by Veronica Wolff, historical/time-travel (2008)
Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 978-0425222489
Sword Of The Highlands sees author Veronica Wolff attempting to give real-life historical figure James Graham, the First Marquis of Montrose, a happy ending via love with a twenty-first century woman. If you are familiar with the history of the real James Graham beginning from his opposition to King Charles I's plans to force the people of Scotland to covert to the use of the Anglican prayer book to his eventual execution, this story holds little suspense. The fact that Ms Wolff follows the tried-and-true "what happens when a heroine ends up in the past" storyline doesn't help matters.
Magdalen "Magda" Deacon is an heiress who insists that she has such a hard life trying to forge her own identity separate from her parents' wealth. Take it from someone who has lived on the other side of the fence, honey - love all that money, embrace all that money, and stop whining because money is a wonderful thing indeed. She helps restore old paintings and such, and it is while restoring an old portrait of James Graham that she falls into a faint and finds herself back in 1638. Apparently she is compelled to touch the painting because he's so gorgeous. I've seen the portraits of James Graham and all I can say is that Magda probably loves her men more, er, classical than I do. Just look at his hair! So not my type, I tell you.
Magda wastes no time telling James that she's from the future even when they burn people for being witches. Luckily for her, James is an understanding sort and he only tells his best friend about Magda's claims. It isn't long before Magda finds herself watching and occasionally being dragged into James' great epic adventure as he gives King Charles I the finger before... well, you may want to read this story for yourself if you want to know more. This story or the Wikipedia entry on James Graham, at any rate.
After from the initial annoying "I'm in a dream! I'm in a dream!" antics of Magda, she soon becomes a more reasonable heroine. James is probably too perfect a gentleman here. He's supposed to be a dashing rogue, poet, and idealist, but here he comes off more like a very nice guy. The problem with such men and women is that I don't find them interesting as characters in a story. It is great to have such folks living next door when one needs to borrow some sugar and eggs, sure, but these folks tend to be flat and dull when it comes to dragging a story to the happy ending. Magda and James have a reasonable romance, they are on the whole reasonable characters, and really, everything about them is reasonable. Yet they are also completely forgettable at the same time.
The story becomes really entertaining when it kicks into high gear once James gets really involved with the political turmoils of that time. Alas, this means that the first third or so of the story is too easy to put down because of the two characters' reasonable blandness.
There is nothing particularly objectionable in Sword Of The Highland. But at the same time, the story ends up being forgettable and therefore most dissatisfying. The author has a great idea about making James Graham come to life on paper, but the bland end result never really come together in a way that will do the author's ideas and concepts justice.
This book at Amazon.com
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