Highland Destiny

Highland Vow

Unconquered

Wild Roses

 
Highland Knight by Hannah Howell
(Zebra, $5.99, R) ISBN: 0-8217-6817-4
**
Highland Knight starts with a letter from Hannah Howell explaining that this book is the first in a trilogy about the Murray cousins, all daughters of the heroes from her earlier series featuring the Murray brothers. Avery Murray is the first of the “spirited, can’t-stay-out-of-trouble” cousins. That should have been a big hint as to what type of romance the reader is in for.

Sir Cameron MacAlpin’s sister Katherine has been raped and left with child by one Sir Payton Murray. Payton refused to marry Katherine, so Cameron is out to force him to do so. As luck would have it, Cameron receives one Avery Murray and her cousin Gillyanne Murray as payment on a gambling debt. Cameron now has the perfect incentive to make Sir Payton see the error of his ways. What he’s going to do is ruin poor Avery the same way his sister has been ruined and won’t that just go up Sir Payton’s loincloth.

Avery and Gillyanne, wee spunky lassies that they are, know Payton is innocent and are determined to save him from his fate. In the meantime, Avery decides that the fact that she lusts for Cameron must mean she loves him and, though he’s going to trade her for Payton, figures if she’s good enough in the sack at least Cameron will feel really bad about losing her.

Thus begins the long, grueling trip from France to Scotland. Avery by turns hating Cameron, lusting after him and trying to decide whether to attempt to win his heart. Honestly, here is a woman who after seventy pages or so of kicking the man in the face, insulting him and trying to escape is really just dying to be loved by him. At one point Avery considers telling Cameron how she feels but figures he’ll just think she’s playing games. The next logical step would of course be playing a game. Avery will be so passionate, and so loving (read: good in bed) that Cameron will fall in love with her too.

Of course, because Cameron is the hero, he decides he can’t go through with his original plan of shaming Avery to hurt her family. Instead, when he seduces her he’ll just keep it between the two of them. What a guy. But hey, Cameron’s been celibate for three years, and Avery is the first woman he’s found hard to resist. It must be love, but Cameron can never admit that. No, he’ll miss her when he’s gone, the idea of her with someone else drives him mad, but no way he’s in love with her.

This whole horribly clichéd business goes on for an interminable 384 pages sprinkled heavily with authentic Scotland accents that are enough to make a reader’s head ache. One expects a little touch of accent to lend a bit of flavor to a Scottish story, but when every wee lassie kens nay what the braw laddie dinnae ken, it’s downright distracting. The secondary characters are not less irritating. Gillyanne, who is supposedly only thirteen, is forever giving Avery sage advice on love, sex and romance. The clanswoman Anne appears to tell the story of why Cameron is celibate and various other tidbits of information as if the author suddenly realized she’d been writing aimlessly for the last hundred or so pages without the story ever moving forward.

The page count could have been cut down significantly had the author cut the number of adjectives in half. Also, it would have helped to eliminate some of the more repetitious phrases, for example “dark-as-sin cavalier.” That one came up three times on one page alone. Really, what Highland Knight boils down to is a dizzying number of sex scenes tied together loosely with some semblance of a story. At least those scenes are creative, though the various condiments being stolen for love play joke got old pretty quick.

In the introductory letter, Howell also tells readers that Gillyanne’s story is coming up soon and that she’ll be “fully prepared to torment and delight her hero.” I’ve learned my lesson, and will take that as a warning and stay away from the Murray sisters.

--Anne Bulin


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