Montlake Romance, $12.95, ISBN 978-1503945487
Historical Romance, 2015
Have you ever been confronted by something that looks really good – maybe a hot guy doing a striptease, or a big bowl of chocolates – only to feel somewhat underwhelmed by the whole thing? And then you feel disappointed for being disappointed in the first place? Well, that’s how I feel about Connie Brockway’s Highlander Undone. I know I should probably feel a greater degree of enthusiasm, as it is the first darker story from the author in a long time now. Yes, the main characters are more broody and moody, and this isn’t a ha-ha-ha book like the author’s last few offerings. But I’m just not feeling it, I’m afraid.
The plot takes some getting used to, as it is all about coincidences. Our hero, Jack Cameron, is a former soldier who, while doing his thing in Sudan, learned from a dying man that an officer of Her Majesty’s Black Dragoons is on the side of slavers, deliberately delaying reinforcements and sabotaging various efforts in order to keep the slave traders free. Now back in England, he is determined to unmask that traitor to avenge the lives of all those who died as a result of this villain’s greed. He has no idea how to even begin, though, as he knows very well that any obvious investigation would alert the higher-ups in the army and someone would eventually blab, sending the traitor into laying low for a while.
Luckily, the walls of the place he is staying are thin enough that he can hear his neighbors talk. Addie Hoodless’s brother Ted is an artist who is making a name for himself, and as it conveniently turns out, Ted is commissioned by members of the Black Dragoons to paint their portraits. Jack decides to play an artist hoping to befriend Ted and Addie, so that he would get to know these Black Dragoon people and learn a thing or two about them. Even more fortunately, he happens to mention that he is related to Addie’s aunt, and Lady Merritt immediately takes him in so that she can parade him as a middle finger to her husband (don’t ask). If Jack isn’t already the luckiest person around, he gets even luckier! Addie’s late husband has a scumbag BFF who turns out to be the traitor! Aren’t all these coincidences amazing, people?
It is not like the villain’s identity is so suspenseful either. There are two nasty people in this story, and one of them is dead. Even the village idiot can figure this one out, I’m certain!
The dead fellow is Addie’s late husband, who beat her so badly that, when Ted tried to intervene, he also went ahead and beat Ted into being a cripple. I’m surprised the author managed to stop herself from making this fellow a worshiper of Satan who sacrifices bunnies and old ladies to the devil. Addie is understandably scared of being around big brawny men, especially those from the military, but she has it bad for Jack when they first meet, and her need to feel all those big thick muscles up close and personal gives her the confidence to eventually demand that he gives it to her now. God bless those out-of-control hormones – who needs to see a shrink when lust can wash away all those cobwebs in one’s belfry that amazingly?
For a while, Jack has me thinking that he may buckle all those tired old clichés and contrivances in this story by breaking the “I’ll sleep with you and then you’ll learn of my secrets and wail that you will never trust me again!” rule that every story of this sort seems to blindly adhere to. After all, he wants to be noble and refuses to let his, er, lies penetrate Addie (fingers and tongues are okay, though, because it’s not like that is… that, I guess). Perhaps things will be different… oops, no. Despite some minor variations to the trope, everything ends up happening just like every other story of this sort always ends up being.
I’m afraid Highlander Undone leaves me feeling a little bored, rather indifferent, and vaguely dissatisfied all at once. It’s a readable story, I smile now and then at some exchanges between the characters in this story, but everything doesn’t come together very well. When the villain’s identity is confirmed, my reaction is an eye roll. There are so many things about this story that I’ve come across before and, more significantly, done better in the author’s very own previous books. Oh well, I suppose we all have our off days and maybe the author can switch it back on again in the future. I wish I hadn’t paid $12.95 for this underwhelming story, though.