Coffee? A wee dram of the water of life?
Here in Scotland, it’s called uisge beatha—whiskey, the water of life. The first time I heard this was my first morning in Scotland. We were staying in a castle-turned-hotel outside of Edinburgh, and staring at the bottles of whiskey strategically placed along the breakfast buffet. When I saw the “full Scottish” breakfast—black hockey pucks of blood pudding, baked beans, pots of porridge, stewed tomatoes, and of course, haggis—I reached for a bottle.
Of course, now that I live in Scotland, I don’t blink at the bottle’s appearance at every possible event. In fact, on a typical January day here in Glasgow (we haven’t seen the sun this year so far), I’d like to invite all of you to pull a chair closer to our fire, hold out your cup for the water of life, and welcome my guest, Lizzie Lamb, with her latest tale of romance, Scottish style: whiskey, rugged island communities, strong women, and kilts. Lots of kilts.
Slainte mhath—your good health!
Now that we’ve drunk (to our health, so it doesn’t count that it’s still technically, morning here…), I have a question for you. Why do women read romance? Or more precisely, why don’t men read it? As a genre, it’s overwhelmingly prolific, lucrative, and successful. (Recent surveys put it at $1.1Billion/year, neck-and-neck with the thriller genre, and selling more copies because of their generally lower pricing). At least one or two of every twenty books sold in the US are probably romance titles.
One theory says that men simply don’t read—non-fiction that is. Studies show that men only buy about 20% of fiction titles. Some theorize that it’s all in our heads. In other words, women tend to symbolically process sexual fantasies, while men prefer to er… visualize them. Although the number of men reading romance has grown in the past few years [cough, 50 Shades, cough, cough], they still represent only about 16 percent of romance readers.
As a devoted follower of Jane Austen, I’ve always loved a good romance. It’s like going back to a favorite pub or cafe. You know, of course, that the place will never have Michelin stars. But you also know, with absolute certainty, that you will get what you came for and won’t be disappointed. Sure there are times when I want my book to amaze, delight, horrify, or challenge me. But for times when I just want the fun, excitement, and a happy ending, I know I can always reach for one of Lizzie Lamb’s books.
Quick question for all my fellow whiskey sippers. (Okay, and you with the coffee too. we all saw what you poured into it.) When you open Amazon, what genres are the books it suggests to you?
Scotch On The Rocks by Lizzie Lamb
ISHABEL STUART is at the crossroads of her life.
Her wealthy industrialist father has died unexpectedly, leaving her a half-share in a ruined whisky distillery and the task of scattering his ashes on a Munro. After discovering her fiancé playing away from home, she cancels their lavish Christmas wedding at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh and heads for the only place she feels safe – Eilean na Sgairbh, a windswept island on Scotland’s west coast – where the cormorants outnumber the inhabitants, ten to one.
When she arrives at her family home – now a bed and breakfast managed by her left-wing, firebrand Aunt Esme, she finds a guest in situ – BRODIE. Issy longs for peace and the chance to lick her wounds, but gorgeous, sexy American, Brodie, turns her world upside down.
In spite of her vow to steer clear of men, she grows to rely on Brodie. However, she suspects him of having an ulterior motive for staying at her aunt’s Bed and Breakfast on remote Cormorant Island. Having been let down by the men in her life, will it be third time lucky for Issy? Is she wise to trust a man she knows nothing about – a man who presents her with more questions than answers?
As for Aunt Esme, she has secrets of her own . . .
When I want to read a good romance, it simply makes sense to reach for one of Lizzie Lamb’s books. Not only are her heroines strong, snarky women, her heroes appropriately gorgeous and misguided, but… Scotland!
Since moving to Scotland, I’ve come to appreciate the beauty, color, and rugged appeal of the country. (Yes…the scenery. What did you think I was talking about? Oh. Well…that too!) So Lizzie’s books full of kilts and bagpipes and whiskey are incredibly fun.
Her latest release, Scotch on the Rocks, certainly doesn’t disappoint. From heroine Issy’s first exhilarating dash across a fast-flooding causeway to reach her island home, the pace and story never falter. And how could it? The author subtly channels Emma, one of trope-defining Miss Austen’s most enchanting characters. Like Emma, strangers might have said Issy was “handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence…” (Emma by Jane Austen, 1815) As Emma might have done had she lived now, Issy had a successful career as an interior designer, her success due to her matchmaking abilities to produce dream interiors for her delighted clients.
Unlike Emma, however, as Issy flees back to her home with her father’s ashes strapped into her backseat, she is escaping a life whose appearances never matched reality. Her dysfunctional family—the rich father and famous mother who left her with neither love nor any of their wealth—her cheating fiance, even her job were left behind as Issy heads back to the only love and home she’s ever known, her Aunt Esme and her beloved Cormorant Island off the coast of Scotland.
Like Emma, Issy is bright, strong-willed, and painfully clueless. She has no concept of how to treat her attraction to and distrust of American interloper Brodie, no idea what secrets those around her hold.
“She felt as if she’d fallen asleep during a blockbuster movie, and had woken to find that she’d missed a pivotal scene; the one where the hero gets the girl, or the murderer is revealed. The scene which explains what the movie is really about. ‘Why are you all looking at me like that? Anyone want to tell me what’s going on?'”
If you’ve ever lived in a small village—and especially if you haven’t!—I think you’ll enjoy the way everyone casually assumes ownership rights to everyone else’s business. Chief among them is the adorable Lindy, whose drive to escape her island heritage has her showing up in completely different persona almost every day.
Poor Issy is often lost among the strong personalities around her. And, more often than not, she acts first and regrets her actions later. In another homage to Emma, she is then left to berate herself with an update of Mr. Knightley’s famous line— “Badly done, Ishabel Stuart. Badly done.”
Author Lizzie Lamb’s gift for dialog lets the reader hear the lilt of Scottish voices without overwhelming us with over concentration on syntax and grammar. I absolutely loved hearing the phrases I hear around me here in Glasgow, where a woman is affectionately called hen, everything from the dog to the chippy shop is wee, and health is toasted with a slainte mhath. And who wouldn’t love a heilan’ coo (Highland Cow)?
Of course, for American readers, it also holds a few surprises. For example, I was laughing out loud at Issy’s plans to renovate “outhouses” into artists studios. (My fellow Americans are used to picturing outhouses as Appalachian one-holer conveniences, perhaps with a little moon-shaped window cut into the door.) Or the way All-American Brodie’s university degree mentions taking a “first degree”, which is certainly not available from an American university.
For the beautiful pacing, character development, and that all-important HEA, I would give Scotch On The Rocks 5 out of 5 stars and would be the first in line to pick up any future books by this accomplished author.
*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*
Book Titles: Scotch on the Rocks
Author: Lizzie Lamb
Publisher:New Romantics Press
Length: 486 pgs
Release Date:July 6, 2015
For more info about Lizzie Lamb and her books:
Guest Author Lizzie Lamb
Life is not a rehearsal If you have a dream – go for it.
After teaching her 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, Lizzie decided it was time to leave the chalk face and pursue her first love: writing. She joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, honed her craft and wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), quickly followed a year later by Boot Camp Bride. Lizzie loves the quick fire interchanges between the hero and heroine in the old black and white Hollywood movies, and hopes this love of dialogue comes across in her writing.
Lizzie is a founding member of indie publishing group – New Romantics Press. In November 2014 they held an Author Event at Waterstones High Street, Kensington, London the icing on the cake as far as they are concerned – and a fitting way to celebrate their achievements. As for the years Lizzie spent as a teacher, they haven’t quite gone to waste as she is building up a reputation as a go-to speaker on the subject of self-publishing.