Jennifer McQuiston: WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND

What Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuiston
Second Sons #1
Avon 2013
357 pages
3/5 stars

I saw McQuiston’s The Diary of An Accidental Wallflower (2015) at the bookstore, was immediately drawn, read the first couple of pages, and had a desperate need to read it. Alas, my library doesn’t have it yet, but they had What Happens in Scotland, and so I got it, completely prepared to fall madly in love.

That didn’t exactly happen.

The basis is a bit too modern for me: the heroine wakes up in the morning next to a handsome Scot who turns out to be her husband. She has no recollection of the night before, and flees. For the rest of the novel, spanning one day, she and the hero are on the quest to find out what exactly happened the night before.

In my notes, I complain around page 50 that the book is getting too farcical for my tastes, and that is very true. A mix between the Hangover movies and a romantic comedy, set in Regency? I’m not opposed to a little farce, but with so modern a premise and with next to no social consequences – although admittedly Scotland was somewhat more liberal than London would have been, yet I doubt it was THIS different – it goes against my grid. The balance between what appeals to modern reader and what is historically accurate is here more on the side of the modern reader, and that is not for me at all.

My notes offer further complaints, mostly regarding characters. The heroine, Georgette, is repeatedly described as having “a wicked tongue”, yet there is very little evidence of it. She’s direct and to the point, yes, but I noticed very little piercing wit in her. I was also annoyed by the inconsistencies in her agency: one moment she reflects that “[i]t was so much easier to prop herself up against the wall while others more capable than she [ie. the men in the room] discussed their strategies” (280), yet a few pages later she is fuming because said men are telling her what to do. Traditionally, the latter is more in keeping with a Regency romance heroine, but I would wish for more consistency.

Another complaint concerns the villain. He is very one-dimensional, and although technically his motivations are sound and everything, I found him boring and more of a plot device than an actual full-fledged character. He seems more convenient than he is a barrier, and offers no challenge to the hero or the heroine, which reduces him to a mere annoyance; it almost feels like the book would have been just fine without his existence, albeit a little shorter.

I have given the book three stars because it’s a fast and rather fun read, and I imagine if you prefer a little more modern approach, this is probably for you; I prefer my Regencies closer to their limited world. There are some major discrepancies and inconsistencies that stood out to me and bothered me, but on the other hand I believe this is McQuiston’s debut novel. I don’t feel inclined to continue with the Second Sons series, but I will definitely be giving The Diary of an Accidental Wallflower a chance once I get my hands on it!

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