Charming The Highlander
by Janet Chapman, time-travel (2003)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-5306-9

The problem with an author writing a fantasy fulfillment story that's very obviously a Mary Sue tale catering to fans of the alpha male (read: possessive, territorial, misogynistic) is she runs the risk of alienating any reader that doesn't share this fantasy. Instead of developing her hero, Ms Chapman hits me in the head as to how alpha males are the only real men around. Since the idea of marrying a alpha male whose sole ambition in life is to rebuild his clan - a job that will involving overusing my ovaries - is not my idea of romantic escapist fantasy I am left mostly very cold by this debut from Ms Chapman.

Grace Sutter, a rocket scientist (not that it matters as this story rarely places any emphasis or importance on her career), is charged by her late sister to return Mary's baby to the father Michael McBain, whom Mary fled from after Michael told her about how he is a time-traveler from the 12th century. Grace meets Greylan MacKeage on her flight to Pine Creek, Maine. The plane crashes, and Grace and Greylan have to find their way out of the wilderness. How lucky for Grace that Grey is one of the twelve men sent forward to the present time from their 12th century Highlands four years ago. He knows Michael. Grace can just hand over the baby, right, and get on with her life. But instead, put a baby in Grace's arms and she starts wailing that she wants this baby and she wants a family and oh, oh, oh! Grey, on his part, thinks that she's hot and with her good breeding ability and all, he can surely make his old clan be powerful again! (What is he going to do? Maybe he and his men can go loot DisneyWorld, I guess.)

For all her rocket scientist career and her purported brains, Grace is first and foremost straight out of a conservative pamphlet on women's (non-)rights - men are intimidated by her intelligence, so she has never had a halfway realistic social life despite her beauty. The joke here, one that Ms Chapman doesn't get, is that a smart woman will find her soulmate in a man like Grey, one that spends four years in present time without even knowing what a satellite is. An insulated, overly-possessive dude whom Ms Chapman, through Grace, insists is the way all men should be. How wonderful, Grace says, that men would always be men! No thanks. A man that values me more for my eggs than my brain, whose grand dream is for me to pop out brats to fulfill his dreams of Scottish eugenics - ugh.

With a stereotypical alpha male and a stereotypical neurotic "brainy beauty learns the value of baby and hearth" heroine, Charming The Highlander is like a throwback to the 1980s Harlequin Mills and Boon novels, only with slightly better writing. Grace is obviously the author's Mary Sue as the author's bio and dedication rave about how the men in her life can chop firewood and all that. But since I don't share her enthusiasm for mountain men with no sense of humor but too much male bluster, I'm not charmed at all by her highlander.

Rating: 69

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