Beyond The Highland Mist
by Karen Marie Moning, paranormal (1999)
Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-23480-8

I wrote this on the Amazon page when I first read Karen Marie Moning's debut Beyond The Highland Mist:

"The author, I'm afraid, tried to put in too much in one book. Time-traveling fugitive abused heroine meets oversexed rakehell man, both perfect humans with no physical flaws. Then there are faeries and lame court intrigue, a quest towards the end, and I'm sure there's a kitchen sink buried in the story... somewhere.

"Also, the writing is overflowery, with lips, tresses, torsos, bosoms, and er, love organs described in melodramatic purple prose that had me cringing.

"At last count, there are 6 misunderstandings.

"I don't have patience for these sort of books, really. Here's hoping To Tame A Highland Warrior is better."

I suppose I should elaborate more for this review. Our heroine, Adrienne de Simone, has a bad relationship in the past that involves abuse and a laughably over-the-top scenario where her ex turned out to be a cross between Ike Turner and Al Capone. Naturally, she now insists that she will never love again and all pretty men are evil - the usual, really. She is the pawn in the games of the fae court where our modern-day heroine is transported back 500 years where our hero James Lyon Douglas, some Earl who is also known as Hawk or "the King's whore" (it scares me that Ms Moning actually passes off the latter as complimentary), falls for her as part of the Fairy Queen's game. You see, she wants to see our uber-stud extraordinaire James fall for a woman who will never love him back.

However, the execution of this potentially interesting story suffers from a myriad of flaws. The hero and the heroine seem to step out of a Rosemary Rogers fantasy. While there aren't any beatings or rape here, our main characters however are comparable to the characters of those outdated romance novels where our hero and heroine are physically perfect people, what with his stallion penis and her long red tresses and all, and the conflicts in this story are driven by ridiculously contrived conflicts. Adam Black, the bad boy fae, is here to drive Hawk crazy with jealousy, which means that there are plenty of "I knew it! She's a whore!" misunderstandings. Hawk comes off like a ridiculous borderline-obsessive control freak. Adrienne also comes off as pretty mentally unhinged with her 1970s/1980s romance novel attitude towards sex and men. If Hawk and Adrienne have the mental capacity to talk, much of their internal conflicts would be avoided but if that is to happen, Ms Moning won't have much of a story to tell here.

Conflicts come and go like they are domino pieces in a line. Once one conflict is resolved, another is forcefully introduced into the story with the subtlety of a elephant rampage. Let's just say that if this is a movie, I'll see Ms Moning being lowered from the top of screen on a glowing platform as she yells orders to the characters around her to do as she says. Beyond The Highland Mist comes off as very fake because the characters don't behave in any normal matter - they don't learn from their mistakes, they force themselves not to talk and they force themselves to assume the worst of the other from the flimsiest of evidence - so there is nothing in this story to suggest that Hawk and Adrienne are realistic characters, much less brainy ones, rather than puppets manipulated too obviously by Ms Moning.

Ms Moning has packed every one of the most annoying clichés related to character stupidity, misunderstandings, and jealousy into Beyond The Highland Mist and liberally sprinkle the story with prose so purple that even poor Barney the Dinosaur will feel self-conscious in comparison. The premise is interesting and while this book is really bad, reading it is never boring because I'm either eyeing the page in askance, discombobulated as I am by how Ms Moning seems determined to emulate the worst of the excesses of Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen E Woodiwiss, or I'm giggling at how unintentionally hilarious Ms Moning's purple-pronged prose is. Of course, the unfortunate fact does remain that this is indeed a very bad book!

Rating: 48

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