Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kiss of the Highlander and The Dark Highlander, by Karen Marie Moning

I'm not shallow person, usually. But I have to confess that I'm very into kilts at the moment. So, while I was browsing in the Romance titles at Barnes and Noble last week, I was drawn to Karen Marie Moning's Highlander series. Add an element of time travel (on my mind a tad too much, recently), ancient Celtic fables, two gorgeous Druid brothers (twins, no less!) and some good old fashioned hot lovin' , and I was hooked like a Sheltie after a stray sheep. Did I really just write that?

I guess I did. Kiss of the Highlander and The Dark Highlander are the stories of Drustan and Dageus MacKeltar, respectively; two brothers who find themselves living in the present, but are really sons of the sixteenth century. Both stories are infused with ancient Celtic lore involving Druids as the gatekeepers between the human world and the immortal sphere of the Fae. But that's not all they're infused with. There's plenty more to tempt the adventurous reader.

Kiss of the Highlander is Drustan's story. Asleep for five centuries, hidden away in a cave by gypsies, Drustan is awakened accidentally when American Gwen Cassidy literally falls on top of him. A scientist by profession, an insurance clerk by choice, she is on holiday in the Scottish Highlands, trying to kick start her otherwise mundane existence. Fortunately for us, she finds more than she bargained for. What follows is a often comical description of Drustan's first look at the twenty-first century. Gwen is convinced that Drustan is a just a wee bit daft, but vows to stand by him (and who wouldn't, the man is gorgeous) to see that he gets whatever help he needs, the poor laddie. But the tables are soon turned as Gwen finds herself traveling back to the sixteenth century and discovers that time travel is not as easy as it looks. And Drustan, due to certain unavoidable circumstances, is of no particular help.

It's Dageus' turn to be a part of the here and now in The Dark Highlander. He has assumed the persona of a wealthy young man (what my grandmother would call 'quite a catch') living in an upper Manhattan Eastside penthouse chock full of ancient and priceless antiquities. However, Dageus is a man literally possessed by evil; in an effort to save his brother, he violates an age old compact between the Druids and the powerful Tuatha De' (fairy realm.) The only thing that soothes the evil within (and listen up here, ladies) is sex. Lot's of it. And, as we learn early on, he is well practiced in that particular art. Enter innocent Chloe Zanders, a well educated student of the antiquities from Kansas, with a specialty in Celtic artifacts. Well, Toto, she's not in Kansas anymore when Dageus finds her snooping around (under his bed, of all places) uninvited in his absolutely 'to die for' digs. Without much ceremony and with silk scarves no less, he decides to hold her captive; she has discovered that he is "borrowing" priceless ancient texts from various sources in an effort to solve his evil-possession issue. The two eventually travel together to Scotland where we witness a touching reunion between Dageus and Drustan and, not to miss out, a trip back in time for Chloe and Dageus as well.

Now, I know what you're thinking because I was thinking it too. These books require a complete suspension of your definition of reality. But, after putting aside my previously expressed (see the Outlander review) aversion to anything even remotely resembling science fiction, I did find myself getting lost in the stories. I was fascinated by the bits of Celtic lore. I was especially fascinated by Drustan and Dageus, two characters who are the epitome of the Alpha male. And in case you're wondering, Moning is a very descriptive writer and her love scenes, all of them...and there are many of them... literally burn.

I am embarrassed to say that it did take me until almost the end of the second book (The Dark Highlander) to fully understand the whys and hows of what was going on in terms of the Fae, MacKeltar Druids and the Draghar. (Not the smut scenes, though. I got those immediately.) But that's not to say that another reader won't catch on more quickly. In spite of my lack of immediate comprehension, I do recommend both books, although I wouldn't say that they are a must read. If you want to go further in the series, the next book, The Immortal Highlander, is a continuation of sorts and pushes the envelope even further.

Another confession. Even after reading these books, I have yet to get over my quest for kilts and, as I'm starting to realize, perhaps I never will.

But, then again, what's so bad about that?

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