Friday, July 4, 2008
The Beautiful Stranger, by Julia London
The last book in the Rogues of Regent Street series, The Beautiful Stranger was read during a break from the Outlander series. Outlander, however, was never too far away. When I started reading this particular book, lo and behold, there was a Jamie, a Fraser, a story set in the Highlands of Scotland and plenty of Sassenach, verras, lassies and lads to keep me warm until I finished it and could get back to the other Jamie. I was, briefly, a happy camper!
The story revolves around Lord Arthur Christian. One of the three surviving Rogues, he is handed the task of foreclosing and recouping a financial investment made on Scottish farm part-owned by his deceased friend, Phillip, Lord Rothembow. Of course, the farm is in the Highlands, so seeking a change of venue from London, he travels North to discuss terms with the lawyer involved in the sale (the other Jamie) and the original owner of the farm himself (the other Fraser), who, unbeknown to Arthur, is recently deceased.
On the way, he literally runs into the widow of Fraser McKinnon (Kerry, just Kerry, thank you very much) who is literally stranded on the road to the farm. Neither Arthur nor Kerry have any idea that Arthur is about to foreclose on the very property Kerry is fighting to keep. Sounds good, aye??
It is, up until this point.
The characters’ attraction to each other is so palpable that it basically blows off the page right at you. Arthur has never met anyone like Kerry, but knows that she is not what he is looking for in a wife. She is geographically undesirable, so to speak, and she’s a farmer's wife, and Scottish to boot, a nationality Arthur has no love for after spending some time among the natives. May I add that the Scots Arthur encounters have no love for Arthur either, calling him a lobsterback and a Sassenach. You get the picture. So what is Arthur to do when he realizes he has stumbled upon the very property he is foreclosing on? He leaves without telling Kerry that he is the one doing the evicting, trying to reverse the process before it's too late. It would have been smart of Arthur to inform Kerry why he was leaving, but then the book would have ended right there; an attractive alternative considering what happens next.
When Arthur realizes that Kerry actually knows about the eviction, he rushes back to Glenbaden in time to witness Kerry do something that will make both of them fugitives from Scottish law.
So, on to England they go. This part of the novel is the typical fish out of water story of Kerry adjusting to life in the ton, helped along by the other Rogues’ wives. I’d like to say that there is something different here, but unfortunately, I’ve read stories with this theme many times before. The difference here is that Cinderella does not exactly get to dazzle at the ball, but decides to return to the pumpkin and face the reason she had to leave Scotland in the first place.
This book does have the requisite ingredients of the typical historical romance, but it’s not one of Julia London’s best efforts. It’s almost like she got to the last Rogue and decided to “mail it in”, shall we say.
The Beautiful Stranger is a quick, diversionary read, but it falls a bit below this author’s other efforts. Read it to finish the Rogue series, but don’t expect to love it. Poor Arthur. He deserved better.