by Karen Marie Moning, historical (2001)
Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-23655-X
Kiss Of The Highlander starts out awful and only redeems itself in its late legs. The greatest flaw of this story is that I don't know from which planet in the dysfunctional galaxy did our heroine Gwen Cassidy hails from.
Let me explain. Gwen is a modern day heroine, a daughter of a scientist and a stiff-lipped Emily-Post-gone-psycho mother. At twenty-five, she is a virgin and she laments that she doesn't like the way daddy forces her to go on dates prearranged by he. Now, I know arranged weddings are still going on in Asia, but in America?
And Gwen is here today in Scotland to find a "cherry-picker". The sound you here is my forehead hitting the table in a loud crash. Gwen gets stuck with a bunch of senior citizen tourists, gets bored and loses her way, and crash! Falls down a cave and awakens induced-by-Gypsy-magic-to-sleep Drustan McKeltar, a Highland laird whose last memory dates back to 1518.
Drustan drags Gwen along to help him find a portal or something that will let him go back in time to discover who did this nefarious treachery on him. And Gwen, despite thinking this guy's nuts, tags along because hey, it's either Mr Fabio here or the senior citizens. And we wonder why bodies of dead women keep turning up on roadsides nowadays.
I cannot get into Gwen's personality at all, which seems like a bag of extreme neuroses. Any resemblance to a human being is merely coincidental. Likewise, Drustan expects Gwen to tag along with him just because he says so. Even if he is acting like his medieval self, I wince because Gwen lets him drag her along because of his sexy muscles. She is fresh meat for serial killers if I may be crass enough to say so. I mean, she sees Drusstan carrying all these evil-looking knives and blades, and still she tags along. I rest my case.
Only when our two lovebirds go back to Drustan's time did things improve tremendously. If Gwen seems like an odd duck (or fresh meat in New York if you prefer) in contemporary times, she doesn't look too out of place in the more limited confines of the past. The author really lets loose some exciting if hokey action and adventure of mythical proportions. By hokey I mean it also relies on a lot of coincidences to give our two lovebirds a happy ending. And I'm glad too that Gwen decides to live in the past. I hate to see what kind of accidents she can get into with modern plumbing.
In its heart, KOTH is an embryo of a gloriously campy, loud, and garish rock-romance soap opera set in the twelfth-century Highlands. Even the description of Drustan just screams "Cheese!" in a fun way. But really weak and implausible characterizations sink this story faster than you can say "What's an iceberg doing in Scotland?"
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