Scotland for Christmas by Cathryn Parry which came out this time last year. Authors this is how it works for me - send me an ARC and you are guaranteed a blip in your backlist numbers 12 months after release date.
Jacob Ross is a Secret Service Agent who is eyeing a promotion to Presidential Protection Detail. The fly in the ointment? He has to get cleared by the department shrink, and she seems to think he has unresolved "issues" from his biological father's death. Jake didn't know the man. His parents divorced when he was barely a toddler - Dad stayed in Scotland, Mom moved to the US, remarried and Jake was adopted by his step-father. His bio-dad was a police officer and was killed in the line of duty rescuing a businessman's niece and nephew from kidnappers. Jake's Mom refuses to talk about it and she's such a precious fragile snowflake that Jake went into protection mode instead of demanding answers. Needless to say when he went into law enforcement she darn near hit the roof.
But our guy needs answers if he wants to convince the department shrink and for that he needs to find a way to get close to John Sage - the businessman. A friend of his gets him closer than he's been before - he hires him out to drive Isabel Sage, another of John's nieces, to a family wedding in Vermont. John will also be at the wedding and Jake sees his window of opportunity.
Isabel Sage is keeping a low profile and attending college in New York. She's hoping that earning a degree will help convince Uncle John to name her his successor of the family business. Right now it looks like cousin Malcolm (he of kidnapping fame) has the inside edge and Isabel is determined to do her dead father proud (and wouldn't you know it - there's a death bed promise involved). Isabel's wound so tight I'm half surprised she's not pooping diamonds - but stuff begins to happen after she meets her temporary driver/bodyguard Jacob. For one thing her boyfriend dumps her, and for another? She genuinely likes Jacob. But what will happen when his Big Secret comes to light?
This is one of those SuperRomances that infuse a wee touch of mystery into the plot and it makes for a compelling read. The kidnapping and aftermath of the rescue is literally haunting every character in this story. Isabel was young when it happened, and her parents shielded her from most of the details - but just as Jacob's family hasn't "dealt with it" - neither has the Sage family. Malcolm, although now happily married, doesn't discuss it and his sister, Rhiannon, is a reclusive agoraphobic. Uncle John has practically hunkered down in a state of security driven paranoia and spends a good chunk of the story investigating people who he thinks might be doing harm to the family business.
As much as I love Family Secret plots (I blame too many Gothics as an impressionable teen), they have one immediate drawback. Which is to say you spend the whole novel wondering why the protagonists don't shake family members until their teeth rattle demanding the truth. That happens a lot here. Jacob's Mom was just....ugh. Suck it up cupcake and tell your damn son the damn truth he deserves! But instead she's treated like a fragile snowflake who will crumble at the first sign of crossed-eyes. Same thing with Uncle John. He's no fragile snowflake - he's just a manipulative ass. Instead of being all like, "Sure son, I'll tell you what happened to your old man" - it's all "do this, do that, and maybe I'll let you come to Scotland for Christmas and maybe then I'll tell you what you want to know."
I started wondering if Scotland has their own Freedom of Information Act...
That's not to say I didn't enjoy this story. I really did. The romance between Jacob and Isabel is a nice, slow build and the mystery is compelling. I also liked how the author wrapped it all up in the end. Jacob gets a really good scene with his Mom and the author does a good job of setting up the next book in the series (already out, naturally). I haven't read nearly the number of SuperRomances this year as I have in years past and this was a good reminder that I'm overdue for a binge. Oh, and Parry is now officially on my radar.
Final Grade = B