Sins Of The Highlander
by Connie Mason with Mia Marlowe, historical (2012)
Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-6182-4


I am not going to speculate on what Mia Marlowe did to this book, but I can tell from the publicity material that the authors' editor Leah Hultenschmidt was instrumental in creating this collaboration between Ms Marlowe and Connie Mason. I say this because Sins Of The Highlander seems, to me, to show vastly improved narrative technique. Ms Mason's usual style typically comprises very simplistic and often stilted sentences and conversations. Here, however, there are actually some noticeable variations in sentence types and cadences. I'm not saying that the writing here will elevate the authors to the pantheon reserved for the likes of Laura Kinsale and Judith Ivory, mind you. It's just that, compared to Ms Mason's previous efforts, this one is... remarkable.

Unfortunately, the plot is still distinctly one by the author: a trite and played-out premise riddled with utter stupidity of the main characters and stereotypical secondary characters. Our hero Robin "Mad Rob" MacLaren is a sad laird who lost his wife to the murderous lusts of Lachlan Drummond. He decides to take revenge: tit for tat, so he'd kidnap and ravish Drummond's bride-to-be, Elspeth Stewart. So that is exactly what he does here, only, Elspeth amazing honeypot of love will give him a second chance at finding a happily ever after.

What's not to love about Elspeth? She's practically begging him to put it everywhere barely ten pages into her kidnapping because she just can't resist his angry kisses. Lust turns her into a love machine, and I suppose that's a convenient way to get the sexy mojo going in this story. She may cry and weep and rail at her capture, but all he has to do is to kiss her and she's all ready to go like a magical va-va-voom of love. Elspeth, like every stereotypical heroine of this kind, also has the Sight, although her gift is predictably useless at getting her out of trouble. Then again, this is a story where the heroine has to get into trouble to keep the romance going, ugh. The last few chapters of this book is basically Elspeth being hurled from one life-threatening crisis to another.

And, of course, Rob displays an amazing capacity of analytical thinking. He may feel guilty about what he's doing with Elspeth, but it's for revenge! It never seems to occur to him that she may not meet a happy ending if he goes ahead and deflower her in the name of revenge, because it's not like Drummond, whom Rob knows is a villain, or Elspeth's father will take her back with open arms. And he goes ahead and shag her anyway, because, I don't know, love will conquer everything, I guess, even rampant stupidity.

On the bright side, Rob is nowhere as viciously cruel as some of Ms Mason's heroes had been in the past. In fact, Rob practically spends five days a week saving Elspeth from one calamity after another. I wonder whether this is Ms Marlowe's mellowing influence, heh.

Sins Of The Highlander is nowhere good - or awful - to be memorable. It's just a silly story with dim-witted characters, clichéd plot, and a reliance on ridiculous plot developments and contrived sexual attraction to keep things going. Maybe Ms Marlowe needs to take a more active role in suppressing more of Ms Mason's usual bad habits when it comes to writing a romance story.

Rating: 51


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