Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tall, Dark, and Kilted by Allie MacKay


Why don't I quit while I'm ahead?

It should be enough for me to love Outlander, Dragonfly, etc. etc., and then to just leave well enough alone.  No. I have to gravitate toward any book with the word "kilt" or "Highlander" in it and expect to be completely, gloriously happy. Not gonna happen, I fear.

Tall, Dark and Kilted started off well enough. After all, the name itself was sufficient to inspire me to plunk down $6.99 US at the local drugstore. Of course, I should know by now that you can't judge a book by its title, but I was willing to take a chance on the plaided six pack displayed on its cover.

Sir Hardwick de Studley of Seagrave (yes, you read that correctly) is a ghost plagued by an ancient curse. Many years before the start of the story, he denied hospitality to a traveling minstrel who just happened to be a wizard.  In return for his rudeness, Hardwick (ahem) is placed under a nasty little spell.  His punishment? I'm so glad you asked. He has been cursed to pleasure a different woman every night with no relief for his own (ahem, again) condition. Right. Let's move on.

Hardwick strikes a deal with "The Dark One" whereby he may be released from his curse and finally have the eternal rest he so obviously deserves if he can, for one entire year, not become sexually aroused. (Still with me ?) Of course, old Hardwick thinks this will be easy considering how he has spent the last 255,500 nights. That's a lot of pleasuring, folks and our exhausted Highlander is more than willing to give it a go. He chooses a quiet retreat in the Highlands to wait out his proving period.

Enter our other protagonist, Cilla Swanner. Cilla has been having a hard time herself. Dumped by her fiance and ruined financially by said fiance's new girlfriend, she's looking for an escape and finds it in her uncle's ancient castle turned rest home in the Scottish Highlands.  But she's in for quite a shock when she meets Hardwick.

The plot goes on from there and centers around the growing attraction between de Studley and Cilla. Of course she is just the woman to tempt him and ruin his chances of breaking the curse and most of the story revolves around Hardwick's growing attraction for her as he struggles with his self-imposed celebacy.  Cilla, on the other hand, is trying to accept the fact that she is being actively pursued by a 700 year-old ghost who looks damn hot in a kilt.

The premise had definite promise and I enjoyed the beginning of the book more than the end. I had some trouble following the paranormal descriptions and lost my way several times as new barricades to this unusual couple's happiness kept unexpectedly cropping up.  I did like the author's characterizations of the supporting players, particular Hardwick's ghoulish friend Bran of Barra and Cilla's somewhat psychic Aunt Birdie.

Overall, however, it doesn't really live up to the cover art. And frankly, that was a disappointment.

It's time to stop the insanity; I'm reading Shakespeare next.