by Caroline Linden
Publication Date: June 29, 2021
Series or Standalone: Desperately Seeking Duke #2
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
I have to say, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get with A Scot to the Heart. I liked the first book in the Desperately Seeking Duke series, About a Rogue, but I didn’t love it and the story wasn’t particularly memorable. However, A Scot to the Heart was a delightful story that I felt I instantly connected to and ended up really loving!
Captain Andrew (Drew) St. James has always known he was a distant heir to the nobility. However, fate gets in the way and he unexpectedly becomes the heir apparent to the Duke of Carlyle, an incredibly distant cousin he’s never met. When he learns of his turn of fate, he’s able to resign his commission in the army and returns to Edinburgh to let his family know the good news…only for them to not be as overjoyed at the prospect as he expected.
Part of Drew becoming the Duke’s heir means he needs to maintain respectability and marry a member of English nobility to uphold the Carlyle legacy – a stipulation made by the Dowager Duchess to the three potential Carlyle heirs. Enter Ilsa Ramsey – the complete opposite type of woman Drew should fall for. Ilsa is a widower who is a strong, independent woman who just wants to be accepted for who she is and have the freedom to be who she is. Of course, Drew and Ilsa can’t help being thrown together – especially since Ilsa is friends with his sister – and the chemistry and attraction grows. When Ilsa’s father gets caught up in a massive scandal, Drew needs to choose between his heart or his duty.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the characters. I greatly enjoyed both Drew and Ilsa. Drew was the perfect, lovable hero. I genuinely loved how much he cared about his family and friends. The interactions he had with them always put a smile on my face. He was a genuine good man, but it didn’t feel like he played the “nice guy” role. I also felt like I instantly connected with Ilsa. I loved her personality – she was such a strong independent woman despite everyone around her trying to dampen her spirit and put out that spark. Honestly, her father and aunt were the worst and I was amazed at her resiliency after everything she faced, particularly as more of her past with her dead husband was revealed. It seemed like everyone was trying to lock her up and tamp her down, and I loved that Drew was the complete opposite of everyone in her life and encouraged her to be herself. He could see her, and appreciate her for who she is and not want to change her even if it would be what’s best for the Dukedom.
Drew and Ilsa’s relationship also brought a massive smile to my face while reading. It felt like a real relationship. My favorite part of the two of them being together was that they could make eachother laugh and genuinely liked talking to each other and being in each other’s company. It wasn’t just lust – it was a real, deep connection. It felt different from a lot of romantic relationships I’ve been reading recently and I really appreciated that.
Caroline Linden also did a fantastic job with the secondary characters in A Scot to the Heart. I fell in love with Drew’s family and his friend Duncan. I loved all the interactions and scenes we got with them. Linden also managed to weave in a secondary plot line with Felix Duncan, Drew’s best friend, and Agnes, one of Drew’s sisters, that I got incredibly invested in. There is history and chemistry between Duncan and Agnes, but we don’t get the full story of what went down and I NEED to know. Luckily, Linden has a novella focused on the two of them coming out in early July that I am so looking forward to!
I will say, while I enjoyed the majority of the story, the plot went a little off the rails for me around the 75% mark of the book. Up until that point, I found the story worked really well, the pacing was great, the romance was unraveling at a pitch-perfect pace and the drama was relatively low since it centered more on Drew’s role as the Duke’s heir and if he’ll take Ilsa as she is.
At around the 75% mark of the story, Ilsa’s father gets accused of a string of thefts happening around Edinburgh, including at the shop Drew’s family owns. Her father decides to run away, making him look incredibly guilty. All eyes turn to Ilsa as she was the last person to speak to him before the police came looking for him and he ran away. I honestly did not care for this plot line at all. I didn’t really understand Ilsa’s die-hard devotion to her father considering how he treated her throughout the course of the whole novel. He treats her like she knows nothing and doesn’t listen to her or respect her wishes, yet she’ll do anything and everything for him. That didn’t really click for me with Ilsa’s character the whole book. I feel like Linden tries to redeem her father a bit in the end with the revelation of his big secret and why he kept it hidden, but it didn’t work for me. I did like that Drew had no doubt in his mind that he’d stand by Ilsa’s side during the ordeal. However, it felt like unnecessary drama and threw me off a bit while reading and I ended up wanting to skim the last 25%.
Despite not really caring for the final act of the book, I still really enjoyed this book a lot! I definitely think this is a significantly stronger story than About a Rogue thanks to strong characters Linden created for this story. They really drive the plot forward and made this story so enjoyable!
I cannot wait to see how this series wraps up as we have one more heir out there for the Duke of Carlyle and he’s the most mysterious one yet!
Thank you to Avon/Netgalley for the ARC. All thoughts, ideas and opinions expressed in this review are my own.