To Tame A Highland Warrior
by Karen Marie Moning, historical (1999)
Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-23481-6

What a pleasant surprise. This author's debut Beyond The Highland Mist is an overplotted, overly-purple book that has me gritting my teeth in pain. To Tame A Highland Warrior, however, is a very readable book whose flaw lies not in the technique but in the characterization. Clearly the author has reined in the overflowing flowery adjectives that plagued her debut, and this is a good sign. The plot's tighter, the characters are better, and if things keep going in this pace, I can't wait for Ms Moning's next book.

I've been warned about the too-modern phrases in this 16th century historical, but hey, no problem. I switch off my Amateur Historian Reader mode and turn on my He-Man and She-Ra fan mode. Treating this book as a fantasy does wonders in making my credulity more elastic.

Gavrael McIllioch, known to all as Grimm, is a Beserker. His father murdered his mother in a fit of madness, and he is convinced that any woman he loves will be in danger from him too. A wanted man, he seeks sanctuary in the family of St Clair, whose daughter Jillian has a crush on him. He drives her away and goes off to seek his fortune as an adult.

Years later, Jillian is a spinster of 21 and his parents are desperate. So desperate that they actually let Jillian unknowingly be stuck at home alone with three suitors handpicked for their manly prowesses in all things that matter. I guess it's okay if daughter is raped or anything, as long as she's married, eh? The sound you hear is the idiot father groaning from the Rolling Pin Delight I just administered on his thick skull.

One of the man is Grimm, and the poor man gets all dandered up and hot and bothered when Jillian is courted by two dashing rogues. Of course, we all know who Jillian is holding out for, but the said man is just too obtuse to know it.

This book is pleasant to read, but frankly, I really wish the author hasn't taken for granted that a childhood infatuation is strong enough a foundation for lifelong romance. Jillian has a crush on Grimm, but her feelings never progress beyond this stage convincingly. Why Grimm? I have no idea, and I doubt Jillian has ever considered that deeply. Put in an assassin-in-the-making subplot and Jillian's emotional development gets even more sidelined. Hence, I'm not exactly convinced that this is a Grand Love Affair thing.

I can see why Grimm loves Jillian, although that too could be fleshed out better, but since I can't see Jillian's feelings for him as anything but a childish crush never allowed to bloom into anything more, this book never progresses beyond an above-average read. It's not the modern lingo, it's the plot, I say.

Rating: 70

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