by Colleen Faulkner, historical (2001)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6787-9
There is nothing wrong with the main couple Elen Burnard and Munro Forrest in this story. They may come from different factions of feuding clans and they may be lairds of their own clan in this story and hence have lots of stress and pressure, but they are sensible, nice, understanding, and rational people. There is no reason why they shouldn't marry and have babies. But that's the problem - this lack of conflict has the author creating one silly, manufactured conflict that just drags on and on to prevent this story from being only five chapters long. And since that conflict is a pretty redundant and superficial one, it makes Munro and especially Elen as smart as the sheep they breed.
Elen is the new laird, lady, whatever of her clan, and she is mad when her sister Rosalyn is kidnapped by Clan Forrest. She will... she will kidnap their laird and hold him for an exchange! Yeah, that'll do. So she and her happy clan members (you know, the overprotective gruff old bum, the earnest lad, the kind old woman that dispenses nuggets of wisdom, et cetera) kidnap and hold Munro hostage.
The thing is, Rosalyn is only technically kidnapped. She's happy. In fact, she masterminds this kidnap herself so that she can play slap-and-tickle with Cerdic, Munro's dim-witted brother. When the whole plot is exposed, Elen and Munro force the two younger siblings of theirs to marry. Munro loves Elen too, but the author needs Elen to say no and no and no, so Elen says no and no and no and no and no. Munro is obviously a great catch - even-tempered, kind, responsible, good at warrior skills, good in the bedroom - so Elen saying no non-stop makes her look really dim.
I find myself more involved in Rosalyn and Cerdic's relationship, which is a far cry from Munro and Elen's Perfect Romance (If She Doesn't Keep Saying No). Cerdic is very pathetically devoted to scheming, manipulative Rosalyn that she actually plays the dominant role in the relationship. It's rather macabre that this man will willingly put up with Rosalyn's manipulations and mental abuse, and it's fascinating too, how Rosalyn loves Cerdic in her own way. These two have all the makings of the Dysfunctional Twosome of the Year, fascinating compared to the dull Elen "I Think I'm In A Stephanie Laurens Novel" Burnard and Munro "Perfect, Sensitive, and Zzzz...." Forrest. It is as if someone has sliced an Anne Stuart novel between the pages of a Stephanie Laurens novel. And me, the twisted romantic that I am, of course find the darker romance far more interesting than the typical, sillier one.
But hey, since this is a goody wholesome romance, Rosalyn and Cerdic must be punished. Yay, boring people win. No wonder there are parts of this story where I can barely pay close attention.
The author has focused on the wrong aspects of her story if you ask me. Highland Lady is rather schizophrenic - it is dark and sunny all at once. I like that, but this story then does a complete turnabout and becomes a typical, average romance with all the predictability $5.99 can buy. Talk about a missed opportunity to be interesting.
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