Bewitching the Highlander
An unopened book is a promise of a pleasurable experience, especially when it features elements that usually appeal to me. Historical setting, check. Time travel, check. But then I opened this book and found a plot that quickly degenerated into a murky, muddled mess and mysterious plot details that remain that way for far too long. Such was my experience in reading Lois Greiman’s Bewitching the Highlander.
The setting is 1653 London. Keelan learns that his mother will soon stand trial at the Old Bailey courthouse. Held waiting in prison, she has grown thin and pale. Keelan has also discovered that his father died recently from some wounds. He hadn’t even know his father was in trouble and so wasn’t there when his father died. His mother urges Keelan to return to school. She also tells him to avoid Mr. Kirksted, his father’s first mate. However, Keelan insists on freeing her, and she tells him there is a way, but he needs to obey her and to follow her every instruction.
The setting jumps to 1819. Keelan seems to be wandering around some moors. Because of hunger he poaches a lamb from a flock, but is soon caught by some men who torture him. Under duress he confesses the theft. Lord Chetfield, their employer, also arrives, and tells his henchmen to kill Keelan. Using some type of preternatural gift, Keelan senses physical pain emanating from Chetfield and, desperate to save himself, bursts out that he can heal the nobleman. The astounded Chetfield tells Keelan to prove it by resurrecting the dead lamb. Amazingly, Keelan somehow brings the animal back to life. Chetfield is suspicious still, but he returns to his estate and has his men take Keelan with them. There they turn him over to a maidservant to have his wounds tended. In spite of his painful injuries, Keelan feels an attraction for the sweet and kind Charity.
Chetfield, however, doesn’t care for the rapport budding between his prisoner and his servant. Using his gift again, Keelan senses that Chetfield harbors lusts for Charity, but can’t take advantage of her due to some type of physical ailment. The nobleman seems menacing and evil and proves it when he later warns Keelan, in an ugly and cruel way, not to get any closer to Charity.
Keelan’s transport from 1653 to 1819 at the beginning of the book certainly intrigued me, but I was frustrated by the fact that the explanation for how it happened didn’t occur until halfway through the book. It didn’t seem necessary to keep that a mystery for so long, and, on top of it, the author’s clues to guess it beforehand were far too vague. It was the same with Keelan’s preternatural gift; I never could determine exactly what it was and only received an explanation much later in the story. In fact, most of the plot was quite murky and muddled.
In spite of the murky details, the story moved quickly and became exciting, if in a pedestrian way, when the protagonists found themselves in peril and went on the run. A few funny moments happened, mostly involving Keelan naked in front of people (and obviously embarrassed about it).
Keelan is searching for a treasure that somehow will save his family, and he is willing to do anything to get it, even to lie and steal. He has always believed himself a coward, yet when Lord Chetfield tries to force himself on Charity, Keelan musters up the courage to try to protect her even though he knows he risks a painful punishment for interfering.
At the beginning of the story, Charity just seems like a sweet and innocent servant in Lord Chetfield’s estate. However, as she shows herself later, she’s not the naïve young woman she appears. She’s clever and can use her wits quickly in a tight situation. Her backstory was quite a surprise.
Both Keelan and Charity are on personal missions that drive their every thought, but those missions don’t stop them from feeling attracted to each other. However, there just wasn’t really enough development for how the mutual attraction turned to love. It wasn’t convincing at all that they fell in love because they had a couple of lovemaking scenes.
A deus ex machina arising and conveniently saving the main characters only further ruined the initial promise the book had. For a quick, but brainless read, I’d sadly have to say that Bewitching the Highlander fit the bill.