Have you heard the one about the modern day couple haunted by their doomed love in an earlier life? Well, Heather Graham thinks you’re ready to hear it again – mixed in with a some serial killer stuff, of course, just to make sure all those “romantic suspense” bases are covered.
Frankly, there’s absolutely nothing even remotely unique to be found in the 424 pages of this rehash of old plots and themes. And, to be honest, my primary enjoyment came from following the amazing appearances and disappearances of the hero’s Scots dialect. Most of the time Laird Bruce MacNiall could be from Toledo or Boise, but every tenth page or so, the author will drop a “g,” add a “nae,” an “ach,” or a “lass” just to remind the reader that he’s a Scotsman, darn it!
Heroine Toni Fraser is plagued by that pesky nightmare problem – you know the ones where the heroine “sees” details of crimes? Anyway, uncomfortable with her “gift,” Toni and four friends – a gay couple and a straight couple just to get all those bases covered – find a Scottish castle over the Internet, arrange to rent it, and set up shop in the Highlands as a kind of live action tourist attraction. Things are going along swimmingly, until the castle’s long absent owner – that would be the Laird – shows up out of nowhere claiming he knows nothing of renting the property to Toni and her friends.
Well, who knew you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet? Clearly, not Toni or her “business-wise” partners. But, soon enough, despite a few crusty moments and demands that they immediately leave, the he’s-really-a-nice-guy Bruce agrees to let the Americans stay for a while to recoup some of their initial investment while they all try to find out just who took ’em.
But lest you think that the Great Castle Swindle is the only thread running through the plot, there’s also the matter of the mysteriously missing women whose bodies were found in the nearby forrest. And the fact that Toni knows more than she should about the original Laird and his wife and that she suddenly starts to see the apparition of the original Bruce MacNial. Throw in a few red herrings and the sparks that all too predictably fly between the fiery American and the imposing Scot – both haunted by echoes from a past life – and you’ve got the gist of what goes on here.
Heroine Toni displays on more than one occasion behavior that definitely falls into the TSTL range. Now I ask you, if you were told to stay out of the woods because dead women were found there (sounds like a good enough reason to me!) would you follow a distant man who beckons you to follow him into the dark depths of said woods? I thought not. Now, Toni, thinks it’s Bruce – a man she doesn’t completely trust – but you and I know it’s really Ghost Bruce, but since when do people beckon you anywhere, most especially into woods you know are dangerous? Sheesh.
Hero Bruce is a big, imposing, powerful Scot whose reasons for staying clear of the castle for so long and allowing it to fall into near ruin never made a lot of sense to me. These days, with cell phones and email, nobody is ever completely out of touch – unless you’re living in a tent in the wilderness somewhere, which our hero wasn’t – so just how the whole Castle Scam could have been realistically set up remains inexplicable to me. But, you know, I’m not above getting down and dirty and looking past some shaky plot doings where there’s something – anything! – original or interesting to catch my attention. But, nope, it just doesn’t happen.
Ms. Graham’s prose is readable, which is enough for me to keep it out of the F range, but that’s about the only positive I can find here. And though I’ve somehow managed to spin this out long enough to put together a review with the appropriate number of paragraphs, the words that most effectively sum up this book for me are pretty simple ones: Been there, done that. But, then again, there are perverse pleasures to be had from smugly following both the Laird’s dialect foibles and that “headstrong” heroine into some amazingly dumb places, small pleasures to be sure, but pleasures nevertheless.
As all readers know, it’s a wonderful feeling when you come across a book with an intriguing plot, great characters, and an original premise – a book with a presence, if you will. Sadly, despite it’s painfully ironic title, this one doesn’t even come close.