Highland Bride
by Janet Bieber, historical (1999)
Fawcett, $5.50, ISBN 0-449-00284-5

Technically there is nothing wrong with this book. The only problem is that, after closing the book, I can barely remember a thing about it. I guess it's either my memory's getting short-circuited or this book isn't interesting. Since I've also finished Married In Haste by Cathy Maxwell around the same week and can remember a lot about the latter book, I guess the fault must lie in the storyline.

Let me flick through the book again to refresh my memory. Ah yes. Madlin MacKendrick is a proud horseriding-at-full-speed-with-glorious-red-hair-billowing-in-the-wind tomboy who actually yearns to be a boy. For some reason she despises anything feminine with an intensity I find rather disturbing, but that's not important really. On her (and her twin brother's) 19th birthday, her father presented her brother with a beautiful broadsword but her a beautiful silk dress and expensive slippers. Instead of sensibly hiding her disappointment, that silly girl throws the gifts into the hearth. It's off to the convent for this hoyden until she got married.

Upon her father's death, she manages to get herself elected laird. Don't ask me how really, I'd like to know myself the reason why a clan of seasoned, chauvinistic, battle-hardened 15th century Scotsmen would want to let themselves be led by an inexperienced 20 year old woman/girl whom they haven't seen since she got exiled to a convent. I guess that's what we call creative license.

Hmm, I'm remembering things now. My memory's not that bad after all!

On with the story. Sir Ewan Fraser, son of the clan Fraser who is at feud with the MacKendricks, is sent back to the Highlands by James Stuart to find some way to negotiate peace between these two clans. His reward would be land and title. During his journey he got ambushed by the MacKendricks led by our beloved hoyden, during which the silly man says things that put the idea of marriage into Madlin's head. Cue for Scottish wedding march tune and we're now ready for the usual battle-of-the-two-independently-stubborn hero and heroine.

As I've mentioned, the writing is clean and pleasantly readable. Maybe it's just me, for I've read too many romances, but this story has an annoyingly heavy sense of deja vu. There's the usual little misunderstanding episodes, the annoyingly headstrong heroine who leaps into danger and is always three steps ahead of her caution, and the usual loyal clansmen who, no matter how obvious their laird and hubby are at each other's neck, always comment how lovely it is to see a couple so in love. Makes me wonder if they've been dipping into the wine cellar a bit too often.

Believe it or not, I'm not that fussy a reader. My only demand for a book is to entertain me or else. This book could have entertained me, maybe years ago when I started reading romances and aren't too familiar with the various formulas in the romance genre. As it is, this book just fails to make an impact, no matter how much I want it to.

What's the heroine's name again?

Rating: 50

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