A Highlander of Her Own
I really learned something from this book. If I ever acquire a strange fae-mark in the shape of a rose, signifying that any wish I vocalize will come true, and I then have an urge to wish for “a Highlander of my own,” I am going to be more specific. Rather than vaguely wishing for any old Highlander, I am going to wish for a handsome, intelligent Highlander rather than a rent-a-hero. A Highlander I can tolerate for five seconds. I can thank Ellie Denton, heroine of A Highlander of Her Own, for teaching me this important lesson.
Prince Pol of he fae, seeing the error of his ways, restores fae powers on all his descendants – most of whom had no idea that they had fairy blood. Ellie Denton is one of them. Living in present day Texas, she’s blissfully unaware of her fairy blood until her mother’s death, when she suddenly develops a rose-shaped mark near her breast and a new ability to talk to animals. Unfortunately, her problems don’t end there. Her horrible step-father, Ray, claims that the family ranch belongs to him (though he generously tells her she can stick around if she sleeps with him). He’s related to powerful people, and she has no money to fight him. She doesn’t even know how she can continue to pay for veterinary school. She temporarily trades her problems for a new set when she makes an idle wish for “a Highlander of her own.” Suddenly she is whisked back to 14th Century Scotland, straight into the arms of Caden MacAlister.
Ellie stops Caden from killing a “mad dog” who actually just has a thorn in her foot, and then is thrown into Caden’s world of family intrigue. Usually, books like this need to spend some time acclimating the hero or heroine to the idea of time travel, but Caden is already familiar with the phenomenon from earlier books in the series, and Ellie accepts her fate fairly quickly. She forms a vague goal to get back to her own time and wrest the ranch from Ray’s control, but in the meantime she wanders around Caden’s castle, getting in the way and violating cultural norms. Caden is in the middle of a fairly large family predicament: his uncle and brother are both being held for ransom, and there is considerable worry about whether they will be returned to the family safe and whole.
Caden is immediately attracted to Ellie, but he knows the marriage is not for him. He is actually the heir of his uncle Blaine, and he wants to be just like him (single, devoted to his castle and its people, etc.). He also had a bad experience in the past with a woman who was supposed to be his wife but didn’t want to marry into his family because of their paganish ties to the fae. So he has determined that all women are the same and he should never marry, a mantra he repeats ad nauseum throughout the book.
That’s more or less it for the plot. The problems I had with the book were legion. It started with the names, which were simply ridiculous. Granted, not everyone is a stickler for historical accuracy, but is it asking to much to choose some names that someone in 14th Century Scotland might actually have had, rather than raiding your local preschool’s class list for the likes of “Caden” and “Austyn”?
Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To be fair, Ellie really isn’t that bad. Her conversations with animals are kind of silly (I’m not sure if there’s a reason that dogs eliminate certain articles of speech when they talk, not unlike Tonto of The Lone Ranger fame, but whatever). But at least Ellie appears to have some modicum of intelligence and reasons for her goals in life. And when she wants Caden, she goes right after him.
But there’s no way around it; Caden is a complete idiot. As I was reading the book, I thought how unfair and sexist it was that we seem to reserve the term “TSTL” for heroines, because it suits Caden right down to the ground. At first, it was just his stubborn “women are all the same and I can’t marry one of them” mantra that got on my nerves. Since he repeats it throughout the book, reminding himself over and over, it gets annoying fast. After a while I began to entertain myself by picturing different period-appropriate things to throw at him every time he expressed these feelings: Swords, trenchers, large books, pewter mugs. This added an element of variety and even intellectual challenge to my reading. Caden later decides that Ellie is destined for one of his brothers, a view he stubbornly maintains to the bitter end, even after he’s slept with her. Nothing says romance like a man who sleeps with you, and then decides that fate has decreed you will be his sister-in-law (so he’d better not put up much of a fight).
In Caden’s defense, he is clearly descended from a long line of Neanderthals, as evidenced by the way they handle the ransom proceedings. His brother is kidnapped initially, then his uncle comes to save the brother, bringing the ransom money with him, and he gets kidnapped, which leads to demands of more ransom money. Caden obligingly heads off alone with more money. Personally, I thought the kidnapping laird had a really good gig going; if people kept wandering into my keep with bags of gold and no plan to speak of, I’d consider the ransom business too.
On the whole, I really can’t see how anyone would find this book either romantic or interesting. Caden MacAlister just isn’t the stuff of fantasy, and highlanders are not interchangeable. If I ever get the opportunity to wish for a “Highlander of my own,” I’m putting in a specific request for Jamie Fraser.