Only With a Highlander
Secrets abound among the time-traveling druidhs of northern Maine in Janet Chapman’s latest – so many secrets in fact that it is difficult to write this review without giving some of them away. Those, along with the many twists and turns the story takes, provide some entertaining moments, as well as a growing sense of frustration from both confusing character development and complications arising from the series nature of the book.
Winter MacKeage is yet another talented artist heroine with her own successful gallery at the young age of 24. The seventh daughter of Laird Greylen MacKeage from Charming the Highlander, Winter is known for her whimsical paintings of animals in the wilderness. Aptly described as having a prickly independence, Winter is annoyingly protective of those she cares about. Unaware, Winter is destined to play a strong role in saving not only her modern clan but mankind in general.
Matt Gregor, as is emphasized repeatedly, is a large, Viking-type, gorgeous man who is too stunning for words and owns a successful jet manufacturing company. Matt has experienced his tremendous business success in fewer than three years and doesn’t speak of his life before that time. Two years ago, he purchased Bear Mountain near Winter’s family home with plans to eventually build his home upon it. Matt comes on strong in the opening scene with promises of a delectable, albeit aggressive, hero but…sigh…never quite lives up to this initial impression.
In that opening scene, Matt purchases two of Winter’s watercolors while visiting her art gallery. When he informs her of his ownership of Bear Mountain, Winter’s strong attraction to Matt battles with her concern for an artist who secretly lives in a rundown cabin on Matt’s mountainous property. Appreciating Winter’s artistic style, Matt asks her to assist him in choosing the best location and design for his future home. Winter hesitates as she wonders if it is wise to spend time alone with Matt exploring the mountain, and, as he insists upon her help, she sheds her worrisome nature for a few minutes and agrees with stipulations. She will help him, if, among other things, she can always have a third party with them while exploring the mountain – yes, a chaperone for a woman born late in the 20th century. Thus begins a series of forced scenarios in which old world customs and speech patterns are uncomfortably mixed into modern behavior. Despite the time-travel aspect surrounding the story, thoughts such as “he was such a noble gentleman” from the forward-thinking, non time-traveling, contemporary heroine were continuously jarring.
Winter has never even considered the possibility that she may be magically inclined and doesn’t welcome the news that she is. And Matt – there certainly seems to be more to his story as well. Surrounded by people who have experienced much more than mere magic in their lives, anything seems within the realm of possibility, yet the author is still able to deliver a satisfying surprise here and there.
Although Matt was not destined to be the alpha hero of my dreams, I found him rather endearing. His heartless nature, as seen through his thoughts, rarely reaches his actions. However, Winter’s behavior irritates more than entertains. The prickliness Matt adores in her made me want to tell her to grow up. Besides her incessant worrying over her sister, her parents, and the artist, she has a need to control. It is obvious that Matt possesses the wisdom that comes with age but it is Winter who leads the way. Her antics, which I am sure are meant to be funny, appear foolish and border on TSTL at times.
As is common with books far along in a series (this is fifth entry), there are many secondary characters and most held little interest for me. The beginning pages of Only With a Highlander unfold easily, but as the story progresses, the need for details from previous books becomes too great to continue reading with ease. Even though I read the first book in this series, I felt lost at times so this story does not perform well as a stand alone book.
Although Only With a Highlander has a promising beginning and some gratifying moments, it failed to deliver an above average reading experience. Its inconsistencies as well as the immature headstrong heroine were exasperating elements, but surprisingly, the ending, fueled by another one of those plot twists and turns, proves to be both touching and memorable.