When I picked up Highland Fling, I didn’t think I had read any of Jennifer LaBrecque’s previous Blazes. That seemed strange since she wrote one of the books in the terminally dull “24 Hours” promotion that I tried following last year. Sure enough, a quick review of the plot of that book, Daring in the Dark, reminded me that I actually had read it, been bored by it, then forgotten all about it. At the very least, this breezy tale is more entertaining and never dull, but it’s also a little too shallow to be any more memorable than the earlier book.
Dr. Kate Wexford knows a great deal about medicine, but very little about romance. The closest thing she has to a love life comes from visiting the Sex Through the Ages exhibit at a local museum. When the exhibit arrived in town, she became fascinated by a painting of a rugged Scotsman with a naked woman in his bed, so much so that she has returned to view it time and again. With the traveling exhibit now set to move on, Kate pays one last visit to the museum. She meets the exhibit’s caretaker, who tells her the man in the painting is Darach MacTavish, a Scottish laird who died in battle in 1745. Before she can begin to process this information, the caretaker shoves her right into the painting – and into the past.
Suddenly it’s 1744, and she’s the naked woman in Darach MacTavish’s bed as seen in the portrait. The man himself stands before her wanting to know what she’s doing there. She doesn’t have any answers for him, but she may be the key to saving him and his people from their dire fate one year in their future.
I’ve read several dozen new series romances in the last few months, and this is actually the first I’ve been tempted to recommend. The second book in Blaze’s Perfect Timing miniseries, it’s a light confection told with zippy dialogue, entertaining scenes, and some good romantic moments. LaBrecque throws a creative spin on the time-travel storyline, which unfolds a little differently than usual, with some unexpected twists and turns along the way. Her storytelling is smooth, and this tale goes down easily.
While I had a reasonable time reading the book, I couldn’t escape the feeling it could be better. It’s mostly fun, but in a very shallow way. The characters are sympathetic and likable, with poignant back stories that lead to some emotional moments, but on the whole they lack depth. This was especially true for Darach. Other than the specific details of his past, he just seemed like a generic Scottish laird, and there were a few moments that didn’t ring entirely true. The setting is sketched in with broad strokes and isn’t all that detailed, giving some sense of place but not immersing the reader in it.
Several aspects of the story seemed underdeveloped or simply unexplored. Then, late in the book, the characters make a decision about their relationship that left me scratching my head. They didn’t seem to consider the implications of this choice at all, because the author doesn’t waste much time on introspection and they don’t discuss what it means, just blindly proceeding once they’ve made the choice. There’s a brief mention of Kate deciding that “for now, she would live in the moment,” but I really wanted some sense that they’d given any thought to what this meant. There is none. This isn’t the kind of book where deep thought, or any at all, comes into play. However, the story does build to a suitably romantic climax, and a satisfying epilogue ends the story on a nice note.
After I finished the book, I put off writing the review for a few weeks, uncertain whether a B- or C+ was the right grade. Then I had to skim it again just to remember much of it, which pretty much told me all I needed to know. Told with good energy and little depth, Highland Fling may be generally fun, but it’s also a forgettable read.