Highland Dream

To Touch the Stars

Highland Fling by Tess Mallory
(Lovespell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-525-267
Highland Fling is like one of those dreams that starts off well enough but just gets weirder and weirder until you finally wake up wondering what the heck just happened.

Griffin Campbell is a reluctant Scottish warrior in 17th century Scotland. He is due to marry Maigrey MacGregor and become Clan chief. This couldn’t be worse for Griffin for two reasons. One, he would rather be a scholar than a warrior leader and two, being intimate with women makes him physically ill.

In a bid to find some solitude, Griffin goes to a cave his cousin Duncan once told him about. Duncan has described the cave as being magical. Griffin soon finds out why after he touches some strange green crystals and is transported 400 years into the future.

In modern day Scotland, he meets Chelsea Brown. Chelsea is a self-described plain Jane scientist who is visiting her best friends Jix Ferguson and Samantha Riley. Jix and Samantha were characters in Mallory’s previous title in this series, Highland Dream and have met Griffin before. Chelsea literally runs into Griffin after a disastrous blind date and the attraction begins.

Griffin can’t get back to Scotland using the cave, because the crystals are no longer there. When Jix, her husband Jamie, and Samantha finally come clean about their own time travel, they say something about how the crystals have a mind of their own and only work when they want to. That’s convenient. Then Jix, who is two months pregnant, has a small medical crisis and the whole cast has to fly back home to Texas to see a specialist. What, they don’t have babies in Scotland? There are no obstetricians capable of handling a relatively minor emergency?

But then how would everyone get back to Texas? They have to get back to Texas because Griffin discovered his cousin Duncan (of the above magical cave reference) was hanged in 1882 Texas and needs to save him. So it’s off to Texas so Chelsea and Griffin can time travel back to the Old West. They all get involved in some sort of tangled subplot involving a corrupt bank owner that frankly, was so convoluted I didn’t know who was coming or going.

Chelsea, to put it simply, is a doormat. She’s constantly obsessing about how she’s not as pretty or as outgoing as her friends Jix and Samantha. She’s just a nerdy little mouse who could never win the heart of a gorgeous man like Griffin. Chelsea is content to let her so-called friends push her around and subject her to “makeovers” because they want to fix her. They also exclude her, specifically when dealing with their previous time traveling adventure. Jix and Samantha come off selfish, shallow and patronizing. Yet these are the women Chelsea wishes she were more like.

When she finally does get a little backbone, after traveling to the Old West, she goes from doormat to complete idiot. Upon her arrival, Chelsea is mistaken for a saloon girl by Miss Lola the local madam. Good thing this isn’t the real Old West but Frontierland at Disney. Saloon girls don’t have to “take men upstairs” if they don’t really want to. They can just sing and dance. Chelsea, therefore, is free to dress up in pretty saloon girl clothes and experiment with her wild side. It’s all so liberating; she doesn’t have to be shy anymore now that she’s wearing a corset that squeezes the very life out of her. She just wishes Griffin were here to see her sexy new look and attitude! Just to remind you, this woman is working on her doctorate in physics.

There are also a lot of little inconstancies and improbabilities that bothered me. For example, when Jix tells her friends she is pregnant she tells them she wants them to stay with her until the baby is born (in seven months). No one seems to bat an eyelash at the request. Chelsea figures she can just take a little vacation from school - good thing she has a trust fund. Samantha is even worse; one assumes she’s a medical student or a resident (she’s described as “not being a doctor yet”). You can’t tell me she can afford to just put all that aside for seven months. Good thing her family’s rich. Good thing they’re all rich - my eyes hurt from rolling.

In another example, Chelsea thinks that while her breasts aren’t “silicone-enchanted” they’re by no means small. Later, however, Chelsea is described as always being a little lacking in the bust department. Much is made out of Chelsea’s twenty-nine inch waist being squeezed down to twenty-four thanks to the corset so she can fit into a dress, yet later she slips the thing on all by herself with no trouble. I won’t even get into the stereotyped Chinese cook (chicken flied steak!) and Samantha’s insulting line about “turning lesbian” - I guess they were supposed to be funny.

The one saving grace of Highland Fling is our hero Griffin. He is sweet, charming and the complete opposite of every alpha Scottish warrior hero out there. He’s only a warrior because he has to be. He’d much rather be studying and finding out how things work. Griffin’s problem with women is certainly unique and gives him a refreshing inexperience with women.

Sadly, Griffin can’t hold the book up alone. Between the doormat heroine, her shallow friends and a contrived plot, the only Highland Fling that happened was this book across the room.

--Anne Bulin

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