Highland Destiny


Wild Roses

Highland Vow by Hannah Howell
(Zebra, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-6614-7
My, people take long, long trips in Scotland. And back in 1456, transportation moved even slower. That must be why the heroine, Elspeth Murray, has plenty of time to seduce her reluctant lover, Cormac Armstrong. There you go. Thatís the plot.

Oh, all right. There is some more. Elspeth first rescues Cormac when she is nine and he is a teenager on the run after being accused of murdering his loverís husband. Ten years later Cormac rescues Elspeth from kidnap and attempted rape. They make a run for it. Elspeth has fantasized about Cormac for years; he is still faithful to the much-married, much-widowed lover of his youth, Isabel. Elspeth decides she can change Cormacís mind about staying faithful to another -- or at least she can work on his body.

The author has set up a number of problems for the characters, some of which she overcomes and some she doesnít. Elspeth could be seen as someone who is willing to use her body to make a man unfaithful to his promises to another. Since Elspeth is a good person who is aware she is risking her heart and reputation because she loves Cormac, that obstacle is overcome. Cormac, however, has tougher character flaws.

To save Elspeth from readersí dislike, Isabel is shown to be an evil woman. She is so obviously evil to everyone but Cormac that you just have to wonder about Cormacís sense. Apparently he wants to do the honorable thing and to give Isabel up would be wrong BUT he also refuses to listen to what everyone knows about Isabel. I think I could handle a hero who grimly decides to stick to his promise even knowing the worst rather than one who blindly refuses to see what is going on.

Then, after a suitable struggle, he does give Elspeth a tumble. Lots of tumbles. Lots and lots and lots -- well, never mind. Elspeth is a sexy creature and she assures him she is willing to have just a fling but you have to wonder about his basic honorableness. He even knows and worries that he is doing the wrong thing. But he keeps on doing the wrong thing ( and very well, too) over and over.

Never mind. Even if you grant Cormac has many virtues (heís honorable, heís courageous, heís sexy, heís got a sense of humor and he dimly knows heís messing up), you still have to decide he isnít the smartest guy in the world. My biggest annoyance was when he has to make a face-to-face choice between Elspeth and Isabel and he hesitates. Nope, no matter how many reasons I got for that, I just about wrote old Cormac off.

Highland Vow isnít a bad read -- you come to like Elspeth and her resourcefulness. Even when Cormac sees the light, even when he literally crawls for forgiveness, you just wish better for the heroine. But maybe hero pickings were slim back then.

--Irene Williams

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