by Monica McCarty, historical (2007)
Ballantine, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-345-49437-5
Highlander Unmasked starts out very good but unfortunately it is all the way downhill from the first few chapters.
Alex MacLeod is on a mission. King James I of England is being a naughty man as he is attempting to yet again let the Fife Adventurers take control of the Isle of Lewis. This is, after all, a romance set in 17th century Scotland and just like every other romance novel of this sort, all Lowlanders are useless and self-serving types while the Highlanders are noble types who just want to make the world a better place. Therefore, Alex hopes that by spreading rumors about his rift with his brother Rory, he can get himself entrance into the social circles in King James' court and discover any useful information about the Fife Adventurers that he can use to help his brother and the other Noble Highlanders of Everywhere thwart the Lowlanders.
The only glitch in his plan is Meg Mackinnon. He saved her prior to showing up at court from a what seems like a bunch of brigands and therefore she knows that he gave his brother a visit prior to coming down to Holyrood. That won't do, remember, since Alex and Rory are supposed to be enemies now. Will Meg unknowingly blab and ruin Alex's plans?
Meg, in the meantime, wants to find a husband for the sake of her clan. Her brother, you see, is simple-minded and therefore Meg realizes that she needs a husband who will fight for the clan beside her brother instead of usurping power and kicking her brother to the curb like most of her suitors in the past planned on doing. She also needs a husband who is politically savvy so that her clan will be able to navigate their way safely through the current unstable political climate of Scotland. She has been infatuated with Alex ever since he saved her life but at the same times, she believes that he is a man whose loyalty can be bought (since he is a mercenary, or so she hears) and therefore he just won't do as a beau.
When an enemy from Alex's past turns out to be a threat to her as well, it looks like Alex and Meg are going to have their lives entwined a little longer, no matter what they feel about the situation.
Highlander Unmasked has two intelligent and therefore most appealing characters in the lead. Meg's reasons for searching for a husband are refreshingly sensible and she is also a generally smart heroine at first. Alex is also a nice pro-active fellow who prefers to look ahead instead of getting worked up over the past. Their interactions in the first few chapters are most enjoyable to follow because they both come off as intelligent people who can read read each other very well.
Unfortunately, as the story progresses, Ms McCarty keeps repeating herself. The characters' emotions are rehashed, as are their feelings about each other, so frequently to the point that the story starts to go around in circles. The two characters also keep behaving in circles as they keep coming up with the same old excuses not to get together. The characters are behaving in the same manner in the last hundred pages as they did in the first hundred pages, and likewise, their thoughts and emotions remain static all that while as well. For a very long time, the story doesn't seem to be going anywhere. This is a real pity as the characters deserve better than this dull storyline they are stuck in.
Highlander Unmasked starts out promising only to turn out to be a very disappointing read.
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