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review 2018-03-27 20:18
Spell of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning
Spell of the Highlander - Karen Marie Moning

Jessi St. James is running yet another errand for a professor in the college where she's trying to get her PhD, when she's attacked in the professor's office, and protected by a kilt-wearing warrior she's summoned out of a mirror.

The next morning she's sure it was all a dream, until she hears her would-be attacker is dead...And so is her professor,

Reluctantly, she goes exploring the possibility it wasn't a dream, only to discover the man in the mirror is real. A ninth-century Scottish Driud, Cian MacKeltar, trapped in the mirror by his mortal enemy in order for said mortal enemy to gain immortality.

But someone has recently stolen the mirror—hence it's in Chicago instead of in London...And fortuitously right before the "immortality spell" is to be renewed for it to last another hundred years.

Cian is determined to break free and vanquish his enemy before the renewal...And Jessi is the one who will help him achieve his long-time goal.


I don't know what to say, except I was rather disappointed in this last full-length installment in the Highlander series. It's nothing specific that bothered me, really, there was just something off.

The hero was a tad too "barbaric" for comfort (compared to the other ninth-century Scot I know and love), the heroine came across as rather flighty (for supposedly such a smart woman) at the beginning, and rather selfish at the end...And their romance didn't exactly convince me.
It felt off somehow, as if it was written more as an afterthought than anything else. It was formulaic and rather perfunctory in everything that transpired between the two. There was no feeling behind it, no "MacKeltar finding his mate magic" that I loved in the previous MacKeltar books.

Then there was the suspense sub-plot which also wasn't really convincing, coming across as more "coincidental" and Deux-ex-machina-y. Especially once we got to the big finale. The "big problem" was too easily and simply resolved, the "happy ending" telegraphed way in advance, making the story lose its edge long before the ending. There was no wonder if and how it would be resolved, it was clear it would be and happily for all parties.

Especially for the hidden one, which left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth for the entire series. Turns out it wasn't Fate that brought them all together, but a hidden figure pulling at strings, manipulating time and people for her own gain...Which, for those who read the Fever series, didn't really work (and ended up with one of my favorite characters of this series a mindless beast).

This book was more a segue from one series to the next than a stand-alone novel, and a disappointingly deus-ex machina explanation to everything that came before.

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review 2018-03-25 21:00
The Immortal Highlander by Karen Marie Moning
The Immortal Highlander - Karen Marie Moning

Adam Black is in quite a pickle. Having advocated for the human Druid, he's forced to save Dageus MacKeltar's life at the end of The Dark Highlander by sacrificing some of his immortal life-force...And then Aoibheal, the Fairy Queen, exacts her own form of punishment. Now Adam is human...And invisible.

To everybody but his own kind (who he can no longer see) and the human Sidhe-seer woman, Gabrielle O'Callaghan.

Gaby's spend her entire life pretending to be normal, while she's anything but. The last in the long line of Sidhe-seers, she's been taught from infancy to hide her gift, to pretend not to see them, lest they kidnap her and kill her. Then one night, all her carefully built defenses come crashing down when she sees a Fairy that doesn't look like a Fairy...And turns out to be the darkest Fairy of them all—the one the O'Callahan books of the Fae warn to AVOID CONTACT AT ALL COST with.

But Adam Black doesn't appear to want her dead...He does appear to want to drive her crazy though...Unless she helps him.


If Adam Black has mucked it all up in Beyond the Highland Mist and a little less in The Highlander's Touch, he's definitely redeemed himself at the end of The Dark Highlander with his advocacy of the human race...And more deeply and irrevocably in his own book.

He might not appear a tortured hero at first sight (or many sights after), not with that larger-than-life, nothing-can-touch-me, I'm-a-God attitude, that glimpse Dageus gets in the second part of the story, the glimpse of lonely darkness deep inside this Old One, only affirms what the reader (at least this one) believed since the third book in this series.
But it takes a rather selfless act, the strange fascination Adam has with the human race, making him argue and barter with the Queen, and her subsequent punishment, to make the reader see, or at least glimpse, at what makes the last prince of the D'Jai tick, and make him see what he's been missing for so long, and what he truly needs to feel larger than life and become truly immortal.

You aren't falling for me, are you, Irish?


The strongest, purest emotion. Love.

To feel love, to be loved, and to love in return.

And he gets all of the above in spades when he meets his heroine, Gabrielle, and eventually chips away at her armor.

It took a little time to warm up to Gabrielle with her skittishness and fear around the Fae folk. She grew up with all of that, she grew up on the darker fairy tales, she grew up learning to fear, and it took a while for her to realize not everything she thought she knew was correct, but once she did, once she opened her eyes and truly saw Adam, I knew I was in for yet another stormy, fiery—and unfortunately rather star-crossed—romance.

No, make that love story. One of those odes, songs and sagas are written about. One of those that, despite the fact you know it would end up happily (because it's a romance novel, not a drama), you still fear your heart skip a beat or two as you wonder just how such two opposites could end up together in the end.

And as always, it takes a sacrifice. One has to sacrifice something to gain something else, and, as Adam himself, I also believe he gained much more than he gave up.

Yes, there were paranormal/magical elements, paranormal beings, and a little suspense-subplot about an attempted coup, but in its bare bones, this was a romance, plain and simple. Adam and Gabrielle's love story.

Perfectly paced, wonderfully written, with a wonderful cast of characters, an amazing leading man, and just the right amount of heart-string tugging toward the end. I loved every single moment of it.

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review 2018-03-25 10:41
The Dark Highlander by Karen Marie Moning
The Dark Highlander - Karen Marie Moning

In 1521, Dageus MacKeltar makes the choice that will forever change him...And his destiny. To save his beloved twin brother, and ensure Drustan has a future with the woman he loves, Dageus breaks the sacred MacKeltar vow of never using the stones at Ban Drochaid for personal reasons, and travels back in time, unleashing an ancient evil lurking between the dimensions.

With a ticking time bomb inside him, Dageus travels to twenty-first century Manhattan, hoping to find anything in the ancient tomes that might prevent him from turning dark and unleashing the evil inside him onto the world.

Then Chloe Zanders, lover of antiquities, walks into his life—well, more accurately, crawls underneath his bed—and he knows she's the one. Mine, his mind whispers, and he's willing to do anything to keep her. But first, they must fight to free him...


This, this is what I'm looking for in my romance novels. This, exactly this. This emotional rollercoaster-ish mix of drama, angst, danger, suspense, mystical and mythical elements, a pinch of magic, a story of love that would defy anything, scorching hot sex, and an alpha male oozing bad boy from his every pore.

Dageus is one of my favorite, if not the favorite, tortured hero of all time. Because you cannot get more tortured than what this guy went through. Living with thirteen bad consciences constantly battering against his honor and code, chipping away his every defense day after day, and still he endured, and suffered, and tried to do anything in his power not to go full-on evil, tried everything to make things right, and was willing to do anything, anything, even making the ultimate sacrifice, for those he loved.
It doesn't get better than this. Sex-on-legs bad boy with a heart of mushy gold, a protective streak a mile wide, and a code of honor and resolve of steel. It's always a pleasure, and an emotional effort reading his story.

But despite the fact he left everything behind, his time, his clan, even his twin brother, Dageus doesn't have to suffer alone. Fate has smiled upon him and given him a glimmer of hope in his darkest hour—his mate, Chloe.
She was the antithesis of him. A quirky, nerdy, self-conscious, self-deprecating virgin, yet with an unquenchable thirst of knowledge and a fascination and undying love of Celtic antiques. Since her hero was Celtic also an antique, what more could she want.
Unfortunately, on this re-read, I've discovered a little tidbit about her that quite bothered me. In a few scenes, she came across as quite selfish and self-absorbed. It seemed everything was about her, how she loved antiques, how she wanted to spend time reading all the texts in the Keltar library, how she wanted to know everything, yet refused to know the most important part of it all...What was wrong with her man and how she could help him.
Compared to Dageus selflessness, especially in the big climax of the story, this "difference" between them was rather glaring.

Still, I'm willing to overlook such hiccups since the story is so wonderful. Wrought with emotion and drama, filled with family reunions and old friends...And yes, because Dageus is the hero. The most perfect, tortured, lovable hero.

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review 2018-03-24 10:30
Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning
Kiss of the Highlander (Highlander, #4) - Karen Marie Moning

Gwen Cassidy, virgin extraordinaire, wants to be a virgin no more. That's why she's in Scotland on vacation—she's looking for her cherry popper. Unfortunately, she ends up on a seniors bus tour of Scotland and right when she's quit smoking.

To get away from her travel companions, she goes on a short trek in the hills above Loch Ness only to end up chasing her backpack into a ravine, and ending up in a cave, on top of a male body. A warm, hunky male body. A warm, hunky, hard male body. And he doesn't seem to mind.

Pity, the kilt-clad Highlander isn't entirely sane, trying to convince her he's from the sixteenth century and literally kidnapping her to help him get back to his home.


Unfortunately, this is the second worst book in this series for me (after Beyond the Highland Mist). It's not that it's badly written, slow of pace or that the story is weak. It's the "conflict" and its span that bothers me.
For the first hundred or so pages, she's the stubborn one, refusing to believe him, thinking he's crazy...Then she falls for him (after mere three days of acquaintance), gives him her virginity (because we have to keep the reader engaged; sex is the best way)...And for the next hundred pages or so, the roles are completely reversed, with him being stubborn, refusing to believe her and thinking her crazy, while she takes on the role of "sexual pursuer", determined to seduce him (like he did in the beginning), while he secretly lusts for her (as she did in the beginning).

It went on for too long, this back and forth, not really adding depth or "crunch" to the story. Instead of spending that (unnecessary) time by giving depth and layers to the characters, providing much needed information to the reader as to why these two were in love (personality and personality traits, character etc.), these two hundred plus pages are spent with one of the other trying to change the other's mind, while drooling over the other's body. And in the end, poof, they're just in love.
Why? Because they're just too stubborn to give up? Because they're hot enough for the other to notice? Because they're open-minded enough to accept even the least possible explanations? I don't get it, and it bothers me.

The second thing that really bothered me, was the initial "incarnation" of the heroine. At the beginning, this supposed genius, came across as an air-headed, desperate virgin with only sex on her mind. She was twenty-five, not fifty-five, yet so desperate she was willing to toss her cherry at a complete stranger just to get rid of it.
The third problem was the hero. Sure, he was chivalrous, sexy, smart, tender, etc....Every character trait a hero in a romance novel should have was there, with that added dash of blind hard-headedness toward the end, but he still somehow came across as bland. He was a template, a form filled to perfection, but that was it.

Then there were their antics in the second half of the story, where she tried to pin him down to tell him the story, and he kept eluding her, going so far as jumping out the window, until she finally managed to trap him.
These attempts might've started off as slightly humorous, but quickly turned pathetic and too desperate for comfort.

This book also had its redeeming qualities (luckily). The "magic" elements, the wonderful supporting cast (with Silvan, Nell, and, of course, Dageus, the Dark Highlander, topping the list), and the enchanting setting of Alba. And yes, those pages where all was good between Gwen and Drustan, where they were on the same wavelength, woke up the romantic in me, and I was willing to suspend my disbelief for those moments (we all need those "aww, how cute is that" moments in our lives and our fiction).

Yeah, even on this second read, I had difficulties with this book. It's a wonderful romance story in all, but it could've been so much more.

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review 2018-03-23 09:55
The Highlander's Touch by Karen Marie Moning
The Highlander's Touch - Karen Marie Moning

In 1308 Circenn Brodie, the immortal laird of Brodie, swears an oath to kill whomever comes along with a hallowed Fae flask that's been recently stolen and put a binging spell on.

In present day Cincinnati, Lisa Stone is working two jobs to pay the medical bills for her deathly ill mother. One of those jobs include night cleaning at the museum...Then one morning, curiosity makes her touch a shimmering flask in a recently unearthed chest brought to the US from the Scottish Highlands...and she finds herself flung 700 years back, to 1314 and castle Dunnottar, smack in the middle of Circenn Brodie's chambers.

Yet the man who swore the oath to kill her, the man who lived his life with honor, cannot bring himself to do what he'd sworn to do. And the woman who, in the past five years, had seldom experienced tenderness, care and comfort finds herself falling for the towering warrior.

But there are obligations waiting for her back in the future, and even though Circenn claims he cannot return her, Lisa is adamant in finding a way out of her predicament and back to her mother's side...Even if it means breaking two hearts in the process.


This was the first Karen Marie Moning book I ever bought, it introduced me to the author and to this series. And yes, it's probably my favorite of them all. You know, you never forget your first one.

But what's not to like about this story, really?
It's set in Scottish Highlands (my favorite setting of them all; I've actually visited both castles mentioned in this story—Dunnottar and Brodie!), it features, albeit briefly, the battle at Bannock Burn (providing one of the best quotes in this book*), it's filled with wonderful supporting cast (the Douglas Brothers, the surprise appearance of Robert the Bruce in all his matchmaking glory...), and has one hell of a leading man.

Circenn Brodie, the ninth-century warrior living in the fourteenth-century war-torn Scotland, falling in love with a twenty-first century woman. And the man was barely ruffled, except when it came to the woman, of course, as it should be.
Granted, I'm not really sure why he fell in love with her, she (at least not that I could see) had any special characteristics, except for being "alien" and having a mind of her own. Yes, she's suffered, she had issues, but that was pretty much it. Not much was spent on her character at least not in the way for Circenn to fall for her the way he did.
While many pages were spent on Circenn and all his good qualities (did he even have any bad ones), making him known to the reader so that she/he would understand, empathize and sympathize with Lisa's plight as she stumbled over the proverbial cliff.

And then there was Adam Black whose real identity, as it was revealed, comes as a huge surprise for those who read this book for the first time. I'm glad he's starting to redeem himself after the "mischief" he concocted in the first book (where he was quite a villain) and we're slowly working toward his own story.

This book was a fast-paced, intriguing mix of historical romance and time-travel with a gripping, yet minor, suspense and treason sub-plot, the romance was lovely and heartfelt, the narration was wonderfully evocative, painting vivid pictures of the characters and their surroundings...All nicely intertwined with magical elements and the beauty of Scotland.

*

Along the Bannock Burn, Circenn Brodie was an animal, merciless and swift. Later the men would claim he vied with the Berserkers in his deadly rage, and epics would be composed in his honor. He was cold and sharp and hard, and good for nothing but slaughter. He lost himself in a blackness so complete that he cared naught if he slew legions, he simply raged, hoping to exhaust himself and gain the respite of unconsciousness, a temporary kind of death.
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