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Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Never Seduce a Scot
The Montgomerys and Armstrongs #1

Maya Banks
Medieval Romance
Pub date: 25 Sept, 2012 (ARC review)

H/h - Graeme Montgomery, the Laird of Montgomerys/Lady Eveline Armstrong
Setting: Scotland, in the time of King Alexander II.

Read in Sept, 2012.
My rating:
                                                     [spoiler alert]

Never Seduce a Scot by MB is a story of a deaf-mute heroine and how she conquers the long enmity between her clan and her husband’s, whom she was forced to marry. This is the introductory book in the new series The Montgomerys and Armstrongs. I’ve been waiting for this book ever since I read MB’s McCabe Trilogy and heard that she’s writing more Highlander stories. So, was it worthwhile? TBH, mostly, it was. But in some aspect, I was a bit disappointed. I liked MB’s writing, and as always enjoyed, as I do a hero in kilt and a story set in the Highlands. Let me see if I can elaborate in my review, in the following.

The Armstrongs and Montgomerys have been enemies for a long time. The recent war between the mightiest two clans of the Highlands were when Graeme, the current laird of Montgomeys’ father was killed by Tavis, the current laird of Armstrongs’ father. The reason behind it is mentioned somewhere in the story. They are such strong enemies that one is always itching to shed some blood of the other. One doesn’t venture into the other’s land, which are side by side, without full protection and if possible, not at all. No trust or love lost between them. Graeme has been laird for sometimes now and vowed revenge on Tavis and his clan. But this revenge never comes to fruition. King Alexander II has other plans for this two feuding clans, his biggest allies. He wants peace and finds a way to make it happen. Graeme is to marry Tavis’s only daughter, Eveline. But everybody knows that Eveline has some mental problems. She doesn’t talk and seems like always drifting in a place of her own. Graeme has also heard of it and the king’s decree makes him and his two younger brothers, Bowen and Teague mad. His youngest sister Rorie is also unhappy. Graeme loves his family a lot and devoted to his clan. He’s sad that he can’t have children, because marrying a daft bride means no wedding nights or any nights to speak of in that sense. But, he can’t go against the king, no matter how awful the notion sounds. So, against better his better judgments, Graeme sends messenger with a white flag to the Armstrong holdings with the news that he’d be there in a few days to marry and get his bride.

The state of the Armstrong keep was almost the same. Tavis is mad, so are Eveline’s older brothers, Brodie and Aiden. Robina, her mother, is worried and crying. What would happen to her baby? It was very apparent that Eveline’s family loves her very much and over protective where she’s concerned. They don’t want to think about her illness and leaves her as she wishes to be. But contrary to what I thought, Eveline wasn’t born this way. She had an accident that almost took her life. Her horse threw her in a ravine when she was trying to run from a marriage she didn’t want. Her fiancé was a horrid man, from another clan who wanted a strong bond with theirs. He taunted her with his evil intentions towards her... I got instantly interested as to what the hell he wanted to do with Eveline. But we are never really told, but keep taking guesses. Anyway, Eveline informed Tavis but her father thought it was maidenly jitters. Don’t know how the talks of torture could be maidenly jitters or what Eveline actually told him, but she felt she had no other way but to escape. The end result is what she’s today. Eveline can’t hear, and she hasn’t spoken in the last 3 yrs since her accident. But she’s not daft, neither crazy. Her brain works just fine. But, surprisingly, NO ONE in her family or clan knew that she’s deaf and can actually read lips! It took me by surprise that even no one in the Montgomery clan understood it, until Graeme discovered it, as if it was such a big revelation! So everyone thought she’s booboo in the head. Eveline wasn’t averse to let the situation use for her own convenience. She acted this way, cultivated it so that everyone leaves her alone and she won’t have to marry that horrid McHugh. No matter what, it worked, though so far, Eveline had no future of her own to speak of. So, her family is so worried that she’d never be able to perform her wifely duties and so on. What if the Montgomery laird is cruel to her? I thought the worry and sadness shown from Eveline’s family was done extremely well, very heart-wrenching.

Eveline herself was a bit worried since through her lip reading she understood what’s happening. Soon, one of the king’s important men arrives to be the witness. He assures Tavis that Graeme is a fine laird and a good man. Then Graeme himself arrives a few days later. The enmity between the clans are so palpable, the tension so thick that it can be cut with a knife. Tavis welcomes Graeme very reluctantly. Graeme has no love for Tavis but the fear in Robina’s eyes shakes him. Well, he’s a warrior for sure but he never wages war against women and children, the innocents. He tries to assure Eveline’s mother that her daughter would be well taken care of. But everyone knows it’s not entirely true. Even if Graeme and his family welcome Eveline, there’s a big possibility that the clan members won’t. Hostility would be a misery to Eveline in a new place, leaving the bosom of her loving family and clan.

But it’s Eveline who surprises them all. As Graeme was talking, Bowen, the brother close to Eveline, brings her in. She suddenly hears a murmur of a low soothing voice (she sometimes hears very vague sounds, as if it’s leaving a trail and disappears). Eveline discovers that the sound is coming from the man she’s supposed to marry. Oh Graeme’s brothers might be the handsome ones, but there is something about Graeme that touches to her. She smiles up at him and Graeme is instantly speechless. Despite his fears, his bride is very beautiful, and when she smiles, everyone just stares at her. Then she slips her hand into his big, rough one and Graeme forgets what he was talking about. Everyone is, indeed, amazed. Then it’s apparent that somehow Eveline formed a bond of sort with Graeme and prefers him. Graeme has an odd possessive feeling. When asked, Eveline nods that she wants to marry him. And so, the deed was done in a matter of minutes. A blood treaty has already been signed, citing reluctant peace between the two clans. Graeme leaves soon after for his home, asking Tavis not to venture into his lands, even if to see his daughter. .

At the Montgomery land, Eveline’s every nightmare comes true. The clan members don’t care for her, especially a bunch of women who work in the keep show active hostility towards her. They start making her life hell, calling her ‘Armstrong whore’, ‘b*tch’ etc. They had no idea that Eveline can read lips and understand them. Graeme is very nice to her though, whereas Bowen and Teague are trying to be so. Graeme becomes very stern in his dictates where Eveline is concerned. He asks all his clan members, including his brothers, to treat Eveline with the respect their mistress should get. But, he didn’t understand how much pain his clan members, the women would cause to Eveline. Graeme also asks Rorie to be nice to Eveline, stay with her, give her company; in exchange she’d get the study lessons from this visiting Father, Father Drummond.

The meeting with Rorie and Eveline was fun. I really enjoyed how they bonded so well, with Rorie understanding that Eveline isn’t as daft as people think she is. Eveline wasn’t happy with the room Graeme brought her to. She knew very well she’s to stay with her husband, so why is she here? Rorie finds her trying to get her trunks outside… in their certain type of exchange and one sided talking from Rorie, she determines that her new SIL is looking for her brother’s room. Whoop! Rorie thinks it’d be such fun and she decides she likes Eveline just fine and helps her in her endeavor.

Poor Graeme, on the other hand, was preparing for a life of celibacy (trust me he was!) as long as his wife’s alive. He won’t be cheating on her. I loved it so much!! It was also revealed that Graeme isn’t a womanizer like his brothers. He likes emotions and diddling for the sake of it was never his thing. Even though he’s not a virgin (you know, manly pride and all that, most especially, his younger brothers were leaving him behind!! Lol), Graeme has always hoped for a good match for himself. It feels really good to read about a hero like Graeme. He definitely was a cuddly bear all around. So, just think of the surprise he got when he went to Eveline’s room and found it empty and then, found her fast asleep in his bed, while her trunks and other accessories scattered all over his room! Graeme isn’t mad, he’s actually happy, though he instantly understands from where the help came to Eveline. Their sleeping arrangement doesn’t develop into sex right after. Graeme loves having his wife with him but he still didn’t know all the facts about Eveline, though he was very interested to understand her better.

The women in the Montgomery holding keep on needling and poking Eveline though. Eveline tries to be nice, had a smile for everyone but it wasn’t returned to her. Graeme is at a lost as how to handle this situation. He didn’t want to make his clansmen unhappy, more than he already did but he sure as hell wasn’t happy about the way Eveline was being treated. One of the woman steps out of the boundary and really starts pestering Eveline. When she humiliates Eveline, Rorie was with her. When the same woman, who was a serving wench, spills ale on Eveline ‘accidentally’, Rorie instantly reports Graeme what really happened. One day, the whole bunch of women start needling Eveline again and the poor girl was out of her patience and wits. Graeme was training outside when he heard a scream. When they ran inside, they find Eveline wielding a heavy sword and trying to threaten in a broken, raspy voice. That woman try to convince Graeme that his wife has gone mad. But Graeme knew distress when he glanced at Eveline’s face. Even Bowen and Teague were annoyed by their own clan’s behavior by now and already showed their support for their brother. That particular b*tch was cast outside the keep, never to return to work here again. The other women of that group were warned with a death threat from Graeme.

I’m not sure if a person in Eveline’s situation can speak the way she suddenly did, but I have to mention that I was bummed. I wanted to see how MB works a deaf-mute heroine throughout a novel but she gave Eveline her voice back in the middle of the book. Not only that, the next minute after she screamed blue murder to the women, Graeme takes her in their chamber and they have a loooong talk about what happened, about Eveline’s deafness and lip-reading etc. Graeme is shocked but happy to have confirmed that his wife isn’t daft and crazy. By now, he has formed a strong attachment with her. But what bugged me was that long talk. I mean, she just sort of recuperated (?) from her muteness, and instantly she’s talking that much? It didn’t ring right with me. I also thought that many times, information were repetitive in the story. It bugged me too. Anyway, later of course, Eveline gives the hint that she wants their marriage to be consummated. Graeme is only too happy to oblige.

Even though the clan members are yet to take Eveline in, they start keeping their distance from her. Eveline is now talking quite a lot. *eyeroll* Graeme let others know that she can’t hear them but can read lips. The family helps Eveline in this endeavor too, coming together. Rorie is particularly very happy. Father Drummond is also here and she has been permitted to take lessons from him. Their life becomes happier after this. Then Eveline figures out that she needs to help in the keep to make the women happy, prove that she is able to do chores and so on. What she didn’t know that the women in the keep would misuse her trust again. Nora, the woman who’s responsible for the management, takes Eveline and starts giving her the loads of chores. They’d disappear when she starts working. At one time she was made to work on the whole kitchen, cleaning and all that, all alone. She would be tremendously tired after a day of hard work, but happy to have done so, thinking she’s gaining the women’s acceptance. But sadly, the women were still bend on driving her out of the Montgomery land. It made me really mad, mind you. Eveline was a lovable heroine, so I wanted to kick their b*tchy arses!! One day, at dawn, she was forced to take heavy woods inside the kitchen to light a fire. Her hands are raw, skin broken by this time. Then the man, who’s responsible for this chore, comes in to find their mistress trying to haul wood inside. He’s instantly chagrined. As he explains her that it’s his chore, it’s then Eveline becomes suspicious. Her suspicious are proven correct when Graeme comes down in search of her. Eveline now understood the level of hatred the women had for her and finally decides to give up. She goes out of the keep. Graeme instantly follows her Eveline wants to go home but he talks to her and begs for some time. He knew he has already fallen for her. Eveline did too, but she wasn’t sure if her husband loves her back or not. She didn’t know how to put forth this question. No more ideas were left to her as how to win over his clan members. As they were talking, suddenly someone attacks Graeme with an arrow. He falls down injured, and as Eveline was going there to have a look, she glances at the intruder to find that he’s wearing something that marks him as an Armstrong.

Eveline has been scared of horses since the day of her accident. No one in here or in her father’s keep forced her to ride one after that. But in this situation, Eveline had nothing else to do. The keep was far away, and Graeme was bleeding. He had a head injury as well. So, Eveline conquers her fears and rides Graeme’s horse to the keep. After that, it’s a total chaos. Bowen and Teague bring their brother home. Eveline is scared to death of losing her husband. She takes care of him 4 days straight, not eating neither sleeping, never leaving his side. Not even her own injury could move her. Oh the poor girl! The day Graeme finally opens his eyes is the day Eveline’s resolve breaks. But she spoke of her fear and suspicion to Bowen and Teague before, proving her loyalty. Eveline was scared what her clan would endure if this is true, mostly what her own loving family would suffer. If Armstrongs broke the blood treaty, there’d be war without a doubt. I felt a lot for her. She was forced in a marriage without any choice at all, and now, she is to choose between her loved ones and show where her loyalty lies. No girl should even have to make a choice like this!

Graeme is not happy with this news but he assures Eveline that he’d do his utmost best to avoid a war. He sends men in the Armstrong holding with the message that he wants to have a word with Tavis. But in the Montgomery holdings, things become chaotic again. Eveline goes out to have a bit of fresh air after sometimes confined in bed and is kidnapped. I knew this was coming when that certain woman came with an ‘olive branch’ and offered her help. I also kind of guessed who’s going to be the ultimate villain. But even then, the last actions were pretty good. When their suspicions are revealed, Graeme addresses the whole clan. He’s by now going insane to find Eveline, not knowing where she has gone or what has happened to her. Graeme had her own suspicions, which proves correct. As the woman is brought and questioned, she gets scared of the death threats and confesses. Later, as Graeme is preparing venture out, Tavis comes down with his army because of a message that his daughter is missing and the Montgomery laird is to blame for this. I can only say, I totally enjoyed this last part a lot. There are actions and help from an unexpected ally... a girl, whom I presume, would become the heroine of the next book, Highlander Most Wanted, which is also Bowen’s story.

As a whole, Never Seduce a Scot was a sweet story that would totally warm your heart. 4 stars. I can hardly wait for the next installments and wish they were released back to back as the McCabe Trilogy.

This ARC was provided to me by Random House/Ballantine Books via edelweiss which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.


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