The Highlander's Maiden
by Elizabeth Mayne
(Harl. Historical #449, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-29049-7
***
This is a cute little Highland quickie that would have scored a bit higher in the heart department if the author had given the reader deeper insight into the hero and heroine. Cassie MacArthur and Robert Gordon are the very epitome of rugged Scottish lovers – but we never really learn what it is that makes them both tick. In the light atmosphere created by author Elizabeth Mayne, it's easy to overlook the fact that Cassie and Robert talk a good game, but there is little information or history behind their words. Still, I enjoyed this breezy tale for its simplicity.

When the redheaded Cassie MacArthur falls through the ice on a Highland pond she is saved by a traveling mapmaker who happens to belong to the dreaded Clan Gordon – enemies of the MacArthurs and of Cassie in particular. Cassie's fiancé was killed in battle with the Gordon's four years earlier, and the 20 year old "spinster" has avoided men ever since. But there is something different about Robert – an easy spirit that intrigues the young lass.

For Robert's part, he knows from the get go that Cassie is "Lady Quickfoot," the legendary highland scout commanded by the King to help in Robert's goal to accurately map the whole of Scotland. Cassie knows that Lady Quickfoot is really just a legend, embellished over the years through her own tales. But the King thinks she's real, and Cassie has been ordered to help the Gordon in his mapping quest.

Fighting her impulses, Cassie tries to maintain the wall of anger toward all Gordons that she erected following her fiancé's death. But Robert is handsome and kind, smart and charming and it doesn't take very long for her defenses to fall – despite the fact that she is an unwilling participant in his quest. The two finally join forces during a snowstorm when one of their party is injured and the only way to secure aid is to repel down a sheer cliff to the hidden keep of Cassie's thickheaded father.

The bad blood between Cassie and the MacArthur is referred to frequently, but the reader is given only a very vague explanation why the two have been on the outs for so long. Cassie's stubborn nature is revealed as is her love for the outdoors. But these are surface traits and the author never goes much deeper. The same holds true for Robert. Though he is based on a real person, Robert Gordon is never flushed out. His surface charm remains just that – we never learn much about him.

But in spite of its rather thin characterizations, Highland Maiden still gives readers a good time with its fast pace, dramatic descriptions of the rugged Scottish countryside, and warm humor.

--Ann McGuire


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