Claiming The Highlander
by Kinley MacGregor, historical (2002)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81789-6


I've never seen an author shoot herself in both her knees so fast the way Kinley MacGregor did with Claiming The Highlander. Yes, I know it's supposed to be funny, and probably it's just me in this whole wide world, but I find this book creepy and even rather insulting at places. It's a combination of timing, my mood, my prejudices, and external events that take place in my life, so if you're one of those readers who will rail at me for letting my prejudices cloud a book review (no, I don't know what that means either!), stop reading now.

This is a story about the battle of sexes. The women of Clans MacAllister and McDougall are in revolt. They cloister themselves at a church (must be a very big church) and refuse to cook, clean, and give out until the men of the two clans make peace. The ringleader is the feitsy Maggie ingen Blar, a supposedly plain big-breasted Aphrodite who is only plain in the delusions of the reader's mind. The men are not happy, but never fear, foursome-conga king Braden MacAllister has a plan. He will seduce Maggie, and she will meekly call off the revolt.

Then in chapter three Kinley MacGregor happily unloads the whole clip onto her kneepads. Ouch. Instead of two strong-willed people fighting their attraction as they try to outwit each other, Maggie just has to be in love with Braden like, since forever, or maybe since she was twelve (is there a difference?). So now the author has effectively cut off Maggie's legs and deliberately tilted the power towards Braden. This story then becomes Maggie going all eek-eek ohmigodohmigod as she tries not to succumb.

Nitwit Central straight ahead. Oh God, please stop this train. I wanna get off now.

The women, alas, are just like Braden predicted. Put a handsome man in their midst and all their convictions melt like an ice cube in hell. Everyone starts to goad Maggie to sleep with Braden, people start matchmaking, and hello, what's that about convictions? Get lost, we wanna see people have sex! Shag, shag, shag!

There are also several comedy moments where violence is threatened on Maggie. Our hero Braden only pouts and blames the men's violent tendencies on Maggie. Nice. I'm sorry but this creeps me out no end. Don't tell me the hero is a nice man when he only stops the abuse of his men on their women only when the bruises start to show on the women. Don't even pass him off as a romantic figure just because he has charm and wit, because to me, this is no laughing matter.

The women here have a valid reason to revolt. War has taken away their sons and husbands, and they just want it all to end. Trust Kinley MacGregor to turn this premise into a dumbed-down sitcom of laughters at the heroine's expense. Will she get laid? Oh, look at Maggie bluster and flubber! Look at her getting poked! All that's missing is a circle of smirking boys cheering and taking photos of our hero scoring over the formerly untouchable "ice princess" from the bushes to complete this rather seedy premise.

Ahem, who says I have high school issues?

It's probably an extreme reaction of mine to this story, I will be the first to admit. But I can't help it. This book pushes all my buttons in the wrong way, as if women can't hold a convinction or even take a stand, and if they do, all it takes is a handsome man to make them forget where they are. I don't like it, much less find it funny. Yes, I recognize that this book is light-hearted and will probably find a wide audience, and people will say I'm misunderstanding this whole thing, but you know what?

I just don't like this book one bit. I tried, but no cigar. Sometimes I'm screwed that way. Hey, what can I say? I'm also the person who loathes The West Wing (preachy, pretentious tripe) among everyone else I know.

I'm looking forward to the next sinful (okay, bad pun) book though. Here's hoping - no, demanding - that there's no besotted-since-five dingbat girlies showing up to ruin that one too.

Rating: 66


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