Lana and the Laird
Lana and the Laird is a book that isn’t quite sure of its identity. On the one hand it’s a historical dealing with Highland politics and the cultural differences between Scots and the English. On the other it’s a light paranormal with ghosts and family curses. This genre confusion weakens an already meager story of acceptance and love overcoming long held fears.
Lana Dounreay can see dead people. After a near drowning in her youth she has had the ability to see and hear the spirits of the dead who can’t or won’t pass on. For Lana these spirits are like friendly companions who come and go from her life. As she’s gotten older Lana has also experienced vivid dreams of a Scottish Highlander who may be her soulmate. Unfortunately none of the men in her small village have ever measured up to her dream man until the day Lachlan Sinclair, the Duke of Caithness, arrives at her brother-in-law’s home. Lana recognizes the connection she and Lachlan have subconsciously but his appearance and demeanor in person are nothing like the warrior she expected. Something painful has taken hold of his soul and Lana knows she’s the only one who can bring him peace.
Lachlan has returned to Scotland and his holdings after years of living in England. The Highlands are unfamiliar to Lachlan but he has been instructed by the ghost of his father to rebuild the family’s estates before the Sinclair curse kills him on his thirtieth birthday. Without the immediate funds to pay for the restoration Lachlan instructs his barons to order Clearances of the tenants so that the land can be used as sheep pasture. While lucrative in the short term, the barons know the clearances will devastate the area and refuse Lachlan’s edict. Angered by the defiance Lachlan travels to the home of the supposed leader of the dissent, Laird Dunnet and intends to enforce his will or strip the laird of his title. His arrival is met with suspicion and distrust by everyone except for Lana, a woman who embodies the beautiful vision Lachlan has seen before in his dreams.
The attempt to fold paranormal elements into the story is a little jarring when the book’s description makes no mention of Lana’s abilities or Lachlan’s ghost sightings. It also feels half-hearted, like the author needed to include the ghosts to make the plotline work yet she wasn’t 100% on board with writing a paranormal story. Lana’s character fully embraces her ability to see and hear the spirits around her but she’s almost too blasé about how special that makes her. In fact everyone within Lana’s sphere is too calm about having a member of the family with a connection to the afterlife. I would think that her two new brothers-in-law, one of whom is written like the typical alpha-Highlander, should be a little wary of someone who sits and has conversations with ghosts. For the time period in which Lana lives, there would be much more persecution of a woman like her, yet in the story there’s only one brief conversation between villagers that mentions she’s seen as strange.
The story arc for Lachlan is the more interesting of the two. He’s Scottish in name only since he was raised in London and his speech, dress and manners all portray him as English. This makes him something of a fish out of water when he comes back to his lands to make his father’s ghost happy. Lana makes it her mission to educate Lachlan in how to be a Scot, sometimes with amusing results, so he’ll understand how devastating the Clearances would be. There’s an important transition for Lachlan when he starts wearing the Sinclair plaid, meets the tenants he meant to displace and understands the connection a Laird should have with his lands. The more in tune Lachlan becomes with his ancestry, the better he understands what he really should focus on, not just the ticking clock of his curse. This leads him to embrace the affection he holds for Lana and it opens up the romantic side of their relationship. Unfortunately that move happens just a little too late for their romance to have any weight to it.
From the paranormal to the predictable, Lana and the Laird is a quick and lighthearted read but it’s nothing that will stick with a reader once finished. Everything happens in the vaguest terms with very little drama or depth to draw someone into the story.