Much Ado in the Moonlight
Don’t you just love it when a big, braw, kilt-wearing, Medieval laird is knocked for a loop and completely flummoxed by a small, feisty redhead? I know I do. But when the laird in question has been dead for 700 years, romance becomes a very complicated proposition.
Victoria McKinnon, who produces and directs a small New York City theater troupe, is using her brother’s ruin of a castle on the Scottish border to produce her next play. She is thrilled, believing it to be very atmospheric and the perfect place in which to perform Hamlet. However, she should have taken closer notice of her brother’s smirk, for when she arrives at Thorpewold Castle, she finds that it is haunted.
Victoria and her cast are living at the Boar’s Head Inn, along with three ghosts to whom she is distantly related – they are members of the famous time-traveling McKinnon, MacLeod, and DePiaget families from numerous other Lynn Kurland novels. These ghosts have chosen to spend their eternity in matchmaking. They matched up two of Victoria’s siblings in the previous book in this series, My Heart Stood Still, and now have their collective eyes set on matching Victoria and Connor.
However, Connor MacDougal is yet another ghost, a Medieval Scottish laird who resides in the castle along with his band of men who are happy carrying on and scaring the occasional tourist. Victoria takes the news and appearance of the ghosts very well, and decides that she might not even mind a little matchmaking help in hooking up with her Hamlet, the dishy Michael, whose high maintenance delusions of grandeur are getting out of hand. But, those ghosts up at the castle are not as benign and genial as her relations. She eventually makes a deal with Connor: she will entertain him with a whole month of her screams if he will leave her actors alone for the month they will be there. Being a connoisseur of screams – and Victoria can produce some blood-curdling specimens – Connor agrees. Besides, there’s something about the pushy woman that he likes.
When Victoria’s grandmother, a last minute costume mistress replacement, steps into a fairy ring and disappears, practically the entire family – past and present – descends upon the scene to work out a rescue.
There was much to like about Much Ado in the Moonlight. I loved Connor’s character, full of bluster and bombast, and his journey to love is very sweet and fun, and then melancholy as he knows full well the hopelessness of it all. Victoria is also fun, a great, smart, modern woman, used to being in charge and who is quite capable of standing up to Connor as no one else can. She takes longer to fall in love, but when she does, she is ready to take great risks in order to have a life with Connor. But, after the risk had been taken and she then suffers a setback, she turned passively fatalistic and all too willing to give up. This just didn’t jibe with the forthright, go-to character Kurland had taken pains to establish and was frustrating to read.
Also frustrating was how long it took to get into the book. This is an obvious sequel and I had some trouble keeping things straight. Perhaps if I had read the previous book, it wouldn’t have taken be so long to get settled into the setting, but I was lost for about 75 pages and wanted to have explained to me just who these people and ghosts were and what happened in the previous book. And, as My Heart Stood Still was written in 2001, I would wager that even those who had read it could have used a bit of a refresher.
The time travel episodes didn’t quite mesh either. One was essential to the plot, though it only comprised two chapters of the book. But another one to Elizabethan London, which lasted for three chapters, could have been left out entirely as it didn’t have any real bearing on the story. And, the story in general is very episodic. There are four distinct sections to the book and the novel could have ended after any one of them, and, as it stands at close to 500 pages, probably should have. The last section in particular dragged on and on.
While there were problems with the book, I found Connor and Victoria so engaging that I almost gave this a grade of B-. But, in the end, while I laughed at the ghosts, appreciated Victoria’s cynicism, Connor’s bluster, and the melancholy, bittersweet aspect of their love story, there was too much wheel-spinning and disjointedness to do so. However, if there is such a thing as a “very high C+,” Much Ago in the Moonlight deserves it, and I expect that many Kurland fans will be happy with it.