Desiring the Highlander
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I’ve been reading romance novels for almost 20 years, and figure that at least a quarter of all the romances I’ve read have been set in Scotland. Some of these novels have been very good: well-written, romantic, steamy. Some novels have been, as my Italian great-grandma would say, “mezza mezz’.” And, of course, some have been simply terrible, good for little more than tearing out the pages and using them to line my cat’s litter box. Desiring the Highlander by Michele Sinclair lands somewhere between mezza mezz’ and litter box.

Desiring the Highlander is set on the Scotland/England border in 1311. Cole McTiernay is one of seven brothers, and as a young man he witnessed the English kill his best friend. From that moment on, Cole despises anything and everything English, and makes it his life’s work to fight the Crown.

  
 
In addition to loathing the English, Cole has an important choice to make: should he, or should he not, take on the mantle of “Laird” for his clan? I was always under the impression that a lairdship is handed down to the eldest son, but Sinclair finds a way around that (basically, her answer is “because I said so”). Cole claims he doesn’t want any sort of responsibility, not to his clan, not to a wife – but is he really being honest with himself? For someone with the reputation of a “bear,” Cole has a bit of a soft spot for women, and when his sister-in-law asks him to run an errand for her, he obliges.

That “errand” turns out to be retrieving Ellenor Howell, a long-time friend of Cole’s sister-in-law. Cole is initially put off by Ellenor; not only is she English, but she appears to be stark raving mad. The madness is simply a front: Ellenor has a deep-seated fear of men, stemming from when she witnessed a band of rogues murder her father. She is loathe to marry, but has a sneaking suspicion that her stepfather wants to marry her off to the lowest bidder so she stops grooming herself and acts as if she has lost her mind (in the hopes that nobody would want her). Through Ellenor, Cole realizes that not only does he want to marry, he wants to be Laird, too. But there is trouble ahead for the couple, and for Cole’s lairdship. Can they survive both as a couple, and as leaders?

My biggest problem with this novel is the dialogue. Everyone speaks in long, expository speeches that only grows more tedious as the book went goes on. On top of that, the Scottish accent that all the characters speak in is simply atrocious (If I had a nickel for every time I read “doona”—as in “I doona want to read this book ever again”—I’d be a rich woman.)

I also hated Ellenor. She was a total “Mary Sue.” In other words, everything she did was wonderful and everybody instantly fell in love with her. Aside from Cole’s initial displeasure with her Englishness, there is nothing keeping him from falling head over heels in love with her. There just isn’t any real tension, no real danger, in this book. Even the villain failed to establish any action or excitement. There was one good thing about it, though… the sex scenes were all decent – or at the least above average.

Desiring the Highlander by Michele Sinclair wasn’t the first Scottish romance novel I’ve ever read, and it certainly won’t be the last. However, I don’t think I’ll be giving this particular novel a re-read.

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