books

Ella Stainton

Books

Kilty Pleasures: Best Laid Plaids (2020), Where There’s a Kilt, There’s a Way (2021)


Kilty Pleasures


Best Laid Plaids
(2020)

Best Laid PlaidsSet in Scotland in 1928.

Well, I’ve now completely ruined my search history, trying to find when top and bottom were first used as gay slang.

And the worst part is, I didn’t find the answer.

Joachim Cockburn fought in WWI. He’s now trying to finish his dissertation in psychology, and his friend suggests he travel to Scotland to interview his brother, Dr. Ainsley Graham, who is best known for blowing up his career after insisting that ghosts existed.

What did I like about this story? I loved both of the main characters, who are each damaged in the own way. Ainsley from the loss of his brother during the war (as well as the occasional fear that his seeing ghosts is actually a sign of a disordered mind), and Joachim from the war, and the death of his lover on the battlefield.

I also really liked how Ainsley’s fidgeting was presented. That–in addition to his claims of seeing ghosts–probably sealed the ruin of his reputation.

He stroked his thumb over the sensitive skin of his inner wrist, soothing himself into focus.

The interactions between the two men as they tried to navigate their feelings and desires were also very well done. Each had reasons for not wanting be deeper into the relationship than the other, and although the age difference between the two was significant, there wasn’t a huge power imbalance between the two, since Ainsley had wealth and was on his home turf.

Ainsley was a witch. A shameless land-Siren who sunk his hooks into every bit of Joachim. There was no doubt at all he’d be dashed among the rocks before it was said and done.

The initial interactions between the two were casual sex, which is not my thing, however, it bothers me far less in MM historicals, since sodomy was illegal and had real and serious consequences.

Which led me to one problem I had, which was Ainsley throwing himself at Hugh to see if he was gay as a favor to his friend. The characters note that sodomy was illegal, but seem to ignore that it had real and serious consequences at the time. Getting yourself thrown in jail just so your friend can find out if the guy he fancies men is a really big ask, when the intended target is a barrister, well aware of the law. It seemed exceptionally reckless when Ainsley was already in danger from his claiming to see ghosts.

Not a deal breaker, but it did bother me, because I was worried about Ainsley getting thrown in prison (any any of the other horrible things that could have happened to him).

The second issue was the language, which was very modern. That’s not a deal breaker, but it did occasionally throw me out of the story as I wondered whether language was really used that way at the time.

But it’s a romance, and as much as I adore a well-researched historical, that’s not the majority of what is available, and I recognize that.

So, a fun and enjoyable story.

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 7/10

Where There’s a Kilt, There’s a Way (2021)

Where Theres a Kilt Theres a WaySet in Scotland and Sweden in 1930

Joachim Cockburn and Ainsley Graham have been looking for summer positions to broaden their fields; specifically Jochaim wants to change how patients in asylums are treated, and hopes that working at a prestigious university will give him more power to make changes in Great Britain. Ainsley wants to continue to rehabilitate his reputation and is looking forward to pieces of the Grand Tour he missed because of the war.

The problem is that Ainsley’s reputation isn’t as rehabilitated as he things.

Joachim was pleased that there was a university happy to extend an offer to Ainsley after all of the rejections. So relieved, he’d hardly sighed when he declined the invitation to lecture at the Sorbonne for the summer term as they hadn’t wished to include Ainsley.

Unfortunately for both of them, a ghost seems have developed a strong dislike for Ainsley–and the man with whom Ainsley will be working might be a murderer.

“I do hate to repeat gossip.”

Joachim had lived long enough that this was the favored caveat of gossips worldwide.

I do like both Ainsley and Jochaim, although it took me a while to remember about Ainsley’s neurodiversity, so I kept getting irritated with him when he’d be stupid about Jochaim. Then I would remember that he had a hard time getting out of his head to see things the way other people did.

“Ainsley?” Joachim nudged the snifter of brandy toward his elbow with that look on his face implying Ainsley hadn’t been paying attention.

He rubbed the inside of his wrist with the back of his other thumb, a move that his Dr. Cockburn noticed and gave a slight nod to, probably repeating whatever it was that he had missed.

And I really liked the secondary characters. Even though Freddie was initially a bit of a one-note at the beginning, Ginnie was delightful. (And once Freddie was away from his uncle Ainsley he became a more interesting character.)

They’d made the three-hour trip in just over two thanks to Ginny’s previous career as a rum-runner in the States.

I did feel like there might have been a few editing issues–places where I got confused by the text. But then I was up way past my bedtime finishing in the book.

It was good and I look forward to the next book. (There was NOT a cliffhanger, although there were some unresolved issues (ie Ainsley’s father) but they were the kinds of issues that sometimes don’t get resolved in real love, so I was fine with them.

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 8/10