by Karen Hawkins, historical (2008)
Pocket, $7.50, ISBN 978-1-4165-2505-9
To Catch A Highlander is, in a way, a pretty terrible book. The plot is all over the place, being often nothing more than clichés cobbled together nilly-willy. It's like... I don't know, a badly constructed house that looks fine on the surface and it is only once I move in and step on a stair that the whole thing collapses on me.
Bear with me as I talk about the plot. Sophia MacFarlane's father Robert or Red has gambled over their house in a foolish attempt to get some money to fix up the roof. Sophia is understandably appalled and decides that the only way she can solve the matter is by (a) making the house as appalling as possible and (b) persuade the new owner to play a game of cards with her so that she can win the house back from him. The first point doesn't make sense, since they are supposedly too poor to fix up the place and yet here they are, making the place look worse for wear. But it gets better: Red seems fine with the daughter using her feminine wiles to lure the new owner into a game of cards but he's not happy when the daughter in question may be playing naughty naked games with the new owner. Huh? And so on and on the story goes, often in turns that seem contradictory and even illogical. The elements in the plot are all familiar and therefore on the surface they seem to be "correctly used", but really, this is one story that works best when the reader isn't thinking too hard about what she is reading.
The hero in question is Dougal MacLean. He's one of those MacLeans that can cause meteorological disturbances when he's mad, but don't worry, the paranormal aspect of the hero has very little relevance to the story. He's a standard rake even as Sophia is the standard dim-witted heroine who thinks she is so much smarter than she actually is.
The author doesn't even seem to be trying when it comes to her writing. I really cringe when she has the heroine and a staff member telling each other things that they already know just so that the hero can eavesdrop on those two and learn all about their plans. This scene, like many others of similar nature in this story, gives the entire story a stupid slapstick feel.
The only reason this book just makes the grade is due to the combustible chemistry and sexual tension between Dougal and Sophia. They may not be the brightest bulbs in the house but they are a fun couple nonetheless as they tease and flirt all their way to the happy ending. If the author has put as much effort into the rest of the story as she had into her main characters' rapport and banter system, To Catch A Highlander could have become something more than a book shelf filler for the author's die-hard fans.
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