In 1928, Joachim Cockburn travels to Scotland to meet Ainsley Graham, his colleague’s younger brother. Ainsley Graham was laughed out of academia when he insisted that ghosts were real; Joachim studies delusional thinking, and intends to prove that ghosts are most certainly not real.  

The effervescent Ainsley offers to drive Joachim around Scotland to various haunted places, and while I don’t want to give too much away, I will say that Joachim’s hypothesis is wrong and that he finds it difficult to resist Ainsley’s charms.

This book had me hooked from Joachim and Ainsley’s disastrous meet cute—during which Ainsley attempts to seduce Joachim, but only because he thought he was someone else. Joachim is stoic and reserved, so he’s the perfect foil for the puckish Ainsley.

Yes, that’s right: Dr. Ainsley Graham is an unrepentant goblin, whose carefree nature hides a surprisingly sensitive facet to his larger-than-life personality. And yes, Ainsley talks to ghosts. He can’t see them, but he knows they’re there, and he’d rather putter around the family manse up in Scotland than admit that he was wrong about the ghosts.

Needless to say, Joachim is surprised by the ghosts. Again, I won’t say too much on the subject of the ghosts, but I will say that the ghost parts were very well done and that they added an interesting angle to an already-spectacular historical romance.

Ainsley and Joachim have amazing chemistry. There’s a bit of a sunshine/grump vibe going, and there’s a bit of an age gap. Also Joachim tends to be stern with Ainsley, which—yes, please, more of that—is one of my favorite dynamics.   

One aspect that I particularly appreciated was that Ainsley has ADHD. Of course, it’s not diagnosed as such, but it’s fairly clear from his interactions and some of his personality quirks. I also have ADHD, so I appreciated the inclusion of a character who was like me in a romance.

Best Laid Plaids is a delightful queer historical romance, and a stunning debut, and I would absolutely recommend it to others. Ella Stainton has already earned a place on my list of favorite authors. I am already looking forward to reading Joachim and Ainsley’s next adventure.  

I received a copy of this book from Carina Press/NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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