Kiss of the Highlander, by Karen Marie Moning

>> Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ok, I'm about to start Kiss of the Highlander (excerpt, etc.), by Karen Marie Moning. If you take a look at my index, you'll see pitiful few time travel romances there, and that's for a reason: I'm really not into them. Same thing with Scottish set historicals, you won't find all that many of them in my index. Nothing against Scotland or Scottish men, I just don't usually enjoy the romance novel version of them.

So what am I doing starting a novel with the word "Highlander" on the title and a watch on the cover? Why, trying a new author for the Author of the Month at my Historical Romance Chat group! Moning was chosen this month, and since she has nothing BUT highlanders and time travels, usually both together (or at least, the two Monings my friend had that I could borrow were highlanders and time travel), I'm reading exactly that. I promise to keep an open mind and really try to enjoy this, no matter how unlikely I think that is, a priori. After all, I've heard good comments about Moning from plenty of people whose taste I trust.

A laird trapped between centuries...
Enchanted by a powerful spell, Highland laird Drustan MacKeltar slumbered for nearly five centuries hidden deep in a cave, until an unlikely savior awakened him. The enticing lass who dressed and spoke like no woman he'd ever known was from his distant future, where crumbled ruins were all that remained of his vanished world. Drustan knew he had to return to his own century if he was to save his people from a terrible fate. And he needed the bewitching woman by his side....

A woman changed forever in his arms...

Gwen Cassidy had come to Scotland to shake up her humdrum life and, just maybe, meet a man. How could she have known that a tumble down a Highland ravine would send her plunging into an underground cavern—to land atop the most devastatingly seductive man she'd ever seen? Or that once he'd kissed her, he wouldn't let her go?

Bound to Drustan by a passion stronger than time, Gwen is swept back to sixteenth-century Scotland, where a treacherous enemy plots against them ... and where a warrior with the power to change history will defy time itself for the woman he loves....
I'll be trying something new here. I'll write every now and then and record my impressions as the book progresses. Let's see how it goes.

Just started, page 12. Groan. Right, the heroine's a 25-year-old virgin with a PhD, tromping around Scotland trying to lose her virginity. Someone kill me now! No, really, I promise, I'll keep an open mind and I truly will try to enjoy this!

page 57: I'm quite enjoying this! Gwen has just found Drustan and serendipitously woken him up, and he's just realized he's in the 21st century. It's fun. Drustan's quite arrogant, of course, very caveman-ish, but there's a certain kindness there that tempers it.

page 158: oh, wow, I planned to make a little note every 50 pages or so, but the story has really grabbed me, and I completely forgot. The only reason I stopped now is because I had a phone call, and since I'm at a bit of a crisis point in the book, it's a good moment to appraise.

So far, the book's been surprisingly good. I really liked the scenes of Drustan confronting the advances of the 21st century. Making him a powerful druid, with a certain concept of time travel already, makes it more believable that he'd take this all pretty much in stride. And the scenes in the clothing store and the car were fun. Things like Drustan wanting to buy a purple sweatsuit tickled my funny bone. Also, there's quite a bit of chemistry between Drustan and Gwen, and they really sizzle together. I especially like the way Drustan is so smitten by her, the way he's so sure she's the woman for him, that it was worth it for him to travel 500 years to the future to find her.

I'm not 100% happy about where the story is right now. Drustan's decision to, as far as I understand, take Gwen back to the 16th century with him, without her approval, or even knowledge, is *very* iffy for me. I'd really, really hate to have to live back then!

Let's see if I'm right about what will happen (I promise not to delete this if I'm wrong, so you can see just how off base I was at this point): the version of Drustan that's been in the 21st century will disappear (if I understood what he said about the danger of two versions of the same person being in the same time and approximate space), because he'll have been slightly wrong about the symbols. Gwen will be stranded in the 16th c. and have no idea what to do. She (again, if I understood correctly) will just need to find 16thc!Drustan and recite the poem 21stc!Drustan made her memorize, in order to restore his memory, but he never explained that, so she won't do it for a long time. And obviously, 16thc!Drustan will not believe anything she says. I kept wondering as I read why he didn't write the instructions down on a piece of paper. After all, he knew there was a good chance he was going to screw it up!

Ok, I'm going back to the book to see just how wrong I am!

page 232: Just as I suspected. Gwen protests and protests and Drustan won't believe her. These past 75 pages have been somewhat frustrating. Come on, Gwen, think!!

page 335: At last! Gwen thought, and did what she should have done days before. Still, the whole process (at least, these past 100 pages, once Gwen realizes she's going to have to keep trying and that' that) was better to read and less frustrating than it could have been, and there were some lovely scenes there. Their conversation with Drustan locked in the garderobe was one of them. When Gwen repeats a certain something that Drustan said to her in the future, wow! So now things are just lovely between them.

And that is a bit of a problem... the story is all but over on the romance front, and we still have some 65 pages to go. I guess the action will shift to the problem of who Drustan enemy was, something that had been pretty much forgotten up until now. It's also something we readers know already, though, so where is the tension going to be coming from?

The end: Well, the suspense subplot was dispensed with in a hurry (good news for me, since I wasn't particularly anticipating long, drawn-out battle scenes), and Moning did manage to get some conflict there that I should have guessed but didn't, and it was pretty good. I quite liked the solution to how they can be together from now on (and I'll say no more about this).

And that thing at the end, the setup for Drustan's brother book? Should have irritated me to no end, but all it did was make me want to read his book, Dark Highlander, even if the AAR review sounds dire.

Final verdict: This was pretty damn good! I'd rate it a solid B. Drustan was a nice alpha: a bit possessive, a bit dominating (Gwen could stand up to him just fine, so that was ok), but his basic kindness just came through and he had enough vulnerability to make him interesting. As for Gwen, she was actually pretty smart and fun and didn't grate as I feared she would when she was first introduced.

I've got to thank Sandy for choosing Moning, as I would never have picked up one of her books if I hadn't been forced to. That's what AOM is all about! :-)


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