The Highland Wife
by Lyn Stone, historical (2001)
Harlequin Historical, $4.99, ISBN 0-373-29151-5

This book is yet another showcase of how an author can get carried away with playing things safe to the point of making no sense. There are all sorts of clichés here, but they are added liberally without little attempt to ensure that they actually have a place in the story.

For instance, our hero Robert MacBain, the Baron of Baincroft, is deaf. Apparently this means no woman will want to marry him. So what if he is rich, has a title, (supposedly) sensitive and kind, and his mother won't lynch the poor bride? And gee, here I thought Romance Novel Land is filled with heroines who will marry anyone and anybody for the sake of world peace. Whatever. Suffering from a broken engagement, he reluctantly embarks to pick up his new wife-to-be, one Mairie MacInnes.

He arrives in time to stop Mairie's Evil Cousin (they always have one) from from attacking her father (the Laird). They marry, and Mairie's dying father extracts a vow from Robert - he will take her far, far away from Scotland.

Mairie, predictably, goes, "Noooooo! Day-deeeeeeeeeeeeee! Nooooo!"

And Sensitive Robert, does he go, "Ah, sorry, Mairie, but your father and I have decided to take you to a safer place"?

Nope. "Woman, you do as I say!" And whoops, he tosses Mairie, screaming, onto the carriage and away they go.

Tell me again why women don't want to marry Robert?

Mairie, therefore, believes her husband to be a brute. And get this - no one tells her that Robert is deaf. Will Robert sit her down and tell her, "Mairie, I can't hear you"? Nope, he wants to, er, test her, to see if she respects him first before telling her he's deaf. So when Mairie screams at him when she's at her breaking point, and he doesn't respond (his eyes are somewhere else), the woman only thinks the worse of him. And he, in turns, thinks her cold and evil. And it goes way, way, way downhill from there.

Mairie's equally to blame. Robert, deaf from a young age, is taught to speak. Okay. Let's see - even today, many deaf people I know still have some difficulties with tonal nuances, especially if they learn to speak without knowing just how people raise their voices to emphasize anger, surprise, et cetera. I can only imagine Robert speaking in some monotonous, careful manner. And Mairie thinks this is normal?

Every cliché to further misunderstanding sessions is used. After too many of these cold sulkings, temper tantrums, and idiotic jumping to conclusions of both donkeys, I feel like throwing my own temper tantrum. Some stories use a deaf character to illustrate the strength of human determination backed by a Celine Dion song, others to milk my tears and sympathies. The Highland Wife uses the hero's deafness merely as a tool to create unnecessary friction and bile. How do you say U-G-L-Y in sign language?

Rating: 37

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