Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Highlander's Challenge by Jo Barrett

TITLE: Highlander’s Challenge
AUTHOR: Jo Barrett
PUBLISHER: The Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 88k)
GENRE: Time travel romance
COST: $6.00

Professional bodyguard Amelia Tucker – or Tuck, as she insists on being called – is protecting genius/heiress Jenny Maxwell from a potential kidnapping threat when something goes horribly, horribly wrong. A fall into a fountain lands her over four hundred years in the past, where one of the first people she runs into is Colin MacLean. The next leader of his clan, he mistakes her for a boy because of the way she dresses and fights. It’s not until he’s taken her back to Arreyder Castle that the truth comes out. Tuck finds herself under suspicion of being a spy, mistrusted in spite of all the good she keeps doing for MacLean, and far too attracted to a man who drives her crazy. All she wants to do is get back to her own time, but every time she manages to escape, Colin goes after her and drags her back. One would almost think…he doesn’t want her to leave…

I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to read this book. Teddypig recommended this last year, in several places online, and I put it on my TBR list to read at some point in the future. I’m not entirely sure why I waited, to be honest. Considering how much I adore Diana Gabaldon, a time traveling story with a Scotsman alpha hero should have been right up my alley.

Colin is as alpha as they come. A product of his times, he is constantly barking at Tuck to put on proper clothes, act like a woman, etc. He’s never bothered to learn how to court a woman because he’s had a woman from a neighboring clan promised to him since childhood. His duty is to protect everybody within his care, and his own happiness takes a backseat to that. When he finds himself face to face with a woman who can not only best him in a fight but does things he’s seen no other woman do, he’s at a loss. His temper gets shorter and shorter, and meanwhile, the attraction between them gets higher and higher.

Tuck makes a very welcome change to most time travel heroines. She can do more than hold her own; she can do everything any of the men can do and better. No simpering for this one. She’s strong and smart, mouthy and capable. I loved her contrary nature, how she ignored Colin’s directives to follow her own head, even when it got her into trouble. There was a point where she ran off – again – that I started to wish the author would find something else to do with Tuck, but ultimately, that’s a minor complaint in the face of her characterization. Tuck and Colin are perfect for each other, and the tension that builds between them really detonates their first kiss.

The story excels with its characters and romance. Though the neighboring clan isn’t given the chance to gain any depth, many of those within the MacLean keep are fleshed out enough to make the entire castle pulse with life. This helps to counter the threadbare worldbuilding. Outside of the dialogue, I never really got the full sense that this was a Scottish story. It really could have been almost anywhere, which is a shame. The other major problem to note was the headhopping without scene breaks. This isn’t a dealbreaker for some people, and if the story hadn’t been as engaging, or if there had been other technical issues, it might have been a dealbreaker for me. But as it is, the author’s style drags me back into the story after the jumps. Once I got used to the headhopping – though I never liked it – those transitions smoothed out some, so I engaged more quickly afterward.

All in all, the story is rich with romance, laughter, and characters to root for. I enjoyed it so much, the first thing I did after finishing it was go out and order the print version.


8/10 – Headhopping is the biggest obstacle for me in this story, but it so quickly sucks me back in that I read this in one sitting.


9/10 – Okay, I have a fondness for Highlander alphas, I’ll admit it.


9/10 – Tough and capable and more feminine than she gives herself credit for.

Entertainment value

9/10 – Loved it enough to scamper off and order it in print as soon as I was done.

World building

7/10 – There are a few nice details, but the story’s appeal comes from the forceful characters, not the historical atmosphere




Teddy Pig said...

I saw the sequel on their really hard to make out "coming soon" page.

I hope someone lures her to greener pastures and editors soon so I do not have to go over their. I always feel I am slumming it.

Book Utopia Mom said...

Thank you for telling me! And you're right, she deserves a better editor. Something tells me from looking at her backlist that she's pretty loyal to Wild Rose, though.