To Tame A Highland Warrior
Sometimes on Saturday mornings I sit with my kids, and watch one of the live action shows, produced for children and teenagers, that breaks up the ususal schedule of cartoons. These dramas are heavy on the fantasy and have names like The Lost World. Some are time travels set in the dinosaur age, others are Hercules wannabes. The stories aren’t too bad but it’s hard to get past the papermache caves and the bombshell heroines dressed in skimpy, skin tight costumes. The actors are gorgeous but they talk like they come from Hollywood High, not the Planet Umba, or whatever exotic locale they are supposed to be portraying.
This was my reaction to Karen Marie Moning’s novel, To Tame a Highland Warrior. It’s not a bad story, but not for one minute did I believe that the characters in this book were living in sixteenth century Scotland. From the secondary character who is a nearsighted bookworm (most books at this time were in monasteries) to the heroine vowing “a lass has got to do what a lass has got to do,” I wasn’t buying it.
The book begins in 1499. Hero, Gavael McIllioch, discovers that he is one of the legendary “Berserkers.” This means that the sight of blood can transform him into a magically powerful warrier, one who is capable of amazing fierceness and strength in battle, but who is out of control. Gavael believes that his nature may cause him to harm a wife and so has vowed to remain without a mate.
The story then shifts to 1515. Gavael, now known as Grimm, is summoned by an old friend to come for his daughter, Jillian St. Claire. Gavael has loved Jillian since he was a child. He obeys the summons to ensure Jillian’s safety and discovers that he is one of three men called as a possible husband for her. All three of the potential husbands arrive when Jillian’s parents are away. Though Grimm loves Jillian, he is the only one who of them will not offer for her. Jillian does not understand. She has loved Grimm all of her life and knows that he is the only man for her. Most of the story revolves around this problem. Jillian pursues the mysterious and taciturn Grimm while the other two warriors try to win her.
As characters, Jillian and Grimm are adequate, though rather routine specimens. Grimm is bigger, stronger and more powerful than any – well you get the idea. Jillian is beautiful, brave, loyal and desperately in love with a man she does not understand. They were good enough and the chemistry between them was, at times, quite touching.
The story is often interesting when Jillian and Grimm get together. But when the love scenes start, the prose gets more than a little purple, sometimes laughably so. For example, during the first kiss the earth actually shakes. Remember when in For Whom The Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway kept saying the earth moved? Well listen to this:
The moment their lips met his body jerked violently. “D-did you feel that,” she asked, confusion darkening her eyes. Not possible, he assured himself. The earth does not shift on its axis when you kiss a lass. To convince himself –he kissed her again. The earthquake began just beneath his toes.
This is beyond my personal “suspension of disbelief” limit. There are so many cases of inappropriately modern speech in this book that it was hard to keep track. The use of modern expressions in settings this old usually doesn’t bother me. After all, we readers would have a tough time following real sixteenth century prose. But when a hero in 1515 starts saying that he’s worried that the heroine will subject him to “scientific analysis” and the heroine observes that she is particularly good at “deductive” reasoning, it’s pretty obvious that the thought patterns of these people are out of sync with the setting.
I won’t recommend To Tame a Highland Warrior, but I do think that readers who are not fussy about anachronistic speech may have a better time reading it than I did. After all, when you read a book you can’t tell that those boulders are really papermache.