August 2008, Stuart Era Romance (1650s Scotland)
Forever, $6.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0446619132
A Highlander Never Surrenders frustrated me. At times it bored me, at others, particularly when the author explores the historical backdrop of Scotland in the 1650s, I was intrigued. The primary romance didn't really work, but a secondary one did.
Scottish rebel Claire Stuart has two goals: to save herself and her sister, Anne, from arranged marriages, and to exact revenge on her brother’s murderer. She believes her brother’s friend General Monck is responsible for his death and has plans to marry the sisters off to secure the throne for King Charles II. During her journey to find Monck, she is assaulted by a couple of men on the road, and is fortunately saved by Robert Campbell, the Earl of Argyll, and Graham Grant, his Highlander friend. Claire is instantly suspicious of the Highlander with loyalties to the Presbyterian Campbell, the enemy of her cause, but she also cannot deny their mutual attraction. Intrigued by the woman’s quest, Graham and the earl follow Claire, ostensibly to provide her with protection. Sparks fly between Claire and Graham, as she wrestles to free herself from their stifling protection and race to save her sister.
The reader is promised an adventure, but I ultimately left feeling disappointed. I actually put this book down three or four times out of boredom. The characters seem two-dimensional, regardless of the amazing traits the author gives them. Theoretically, Claire should be an admirable spitfire of a woman, but she comes off very flat, “flashing eyes” notwithstanding. Graham is such a stereotypical "Highlander" that I could see him being plucked out of the Generic Character bag. He wears a kilt and says “aye” and “lass” once in a while, so of course he must be Scottish! In fact, he is so nondescript that I wouldn’t have guessed he was the leading man had I not read the back of the book beforehand. As for the villain of this piece, he is pretty comical and obvious...overall, I was decidedly unmoved by most of the cast of characters.
As for the romance in this book, I’m slightly torn; when I reread passages for the review, I realized the love scenes are pretty hot and romantic if taken separately. But when I read them in the context of the entire story, the emotions felt stilted and unconvincing. There are also a few superficial conflicts thrown in between the two main characters, and these also seem contrived for the sake of creating a tender reconciliation afterwards. Much of the dialogue rings untrue.
On a positive note, I enjoyed the secondary love story. It satisfied me and was more convincing than anything else I read in A Highlander Never Surrenders. I also liked the historical quality of the book; the author did a fine job of providing different viewpoints of the Scottish situation. Had Quinn decided to make this full-out historical fiction, the results might have been fascinating. Instead, they are slightly better than middling.
-- Emma Leigh
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