Friday, April 18, 2008

Rogue's Challenge by Jo Barrett

TITLE: Rogue’s Challenge
AUTHOR: Jo Barrett
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 58k)
GENRE: Time travel romance
COST: $6.00

In this sequel to Highlander’s Challenge, Ian Southernland has been sent to the future in order to retrieve Jenny Maxwell, Tuck’s friend, so that she can be there to help deliver Tuck and Colin’s baby. His mission goes slightly awry, however, when he lands in the future on the day Tuck came back the second time, finding Jenny pursued by the castle guards. He manages to rescue her and take her back to the portal, but she ends up leaving her glasses behind, making her nearly blind as a bat 400+ years in the past. Unable to function without proper spectacles, she demands to go with Ian when he intends to go to Edinburgh and get her another pair…regardless of the arguing they can’t seem to get past and the memory of a single kiss that took them both by surprise…

With Highlander’s Challenge one of my favorite reads so far this year, I jumped to buy this when I saw it come available. Barrett writes characters that sparkle, and this book is no exception. Ian is thoroughly charming, both in his roguish ways and when he’s being more sincere, while Jenny’s intelligence and stubborn nature make a fine counterpoint to that. Starting off on the wrong foot, combined with Jenny’s frustration at not being able to see anything, sparks wonderful exchanges between the two. I can’t help but smile and look forward to their next bout.

While other characters are around, including Tuck and Colin, the fact that over half the book consists of going to Edinburgh to get Jenny new glasses means they take up the vast majority of the story. Michael, their traveling companion, provides the necessary outsider’s POV to the pair, reminding Ian of all the reasons he shouldn’t pursue Jenny. Others provide some local color, but really, the book shines brightest when the author lets Jenny and Ian just go at it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t shine in any other areas. The headhopping that bugged me a little in the first book is still there, only more pronounced, happening more frequently with shorter sections dedicated to a single POV. There also seem to be more technical issues, things that jumped out at me much more glaringly this time around. Words are misused – they’re for their a couple times – while spelling mistakes slow down what should have been a very fast read – sparing for sparring, for instance.

The mechanics of the time portal that were set up in the first book are muddled at the very beginning of this one, and no explanation or theory is ever posited to explain all the differences. Ian makes a vague attempt, explaining that he finished the journey that Tuck had started with her second trip into the past, but Jenny clearly isn't satisfied by that, and with hers as the scientific mind, I kept waiting for her to come up with some answers. She didn't. Invariably, she and Ian would start arguing again and the entire discussion would get derailed. In the end, it felt too much like a convenient device to get Ian into the future without having to spend too much time there to find Jenny.

There’s a subplot about someone who slips through the portal after Ian and Jenny that feels very tacked on, too. It’s meant to add tension to Jenny’s presence. Somebody is after her, after all, and he doesn’t have her best intentions in mind. However, the details over his involvement in issues back in the present day are sketchy, and without being able to understand the depth of his anger, I never felt threatened by the man. The greatest danger comes just as they’re returning from Edinburgh, but then he disappears again for a huge long stretch which makes any sense of alarm fade away. The entire ending is very anticlimactic as a result.

All in all, it’s a charming read. Just not quite as charming as the first book.


7/10 – Only the crisp dialogue and likable characters save the headhopping and technical mistakes riddled throughout


8/10 – He plays the reputation of rogue with ease, but slides believably into a deeper role when masks are stripped away.


8/10 – A tad strident at times, but a wonderful counterpoint to Ian.

Entertainment value

8/10 – Weaker conflict and more technical issues kept me from enjoying this as much as I did the first book.

World building

7/10 – With Jenny half-blind through the first half of the book, atmosphere and details are only scattershot.



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