkins
GENRE: Historical Romance
STEAM FACTOR: 5
REVIEWER: CazBuy The Scot Beds His Wife by Kerrigan Byrne on Amazon