Kiss of the Highlander
Grade : B

Set during a period that brings to mind impregnable castles, kilted warriors, and rugged mountains, Kiss of the Highlander is actually a cute love story with only a sprinkling of atmosphere. Karen Marie Moning’s latest work is the furthest thing from an impressive, cathartic epic. I almost feel guilty for enjoying it.

During a trip to Scotland, Gwen Cassidy, neurotic prodigy and 25-year-old virgin, accidentally falls into an underground cavern and finds herself straddling a man who appears to be asleep. For several moments she ogles the rippling pectorals, long black hair, and striking face. Somehow she breaks the 500-year-old Sleeping Beauty-style spell on Highland laird Drustan MacKeltar, bringing him to instant wakefulness and - to her mortified delight - instant desire.

Shortly after he realizes that he’s in the 21st century, Drustan enlists Gwen’s help in going back to the past to save his doomed clan. What’s refreshing about this book is that the time-travel element isn’t merely a prop to put a modern-thinking character in a dramatic historical setting. Moning actually accounts for the ramifications of fiddling with time, bringing the reader into entertaining literary terrain.

You see, Drustan, whose ancestors were Druids and whose family is considered the clan's "keepers of knowledge," commits a mistake in the Druid ritual he performs, plunging them into a period when his past self exists. Because “the fabric of the universe would not suffer two identical selves in a single moment,” his future self is cancelled out. He fades away before Gwen’s eyes, leaving her stranded in 1518. Thus Gwen realizes that she must seek out Drustan’s past self and convince him that his clan faces imminent dangers… and that oh, by the way, she is the woman he will fall in love with five centuries in the future.

Unfortunately, she finds the “past” Drustan disbelieving and determined to proceed with his betrothal to another woman. Kiss of the Highlander sags here a little a little because Gwen spends more time seducing him than actually “saving” his clan.

The book is more of a sexual romp than the grand saga you’d probably expect of a Scottish time-travel, a sub-genre indelibly exemplified by Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander (a classic work against which all Scottish time-travels are condemned to be measured). In Moning’s world, there are no sweeping journeys, no great wars, and no weepy reunions. But those suffering from Outlander withdrawal may find it a welcome change from Gabaldon’s exhaustive descriptions of the flora and fauna in Scotland, her characters’ often agonizing pasts, and the threat of immediate danger constantly looming over them. By contrast, Kiss of the Highlander has a comfortingly lighthearted tone and enough love scenes to satisfy those who can’t stand long separations between the hero and heroine.

Drustan and Gwen hit it off tremendously in the twenty-first century. Their encounter in the dressing room of a sporting goods store is one of the most eye-poppingly hot scenes outside of erotica, and that’s just a near-miss. But although their initial attraction is purely physical, they come to recognize many shared quirks: she’s a physics major who once discovered - and obliterated - a formula that could destroy the world; he descends from a Druid lineage tasked to guard ancient knowledge and protect the universe.

The book has its flaws. Gwen awakens Drustan a convenient three days away from the autumnal equinox, when a bridge to the fourth dimension is supposed to open. Hundreds of things could have gone wrong but didn’t, bringing about a ruthlessly contrived happy ending. Most glaringly, the hero hovers close to the stereotype that matches Moning’s description of him: “He looked as if he’d stepped straight off the cover of one of those romance novels she ordered from Amazon.com.” While there’s nothing wrong with a mythically gorgeous hero, you do expect something to distinguish him from those other semi-naked hunks with Fabio’s face.

Despite all this, though, I liked the brisk pacing, the mind-boggling references to time-travel theory, and Gwen’s spunkiness. If you’re in the mood for a lighthearted book whose ingenious plot and contemporary humor offsets a handful of flaws, you’ll probably gobble up Kiss of the Highlander in one sitting. I know I did.

Grade : B

Sensuality: Hot

Review Date : August 20, 2001

Publication Date: 2001

Recent Comments …

  1. Having that problem too – just now, hugely enjoyed Spite House by Olivia Dade, m/f CR done wonderfully. Strong rec.

  2. I really didn’t think you were criticising anyone, so we’re good! There was a discussion on AAR some time ago…

  3. But, queer romance are as real to me as non-queer, so I still don’t understand your thinking. I still want…

Noelle Leslie de la Cruz

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