Enchanted by the Highlander
Lecia Cornwall’s Highland Fairytales Series – about the enormous MacLeod clan – adds another volume with this story of star-crossed Scottish and English lovers in Enchanted by the Highlander.
Shy Gillian MacLeod longs for romance and adventure – something that she’s rather too timid to pursue. Used to submitting herself to the henpecking of her eleven older, married sisters and her father, Donal, Gillan feels unnoticed and relegated to the background. Her lack of confidence has resulted in repeated failures on the marriage market; returning home from another unsuccessful round in Edinburgh, Gillian lands at Carriag Brigh, her older sister’s holding and is taken aback by the sight of a handsome man in the crowd on the dock.
Owing to a past tragedy, Englishman John Erly has been financially and emotionally abandoned by his father, the Earl of Clive. John has made an independent if roguish life for himself in Scotland as captain of the guard at Carraig Brigh, in spite of the townspeople’s occasional anti-English prejudice.
Gillian’s sister Fia decides to throw a masked ball in the hope of finding Gillian a proper husband, and there Gillian and John share an anonymous flirtation that culminates in a scalding kiss. But neither John nor Gillian dare to further pursue the attraction and three months later, Gillian ends up engaged to Sir Douglass MacKinnon, a kind, middle-aged man with whom she shares no physical chemistry. Fia appoints John to guard Gillian on her trip to Edinburgh for the wedding – and along the way, a kidnapping and a rescue draw the couple closer together. With the wedding close at hand, Gillian must choose between doing what’s expected of her, or being bold enough to defy her father and proclaim John as her true love.
Enchanted by the Highlander is a prettily enough written story; Gillian and John are nice people with good intentions, and it’s easy enough to root for the two of them. But there’s one big problem with the story: it’s familiar. Achingly familiar.
Gillian is one of those heroines who’s shy and blushing and demure and yet thirsts wildly for adventure as she leans over the dangerous prows of ships. Eventually the plot shows us that she’s never been quiet or mousy at all; just coping with her overbearing family’s decisions and choices. She develops quite well during the course of the novel.
You’ve seen John before too; the disowned nobleman making a name for himself in a foreign country who is Not Good Enough For The Heroine because he’s done bad things/has been delegitimized. But John is more than Gillian’s match – he has genuinely transformed himself into a kind man, and is a talented harpist, a battle hardened warrior and a talented seducer of tavern wenches.
The story treads a well-trod path. John notices Gillian because she stands out among her flashy sisters due to her dullness but he sees her hidden beauty; Gillian falls for John because she sees him secretly aiding the less fortunate; they share a masked kiss and later make love after he’s revealed the tragedy behind his familial banishment. The author builds a decent relationship built between two caring people, which is certainly nice to read. There’s the requisite kidnapping, the interrupted wedding, and other clichéd plot elements and it’s only the last portion of the book – which involves importing some Robin Hood mythos and mixing it up with some Greek mythology – that fully grows the plot into something more interesting. At least we’re spared the old chestnut of neither knowing that the other is their hot masquerade crush; they both figure it out as soon as they’re back in each other’s orbit.
This feeling of sameness and routine isn’t helped in the telling, as Ms. Cornwall’s writing doesn’t redeem the plainness of the story; it’s good and grammatically sound, but the narrative voice is simple and not unique enough to make an impact.
Enchanting the Highlander isn’t a bad book; just a dull one that doesn’t emancipate itself from the stock situations and characters contained within it. Perhaps other readers will enjoy it more than I did.