The Highlander's Sin
I am the first to admit that medieval Highlander romances aren’t my normal cup of tea. Like books with the word “pirate” in the title, the sight of the “H” word, coupled with the de rigeur naked, brawny, headless torso with a hint of a plaid somewhere about on a book cover is usually guaranteed to get me rolling my eyes and looking elsewhere for something to read.
But my dislike of Highlander stories simply because of the covers is irrational, so I thought I’d pick one up from AAR’s list of books available for review to see if I could either a) discard my irrational antipathy or b) find the reasons I don’t read this particular sub-genre.
Unfortunately, The Highlander’s Sin sent me along path B.
I’m generalizing, I know, but it seems that almost every synopsis I’ve ever read for such a story includes the following:
- Handsome warrior hero and feisty (often flame-haired) heroine who is frequently TSTL
- H/h hail from opposing clans
- H/h hate each other’s guts while lusting after each other
- H/h fall in love but have to keep it a secret or they’ll start a war
- H/h effect reconciliation of the clans, get married, The End.
The thing is, that’s pretty much the plot of The Highlander’s Sin.
Duncan MacKay is a kind of warrior priest (although not really, as he hasn’t taken his final vows). He was raised by a religious order when his family was wiped out by the Sutherland clan, and he holds himself responsible for the attack.
For the past decade or more, he has made a living as a mercenary, and when he is offered money to kidnap Lady Heather Sutherland and deliver her into the hands of the somewhat deranged Lady Ross, he naturally jumps at the chance to strike a blow against his most hated enemy.
He finds Lady Heather at her prayers one day and calmly announces his attention to make off with her. She isn’t as worried about this as he thinks she should be – because she was actually on the point of running away from her family in any case. Fed up with being left out of the fighting because she’s a girl, and disappointed that her hero, William Wallace, seems to have wimped out in his fight against the English, she’s decided to find him and then give him a stern talking to about his attitude. Thus will the great Scottish warrior and scourge of the English be motivated to fight again, and all because he gets a tongue-lashing from a girl barely out of her teens.
Heather reckons she might as well go along with this mysterious –and darkly handsome – priestly figure. It’s one way of ensuring she gets away from her home with the minimum of fuss and she can find a way to escape him once they’re underway.
They’re barely off her family’s land when the mental lusting starts.
And. It. Doesn’t. Stop.
When we write reviews, we do our best to avoid plot spoilers by not writing about specific details beyond a certain point in the book, but with this one, I can avoid plot spoilers because there isn’t actually much plot to speak of.
- Duncan and Heather trade barbs while thinking about kissing each other.
- They trade barbs and then kiss each other.
- They trade barbs and think about having sex with each other.
- They escape capture, insult each other, trade barbs and have sex lying on a blanket on the floor of a cave. I can only feel concerned for the state of Duncan’s knees.
- They escape capture again, make accusations, trade barbs and have sex with each other while on a horse. I can only feel concerned for the state of the horse.
But surely, I thought, with a matter of a chapter or three left to go – there will be an exciting conclusion to all this. Heather’s brothers will turn up, the demented Lady Ross will turn up, MacKay and Sutherland will join forces to defeat a common foe…
Let’s just say I was somewhat over optimistic and that the phrase “anti-climactic” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
The writing was okay, I suppose, but there were several glaring anachronisms, such as when the heroine suggested she was “the most selfish woman on the planet”. Would they really have said this in the 13th century? The sex scenes felt endless in the worst possible way (i.e, I got bored and skipped through them) and when I finished the book I felt as though I’d read a book that was 80% lusting, snogging and shagging and 20% “other stuff that happened” (that wasn’t fully explored or explained).
The Highlander’s Sin hasn’t made me want to seek out any more medieval Highlander romances. In fact, it’s made me want to run, screaming, from that section of the market for quite a long time.
I’m sorry, Mr. brawny, bare-chested Highlander, but I don’t think I’ll be visiting you again in the immediate future.