Three spoiled brats from Philadelphia go to Scotland to look for the Loch Ness monster in the middle of World War II.
"I pointed out, as gently as I could, what I’d hoped was obvious: that it made no sense whatsoever to throw ourselves into the middle of an ocean crawling with U-boats on a quest to find a monster that probably didn't even exist," explains Maddie Hyde as she embarks on that very journey with her husband and their best friend. If only she could have gotten this across to Gruen (Ape House, 2010, etc.), who is not likely to replicate the success of the best-selling Water for Elephants (2006) with this silly novel. Unlike the other brave boys of their generation, Ellis and Hank are not off fighting Hitler; they are 4-F due to color blindness and flat feet, respectively. Instead of hanging around town being sneered at by their friends and family, they scoop up Maddie and take off for Scotland, where their dubious plan is to redeem the reputation of Ellis' father, who supposedly faked a sighting of Nessie a decade earlier, by this time really finding the monster. After a gruesome trip through the Battle of the Atlantic, they arrive at the tiny village of Drumnadrochit, where they take rooms at a run-down public house run by a crew from Central Casting: a gruff, wild-looking innkeeper, a beautiful red-haired barmaid, etc. While Ellis and Hank spend their days getting wildly drunk and monster-hunting, Maddie befriends the locals and learns to make a bed and mash potatoes. Various types of forbidden love, deception and skullduggery ensue. Gruen's handling of air raids, food rations, sad telegrams and reports from the front makes the thinness of the story's premise all the more awkward.
At heart, this is an unlikely romance novel. A little too unlikely.