Like a moth to a flame, I couldn’t resist the lure of another time travel romance set in Scotland. Maybe I’m looking for the Holy Grail of Romanceland (read: Diana Gabaldon writing under a pen name to fill time between Outlander novels). Or maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment. I wouldn’t call Master of the Highlands punishment exactly, but there is little to get excited about in Veronica Wolff’s debut.
Lily Hamlin is vacationing in Scotland, her grandmother’s homeland, trying to get her life back together. After she lost her job and her grandmother passed away, Lily doesn’t know what to do next. On a walk in the country, Lily stumbles onto an overgrown maze. She gets lost within and comes across a stone tablet that sends her back to the 17th century.
Ewen Cameron is the one to find her and almost immediately knows what is going on. This isn’t the first person he has found on this stretch of land wearing funny clothes. His foster brother Robert has similar tale to tell about a mysterious maze and stone tablet. Ewen might not think she is crazy, but Lily sure does. She tries to escape the Cameron keep in a TSTL moment, but redeems herself with her strength and courage. Once she is rescued by Ewen, he makes her a promise to do all he can to try to restore her back to her own time.
I have but one major complaint about this book: It lacks originality. The characters are lifelike, the leads have chemistry, there’s adventure and touching moments, but somehow it still ends up b-o-r-i-n-g. Just when I would feel slightly invested in Lily, Ewen, and their plight, the excitement would level out. Case in point is the ending, which was less than a nail-biter. In a decent time travel I expect that conflict that keeps you wondering if she's going to stay in the past...or will he come to find her in the future? The resolution here was just blah! I saw it coming from page one and the plot never shifted in a way to make me think otherwise.
I will give Veronica Wolff credit where it is due. She is a good writer. She uses real historical figures as the leads in her novels. Ewen Cameron is a lesser known historical figure, but she took what we know about him and wove this tale. She will be doing something similar with James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose (Hello all my fellow English Civil War nuts!) in her next novel. I’m used to seeing kings, queens and other various historical figures fluttering around Romanceland as secondary characters, but it takes moxie to make up a whole romance for one of them as a hero or heroine. I applaud Ms. Wolff for that.
With the right plot, I feel Veronica Wolff could score big. Sadly, Master of the Highlands wasn’t that plot, though I do think she’s an author to keep an eye out for in the future. In the meanwhile, I’ll keep on the quest for my Grail and maybe find a few keepers along the way.
-- Lisa Gardineer
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