Beyond the Highland Mist
Beyond the Highland Mist could have been a good read, but instead is mired by too many torturous episodes, plot devices used by other authors in better books, and is also filled with enough purple prose to color the evening sky to indigo. All in all, instead of a delicately brewed cup of tea, debuting author Karen Marie Moning serves up a overly-strong stew made up of every item in her writer’s pantry.
The Queen of Fairy has gotten a bee in her bonnet about Sidheach James Lyon Douglas, third Earl of Dalkeith, and her evil jester is ready to exact revenge on her behalf. How better to destroy the Hawk, who is known throughout the land as “the King’s whore” (he is such a good lover that women petition the King to order Hawk to bed them), than to compel him to fall in love with a woman who refuses to love again, especially a handsome man like the Hawk?
Our evil jester discovers Adrienne de Simone some 500 years in the future, after her life has been ruined by the handsome Eberhart Darrow Garrett, the man she had planned to marry. Eberhart was using her to smuggle, and when she found out the truth and tried to leave him, things turned nasty. Now he’s dead and she’s wanted. The jester hears Adrienne swear off love, decides she’s the perfect woman to carry out his Queen’s revenge, and takes her back in time to become the Hawk’s betrothed.
Adrienne’s confusion over having travelled in time, her instant attraction to and therefore suspicion and loathing of the Hawk, and his fate to love her set Beyond the Highland Mist up to be a good read. Initially, the conflict, the humor, and the setting all seem to work. What’s not to love about a medieval set in the Highlands of Scotland, especially when mysticism and gypsies are added to the mix?
Unfortunately, by the time I was finished, all that was good paled in comparison to the over-wrought and melodramatic writing. I haven’t read a passage where the hero’s manhood is compared to that of a stallion in many a year, and in this book I read it three times. Then there was the lengthy episode in which Hawk attempts to tame Adrienne as one would a wild falcon. While handled sensually and with a fair amount of poignance, I recalled a similar plot-device in Elizabeth Lowell’s Untamed. And, even though Moning wrote this section well, Adrienne’s “understanding” why Hawk “seels” her (puts a hood over her head) seemed unacceptable to this modern woman.
More than these individual problems, however, was the overall “kitchen sink” aspect to the book. It seemed as though the author decided that if a bit of torture for Adrienne and Hawk worked, then a lot of torture would work even better. For instance, Adrienne initially believes a chess piece she was holding when transferred back in time is the conduit for her time travel. Though Hawk isn’t sure whether she’s crazy or truly a time traveller, he burns the piece so she can’t leave him. Nice, huh? Later, the evil jester, in the guise of a local smithy named Adam, turns the screws every chance he gets to make the Hawk jealous, which puts both characters through even tougher times. And when Hawk’s friend Grimm decides Adrienne isn’t worthy of Hawk’s feelings, he foments a Big Misunderstanding that made me want to pitch the book in the trash heap. I wanted to scream at the author, “Enough is enough already – Hawk and Adrienne have been through enough misery in their lives that you need to leave them alone!”
Eventually, of course, these two are destined to be together, and the characters who help Hawk in his quest for happiness, including his friend Grimm, a wise gypsy, his mother, and her majordomo, as well as the quest itself, makes for good reading. It’s difficult to recommend a book, however, based on the last few chapters, and, alas, I cannot.