The Highlander's Touch
by Karen Marie Moning, historical/time-travel (2000)
Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-23652-5


Karen Marie Moning is an author who seems to be getting better with each book. She won't win many fans among those who demand their romances historically accurate and free from anachronisms, but me, I find The Highlander's Touch jolly entertaining. This is the author's best book so far when it comes to characters and plotting. And the sexual tension is pretty well done too.

Lisa - hey, now I realize I am never really told her last name (or it's hidden in the book somewhere) - anyway, Lisa is a 21th century lady who has quite a few problems. She is slowly getting burned out from taking care of her dying mother, and the caregiving is draining the family's financial resources. Overworked (waitress by day, museum cleaner by night), underpaid, overpressure-cooked, Lisa is the perfect candidate for a time travel vacation back to 1300s Scotland.

When she messes with an ancient wooden chest in the museum, oopsie. Back to Scotland she goes, 700 years in the past.

What happens is that the chest actually holds a Very Important Mythical Relic of the faerie folks of Scotland, and laird Circenn Brodie, who is more faerie than he would have liked, has placed a spell on the chest. Should it go missing, the thief and the chest would magically be teleported right back to the Brodie stronghold, where Circenn and his giant meat cleaver would then make diced meat out of the thieving scumbag.

And this is what happens when poor Lisa touches the chest. Bye bye modern world, hello naked Scots sex god.

Circenn made a vow to the faeries that he would slay the scumbag who reappears with the chest. He couldn't slay a woman, could he? How Circenn deals with Lisa is the main focus of the story, although there's some rogue warrior to cause trouble and a rushed handfasting somewhere in here too.

It doesn't sound like much of a story to fill around 350 pages; in fact, I half expect the story to lose steam and degenerate into a monotonous, repetitious cycle halfway through. Fortunately, that doesn't happen. I have fun instead, because Lisa is a pretty intelligent lady. She may have received some hard knocks in life, but she doesn't use that as an excuse to whine or indulge in sad pity parties. She wants to go home as her mother is dying, and she will not let Circenn stop her - but gosh, is that big thing real?

Circenn is a pretty nice fellow too. He starts out a bit grumpy, but boy, he's a rather hot fellow. The constant reference to his virility, this time around, only makes me wish this book comes with illustrations. How big? How huge? I want to see, dang it.

But most fascinating, I admit, is the antihero, quasi-villain faerie Adam Black. I don't know what to make of him - he's mean at one time, then he oozes charm at another. If he is the sole interesting figure in the author's debut Beyond The Highland Mist, here he practically demands his own story, as he displays unexpected human vulnerabilities towards the end of The Highlander's Touch. Maybe one day, Adam.

If one choose to read this book as a historical, chances are this book will get thrown across the room. Let's just say purists would probably die when Circenn refers to Lisa's hymen as a membrane. But me, I choose to see this book as a modern rock-operatic romance-and-leather sort of fantasy adventure, something like The Highlander movie where supposedly-medieval warlords slash each other over a rock tune sung by Queen. Bombastic, loud, colorful, and all-out entertaining, that's The Highlander's Touch.

Rating: 88


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