Oh, dear. I hate to do this. I loved the first book; I loved it enough that when the author made overtures to include me in her email newsletter and offered me this next book in the series I was happy to accept. I followed her on Facebook and everything. This, however …
Let’s see. What I loved about the first one ([book:Must Love Breeches|22664678]) was …
A) The narration. That’s one obvious difference between the two – that was audio, this is not. Still, even an excellent narrator shouldn’t make so much of a difference in my experience of the story. Right?
B) The time period. I can’t think of very many (if any?) time travel stories in which someone goes back to the Regency period. I can’t count high enough to tally up the number of Scottish Highlander time travel romances there are in the world (dammit, Diana Gabaldon).
C) The heroine was smart, and didn’t do a completely awful job blending in to her new environment; to help with that, she confided in someone even smarter.The fact that she knew a bit about the period she jumped to helped as well (although not as much as I thought it should). In Kilts, the heroine is a self-admitted idiot, who jumps drunk to a period she knows nothing about, gets hammered, sleeps with a guy, then jumps back to her own time – leaving her sister behind. I’m sorry … there was a bit of justification for this action built into the story, but not enough. Not nearly enough. She goes back to try to find her, but … good grief. She had me distracted for a good chunk of what I read wondering what she did with the little silver case that allowed for the time travel, her only means of getting home – I was more worried about it than she was, though.
I have a very, very low threshold for stupidity – I have no patience for it, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. And I don’t enjoy spending my valuable reading time with a moron. Traci is a moron.
I used to always hate my name. It always seemed overly fluffy to me. But at least out of all the various spellings out there I did, and do, prefer mine. One of my very least favorite variants is that used in this book. Apologies as warranted, but it always had for me the connotation of airbeaded bimbo. It’s not a fair prejudice … no one has control over what her parents name her… But, unfortunately, this Traci perpetuates the notion. I mean, who travels in time back to 1689 and says “Anywho” in conversation?
D) In “Breeches” the hero and heroine didn’t jump into bed right away. They actually knew each other pretty well before they slept together. In the meantime, I really enjoyed the fact that – in keeping with the period’s mores – the mere touch of her bare hand on his arm drove him crazy; it was sensual, and sexier than all the graphic sex scenes I’ve read in recent days put together. In Kilts, the hero and heroine don’t make it a chapter before they drunkenly swive. The fact that this is not entirely abnormal behavior for the heroine just makes me want to back away slowly; the fact that she was self-admittedly stupid enough to behave this way in a foreign country and a foreign time period … And that her usual rule is “Never interact with insatiable flirts after they slept together” … Put it this way. It did not make me want to spend more time with her.
E) I didn’t pick up on any glaring anachronisms in the period characters. They might have been there, but they didn’t smack me in the face. In Kilts … Oh, dear. One thing that did annoy me a little with “Breeches” was that the heroine was either incapable of or uninterested in maintaining a period guise, and was constantly saying period-inappropriate things. Here it was not only the time traveler but the Highland laddie whose bed she bounded into. “He’d screwed up this morn”. “Could he be any more of a cock-up?” “If it doesn’t work out”. “…His attention was stretched to its max”. (Like, totally.) “Make a play for the chieftainship”. “Let’s do this.” “Surely you know I’m gone for you.” (This is starting to hurt.) “He’d been set up”. “Obsessed with Scotland” – I know I’ve had to point out before that obsession in this context didn’t come into usage until Freud and 1901 or so. And I sincerely doubt that pseudo(?)-Gaelic “torr caca” is period.
I made note of one anachronism with a deep sigh, and only afterward realized just how heinous a mistake it was: Iaian’s buddy Duncan says their men are “drunk as skunks.” I highlighted it – and sure enough, two minutes’ research confirms my gut instinct: it’s probably of 20th century origin. But then I realized. And I double-checked. Sure enough: skunks are “New World mammals” – they come only from the Americas. Given Columbus, and then given the colonies, it’s not impossible that a couple of lads in the Highlands of Scotland have heard of skunks. But I think it’s damned unlikely that a “southern New England Algonquian” word would be in their casual vocabulary.
There was just so much that made me either roll my eyes or grumble under my breath (or in Kindle highlights notes). Funnily enough, though my first name is used and spelled differently (and I could go on a tangent about the origins of the name, and won’t), my last name also gets a mention – spelled correctly for me, but not for the context: “‘Can you tell me if we put the Stewarts back on the throne?'”. Nope. *game show Wrong Answer buzzer* It’s “Stuarts”.
The whole sidesaddle thing made me want to hurl something. You can’t – you really can’t – just pop a sidesaddle on a random horse and hop on with no practice and canter (canter!) off. Traci (I really hate that spelling) rode a tiny bit one summer, so she buys a pony (apparently developing role playing games is quite lucrative), buys a sidesaddle (where the hell did she find a sidesaddle in twenty minutes? And holy crap, on the first website I looked at they range from $850 US to over $3000), pops it on the pony’s back, hops on, and off she goes.
I’ve never ridden sidesaddle, but I’ve read up a bit on it in the past, and this sent me off down the research rabbit hole. It’s not a matter of “I know how to ride astride, no problem” – I can only imagine trying this for the first time… the balance issues alone would be scary. Once on, your right leg is basically useless, trapped. (Although then I read that it’s actually your left leg which feels useless, and I’m even more intimidated.) Canter? Five minutes after getting on for the first time? With one stirrup?
Oh hell no.
One of the first things I learned in my research is that you can’t just pop that random sidesaddle on to a random horse. Well, you can, but it’s stupid, and could be dangerous to you and uncomfortable to the horse. The saddle has to be fitted to the horse. There might be two cinches, for stabilization, and figuring it all out is not intuitive. The next thing I learned is … well, how the hell did she mount all by herself? Just getting your left foot into that one stirrup is a challenge. “I feel uneasy – I feel uneven” is a comment from a woman, an extremely experienced rider, learning sidesaddle on her own. About halfway through – not long before I quit – comes “Traci eased off [the pony]” … How?? Dismounting is no simpler than mounting.
OK. Enough of the sidesaddle.
Another thing that got thoroughly on my nerves almost immediately was “Iain winked”. Iain is the main hunk, of course, and he seems to have had a tic, because the bloody man winked at least once in nearly every scene he appeared in. Once, it was twice in one paragraph: “She glared at him, and he winked. ‘Up ye go.’ He grasped her waist and lifted her onto his pony, sitting sideways. ‘Ready for me, lass?’ He winked.” I did a count. There were 18 instances of “he winked” or “Iain winked”. The book isn’t all that long. I don’t care how handsome the idiot it, that’s nauseating.
The language, while it had a few good moments (“blushed clear up to St. Peter’s gates” – I like that), was often … uncomfortable. Obviously the confidence level was low in the period’s rhythms and vocabulary, but even just plain old narrative is at times clunky. “Curves she’d rather not have someone know their extensiveness.” What? “Iain had just finished catching her up on what the chief had said in Gaelic, when Iain strode to her, knelt, and gripped her shoulders.” (He didn’t wink? I’m shocked.) “…His baldric containing his sword”. And so on. And that’s not even taking into account the odd moments at which bawdiness breaks out. The story goes from sober and even grim to talking about someone’s balls. Characters go from discussing serious matters to giggling like fools in a sentence. Whiplash ensued.
Possibly the worst thing about the book, in a way, was the initial bet that sent the two sisters traveling back to 1689 Scotland. Traci is tired of traveling Scotland and seeing only guys with “red-chapped, knobby knees and a kilt”… The myth over which the two of them make a bet, which needs to be settled by going back to 17th century Scotland, is “That hot men in kilts existed”. I mean … I just … She’s obviously been looking in the wrong places. The vast majority of men I’ve ever seen in kilts are automatically an average of 23-68% hotter. She must have some very odd standards.
One of the last notes I made on the book before I quit, about halfway through, might have something to do with what Traci is looking for in a man, and why Iain is one of the few hot guys in kilts she can point to. He is lying beside her, camped out in the midst of their hunt for T’s sister, and of course his body is reacting to her closeness, “as the hard evidence at his hip could attest”. At his HIP? Wow. Either he’s lying on a rock, or … he must have to wear one hell of a long kilt.
I feel badly about this negative review because I was given a copy of the book free for review. I’m sorry I couldn’t like it. Or finish it.