Wild Highland Rose
by Dee Davis, historical/time-travel (2003)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52570-4
Marjory Macpherson isn't too upset when she receives news that her husband Ewen Cameron has been killed in a rockslide. She is more worried that Ewen's father, Torcall, will descend upon her home Crannag Mhór and mete out retribution. Like every respectable Scottish clan out there, the Macphersons and the Camerons are involved in a long-standing feud. The laird had Marjory and Ewen married to stop her grandfather and his father from killing any more of each other's people. Her grandfather is too far away to be of any help to Marjory, so she is really alone in this situation with only her loyal kinsmen to help her. She can't help but to be relieved, therefore, when her hated husband miraculously comes back to life. However, this Ewen is a very different man in behavior. In fact, he claims to be from the twenty-first century...
Wild Highland Rose, unfortunately, is a story that makes less sense as it progresses. It is actually a very straightforward standard Highland romance if one overlooks the paranormal elements - very familiar plot elements such as the caricature of a bitter rival to the hero out to cause trouble (including an attempt to force himself onto the heroine), the identity of the actual villain, and the usual post-marriage of convenience courtship rituals are strictly formula, with very little effort on the author's part to interpret these familiar elements in fresh and refreshing manner. The story is quite stale.
Marjory's character is not authentic except in the first two chapters before Ewen opens his darned eyes and spoils everything. In those chapters, Marjory comes off as a pretty realistic heroine that knows the severe limitations of her power in the scheme of things but she is determined to use what she has to make the best of the situation. Unfortunately, once Ewen wakes up and starts making the moves on her, her brain melts into an ooze on the floor. I find it hard to imagine that a woman like Marjory, who has been dealing with violent men since she could remember, will so callously trust and even sleep with Ewen so soon into the story. I mean, come on, he still looks like her hated husband and she should be wary of men if her life experiences have taught her anything. But no, she mutates into a more typical oh-so-understanding "all I need is love" dingbat.
Another annoying aspect of this story is the language. Dee Davis uses the usual "canna, dinna" thingie in her Scottish characters to give the story some artificial flavoring, but Ewen spends the whole book talking in a very obvious twenty-first century way and no one thinks twice about it, much less calls him on it. It's quite ridiculous, not to mention unrealistic, that we have a man going about using modern words and slangs in fifteenth century Scotland without encountering any commincation difficulties with the people he deals with. Also, Ewen commits some really dumb actions in this book, but by the time he commits these actions, I'm already annoyed enough by the language and Marjory's unconvincing personality to actually care too much about Ewen's actions.
But it is the way the author wraps up her story that is the last straw. There are hackneyed and contrived ways to resolve a problem, and then there is the Dee Davis way to resolve the problems her characters face in Wild Highland Rose. The next few sentences contain spoilers. To read them, use your mouse to highlight the text between the two spoiler tags. [spoiler starts] I am annoyed enough by the overuse of another psycho female villainess that goes crazy because her love is spurned by the hero, but it gets worse when our hero "returns" to the present day by waking up from the coma that sent his... being, I guess... back into the fifteenth-century Ewen's body. Once he remembers snippets of his "past life" in the present day during the middle of this story, he realizes that he has a fiancée waiting in the present day. Therefore, one of the conflicts Ewen and Marjory face is his not wanting to betray his fiancée. (Not that his conscience stops him, if you know what I mean, although he feels the burn of guilt afterwards.) Well, once he gets back to his present time, he realizes that this fiancée is a cheating slut so hey-ho, it's back to Marjory he goes! [spoiler ends] I mean, come on! What happened to putting some effort in creating realistic resolutions instead of resorting to lazy clichés?
If Wild Highland Rose is more thoughtfully plotted out and better written, I may be grievously insulted by the cop-out ending. But given the way this book turns out, the utterly unsatisfying resolution is just another one of the many reasons why this book is a very average and lackluster romance novel.
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