Charming the Highlander

Loving the Highlander

 
Tempting the Highlander
by Janet Chapman
(Pocket, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-7434-8630-7
***
This is a bit of a Jekyll-and-Hyde book and, unfortunately, the two halves of its personality don’t fit comfortably together.

Someone is taking eggs from Robbie MacBain’s henhouse. The thief leaves money, but Robbie and the four juvenile delinquents he’s fostering on his family farm in Maine would rather have the eggs.

Robbie wants to spend more time looking for the thief, but he’s got other problems. A wizard named Daar, who is posing as a priest for some reason, brought Robbie’s father and nine other Highland warriors forward in time from 13th century Scotland so MacBain senior could father Daar’s heir. (I don’t know why Daar couldn’t father his own heir.)

The surviving warriors have been in the present for thirty-five years, and made new lives for themselves, most with wives, children and grandbabies. But, oops, Daar’s original spell is about to wear off and the Scots are all going to be ripped from their families and flung back to the 13th century unless Daar makes a new spell to prevent it.

Unfortunately Daar, who is a singularly inept and annoying wizard, has accidentally destroyed his book of spells. He needs Robbie to go back in time and steal a piece of root from a tree of wisdom that belongs to another wizard, a rival of Daar’s. (Robbie gets the job because he’s the Guardian of his clan.) From the root, Daar will grow another tree of wisdom, from which he will apparently be able to make another book of spells. Somehow. Whatever. I found all of this stuff over-complicated and under-explained, possibly because I have not read Ms. Chapman’s previous books.

Anyway, it’ll probably take Robbie more than one trip to find the tree, which is unfortunate because 13th century Scotland is no day at the beach. He returns from his first visit with a serious sword wound and is lying unconscious in the woods when he’s found by Catherine Daniels – you guessed it, the egg thief.

Catherine is on the run from her abusive ex-husband and has been hiding out in a deserted cabin on the MacBain property. She and her two small children, Nathan and Nora, take Robbie to the cabin where she sews him up. When he awakens, Robbie, who desperately needs a housekeeper for himself and the four boys, persuades Catherine to take on the job.

This book’s strength (the Dr. Jekyll part, if you will) is the romance. Robbie, although he definitely verges on too-good-to-be-true, is strong, charming, patient and tender with his fragile new charges. And, although Catherine’s terrible domestic situation is resolved with rather implausible speed, I didn’t care. When the book concentrated on their developing relationship with Catherine I was totally caught up in the story. The relationship is not consummated until very late in the book, but the build in sexual tension is very satisfying and the delay entirely reasonable under the circumstances.

The book’s Mr. Hyde, for me, was the paranormal element. I spent a great deal of the first third of the book confused and annoyed. There were significant gaps in logic and too many elements that seemed tossed in for convenience. Some information seemed to be missing (from this book, at least), and some things were explained twice, once in the early pages, presumably for the reader, and then again later so Catherine would understand. Second explanations are always tedious.

I also have to make a comment on dialect. For some inexplicable reason. these Scots often (but not always) say ‘ya’ instead of ‘you.’ If ya don’t think this is irritating, either ya have not had it poked in yar eye several times in one sentence, or ya have a higher tolerance for this kind of nonsense than I. Any author who thinks she’s the one in ten thousand who can successfully write dialect is probably mistaken.

I suspect that a lot of my issues with this book stemmed from the fact that I have not read the preceding books; unfortunately, Tempting the Highlander does not tempt me to do so. If Janet Chapman ever writes a straight romance without all the cluttered mythology, however, I will buy that book in a heartbeat.

-- Judi McKee


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