A Season In The Highlands
by Jude Deveraux, Jill Barnett, Geralyn Dawson, Pam Binder, and Patricia Cabot; assorted (2000)
Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 0-7434-0341-X


This anthology definitely tries its best to offer the reader everything Scotland in every possible incarnation $7.99 can buy: contemporary romance (Jude Deveraux), highland feud (Jill Barnett), time travel (Pam Binder), witchcraft (Geralyn Dawson), and damsel-in-distress (Patricia Cabot). Since only Geralyn Dawson's story is worth a second reread, I'd still say I should've spent the $7.99 on a Big Mac Happy Meal and a Chocoholic Sundae - bet those will be a more filling purchase.

Jude Deveraux's barely half-baked - and sole contemporary -Unfinished Business has heroine Tyler taking her cousin's place as assistant on multi-millionaire robot Joel Kingsley's trip to a Scots castle. A ghostly murder took place there ages ago, and Tyler the busybody solves it and gets her man.

Thing is, Joel never exhibit any emotion, not counting that banana split in his pants. Tyler is bubbly and fun, but too bad a one-woman show does not a romance make. The mystery is pretty lame, the hero is cold fish, and Tyler's "Wait! Wa-aaaa-aaaait! But I'm pretty funny? See?" can't keep me from experiencing boredom blues.

Jill Barnett's story, Fall From Grace isn't actually new, it's actually her old story Saving Grace from the out-of-print anthology Highland Fling with new scenes added to it. It tells the story of Grace McNish kidnapping the wrong fellow in her attempt to nab a McNab (pun not intended), her clan's enemy.

This one has the word PREDICTABLE stamped across its every page in dark red ink. Grace and her clan are bumbling, grinning idiots - no wonder they are in dire straits. Natural selection must be hard on them. If the hero doesn't appear, I give this clan another two years before they get wiped out entirely. At least the hero has good genes. Him impregnating Gracie may be the best thing to happen in the really sad McNish clan gene pool.

Am I taking this bungling-fools-saved-by-capable-hero tale too seriously? Of course not, or I won't be sprouting eugenics here. It's not a bad tale, but it's not a good one either.

Cold Feet by Geralyn Dawson is the best thing in this anthology. Healer/wrongly-maligned-as-witch heroine Annie finds American lawyer Rand Jenkins shacked up in her hut when he blames her for causing cats - many, many cats - to trail after him day and night. Poor Rand is allergic to cats. While I admit some of the things he experiences are not funny (they are, in fact, cruel, considering how painful allergies can be), he and Annie get on so well that I am charmed. Annie is pretty silly at times, but since most authors equate silly with funny, I guess I have to make allowances.

Rand can melt snow with his roguishness, after all.

Pam Binder's time travel The Matchmaker sends modern folks Kathleen and Duncan back to 1500s Scotland, right in the midst of political intrigue. Thing is, despite the potential conflicts in the plot set-up (Lord Darnley, the Queen's consort, is plotting a murder), nothing actually happens. Okay, things happen - like Kath marveling at ancient plumbing. Doug trying old Scots bread.

I feel as if I'm reading a Medieval Times brochure with some tacked-on rushed action scenes at the end of this novella. It's not very fun. I feel sleepy already.

Patricia Cabot's closing contribution, The Christmas Captive has me itching to stick a fork into any part of the irritating heroine I can get at. Mairi is fleeing a lecherous guardian and is rescued by two guys, one of which gets to marry her, that poor man. Mairi is a woman who screams "I don't need your help!" even as she stumbles and falls. She is the sort who screams "Get away from me!" to the hero even as she is surrounded by sex-mad villains, "Don't come any closer!" as she sinks deeper into quicksand, and "I can take care of myself!" even as she trips and falls down a ravine. In short, an incompetent twit who pays token and very loud lip service to Feminism even as she incompetently keeps secrets and makes a mess out of the story. Why even pretend to be capable, Mairi? Just take a large Post-It tag, write Incompetent Bimbette across it in neon colors, and paste it over your mouth.

I really wish I'd spent my $7.99 on McDonald's instead.

Rating: 63


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