My Wicked Highlander
by Jen Holling, historical (2005)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-7106-7


My Wicked Highlander is Jen Holling's first book in her new series for Pocket, The MacDonell Brides. While I have a great time reading a story featuring an intelligent heroine and a likable tortured hero, I have a hard time remembering this story when I'm done with it. Maybe it's just me, but this story, while carefully coming together very well with likable characters to root for, also lack any stand-out qualities that stick to my mind.

The series revolve around three sisters of a Scottish witch who were separated after their mother was burned at the stake. Alan MacDonell, fearing for the safety of his daughters when sixteenth century Scotland is gripped by hysteria that culminated in frenzied witch-hunts and burnings, sends them into hiding. Alan has arranged for his eldest daughter, Isobel, to marry Nicholas Lyon, the Earl of Kincreag. He has Sir Philip Kilpatrick to fetch Isobel from the adopted family Alan sent her to twelve years ago for her upcoming nuptial. Needless to say, Philip and Isobel will be attracted to each other. Of course, their story's ending is far happier than the ending to the story of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere.

Isobel's power is a mixed of psychomancy (she can sense visions related to objects that she touches) and an ability to divine things from the dreams she has. Philip is skeptical of the fact that Isobel may be even remotely gifted in witchcraft but he becomes a believer when Isobel correctly solves a murder that takes place in a village that they stop by on their journey home. This leads Philip to ask Isobel to help him look for his long-lost sister. Meanwhile, Isobel suspects that something is not right at the home that she left twelve years ago but no one, not even Philip, will tell her what is going on.

Philip is a good friend of Alan MacDonell and a part of me finds it rather iffy that he is falling for his friend's daughter. Never mind, this is, after all, a historical story and they do things differently back then. It is easy to root for Philip because he is a noble man with a sympathetic past about his missing sister that makes him an even more attractive hero with issues. Isobel is intelligent and if she is naive at times, hey, she has been trying to hide her powers for a long time so it's understandable that her fears may lead her to live a somewhat sheltered existence. The relationship between those two is well-done and credible and the conflicts between them (her future marriage to the Earl of Kincreag is an understandable cause for concern). A plus is how Isobel isn't some overly-impulsive "I must heal bunnies! And sick kiddies! Bunnies! Must heal bunnies! GIVE ME BUNNIES!" girl-child nitwit running up and down and getting herself into trouble.

However, at the same time Philip and Isobel don't actually stand out and grab my imagination in any way. They are intelligent and likable people, but at the same time I don't find them too compelling. They are the nice people that live down the street that I would nod pleasantly and exchange a few moments of how-d'ya-do's with when I come across them but that's it. Kinda like Ned Flanders and his wife from The Simpsons, come to think of it - nice people, those two, but someone has to remind me to invite them to my Christmas party because I usually don't remember that they are living down the street! Isobel and Philip are nice characters to root for but they are also pretty bland to me. Maybe it's just me. I think Jen Holling is a good author but there's a detached qualify in the prose here that distances me from her characters. Of course, the generic title won't help me much when I try to remember that Jen Holling book that I've just read that I liked... um, what's the name of it again?

At the end of the day, My Wicked Highlander is a book I enjoyed reading. It is unfortunate that soon after I put it aside, I have only a vague recollection of why I like the story.

Rating: 82


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