I wasn’t able to finish the latest book in Jennifer Ashley’s Highland Pleasures series, The Seduction of Elliot McBride.
I wanted to like it, I really did. I’ve loved other books in this series but this one, well, it felt like Ashley was trying to re-capture the lightning in a bottle that was The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie and not really succeeding.
Juliana St. John has been stood up at the altar by her fiance–luckily, Elliot McBride, her childhood crush, is there to rescue her. They get married and immediately travel to Elliot’s run-down estate with his servants–who are a family of Sikhs from India.
Once there, Juliana sets to putting the house to rights and dealing with Elliot’s raging case of PTSD (which is written about sensitively and, as far as I can tell, accurately–for all the issues I had with this book, the way Elliot’s mental illness was written about was not one of them). There’s also some ill-intentioned neighbors who also happen to be raging racists and possibly a man hiding in the woods in order to taunt Elliot.
Elliot is aggressively Scottish in a way that I’m not entirely sure is accurate–as are the two older Scottish men in this book. They wear kilts instead of pants (although Elliot sometimes wears Indian-style clothing, too) and they don’t wear underwear. Elliot is intensely protective of Juliana and whenever she asks him uncomfortable questions, he has sex with her in order to avoid answering. Once in a while he drops a crumb of information about his past, but not too often.
There’s a wacky cast of characters at the house–the Indian servants, the old laird still in residence, and a young Scottish servant. They’re all caricatures in their own way and while none of it’s mean-spirited it still didn’t work for me. It felt a little like a very strange sit-com at times.
I wanted to like this book but when it gets to the point where taking a nap is more appealing, well, I know that I’m not going to have a successful reading experience. I found Juliana to be too much a cipher and not enough of her own person; she was so focused on Elliot that I couldn’t figure out who she was. She didn’t seem to have any interests other than Elliot–even the whole putting the house to rights plot was done for his benefit, not hers. Elliot certainly didn’t see her as a real person, his fantasy of her is what kept him sane when he was imprisoned and tortured by random-tribe-of-Indians and his perception of her as his fantasy woman never seems to change when he interacts with the real Juliana.
There is also a weird obsession with bustles in this book that was just odd.