While on vacation, I chose randomly from a bookstore's display of recently published fiction, Kathleen Harrington's Enchanted by You, set in 1880's-Scotland. WOW – my first novel about one of the most romantic places on earth – the Scottish Highlands! Several days later, after lots of R & R and quite a few stalls reading my choice, I finally finished the book.
Juliette Evening Star Elkheart and the laird of MacLyon meet in Edinburgh. Separately haunted by or drawn to the sound of bagpipes during the middle of the night, they go down into the street. Once outside, she hears men struggling and, hurling her trusty knife, saves a large, handicapped man from certain death at the hands of three thugs. The intended victim, MacLyon, cannot believe this small woman has saved him. She disappears as the police are arriving, leaving her knife. Unable to discover her identity, he places an ad in the local paper and heads home to the family castle.
Juliette grew up on a ranch in Alberta, Canada. An eighteen year-old with a talent for healing animals, Julie plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania, then veterinary school. Aside from the year – 1886 – and her being a woman, the major stumbling block is her recurring nightmare of a massacre involving Highlanders in which the vicious attackers are garbed in lavender and pink kilts. She is convinced that only she can discover the truth behind the massacre and hopes to make a difference despite believing the actual event occurred in the past.
Julie heads off to Edinburgh with her Uncle Benjamin, who plans to study modern surgical methods in Scotland. A problem from the beginning is Harrington's expecting a reader to accept this line of "well she dreamed it so her parents just sent her off to check it out." The author's technique, apparently anticipating reader disbelief, is to explain it away simplistically.
Juliette carries with her a faded lavender and pink blanket, the one remaining heirloom her mother brought out west from her Kentucky home. She is planning to visit the castle of Lady Hester MacLyon, whose avocation is researching Scottish history. She has gathered information at her castle from which Julie hopes to solve the mystery of her recurring visions. It soon becomes apparent that Julie's faded heirloom may link her to a much-hated, treacherous clan.
MacLyon is haunted by his own demons. He is an embittered veteran of the British campaign in the Sudan, in which his brother died a needless death for which he considers himself to blame. MacLyon returned home with a bullet fragment in his elbow, a source of constant pain. Despite the fascination of some Scots for their history, the head of the MacLyon clan is unable to appreciate the heroic past of his people as he continues to be traumatized by their present.
Thus, the stage is set for conflict and a developing relationship between Julie and MacLyon. The plot has potential, but the path is haphazard. Julie has moments of unbelievable naiveté. This is a young woman who, despite immersing herself in Gaelic and Celtic tales for years, does not realize a Highlander might be wearing trousers, not a kilt, while walking through the streets of Edinburgh in 1886. The basis of this story may be implausible, i.e. it's unlikely her clansmen were dressed for battle in lavender-plaid at the time of her vision. However, the real problem is that the writing style is so distracting that my mind was constantly wandering off on little jaunts rather than enjoying a good read. The language factor is an aspect of this. Harrington dots paragraphs routinely with Julie-words and accompanying remarks:
"Hesc!" Although she spoke both English and French with ease, she always reverted to the Cheyenne of her childhood in times of stress. It was the language of her father's people.
Fictional flow-stoppers are very different from Broadway show-stoppers.
I cannot recommend reading Kathleen Harrington's Enchanted by You. The laird is most appealing. So, is the lass. There is so much here that might be a fun read, but on every other page there is something extraordinarily irritating. What's a reviewer to do? Give the book a two-heart rating and hope anyone who thinks it should be more highly rated will let me know why.