Highland Dream by Tess Mallory
(Love Spell, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-5-5-52444-9
**
Jix Ferguson is loyal to her friends. So when her dear buddy, Samantha, is about to marry the wrong man, Jix does what she does best - concocts a crazy scheme. Soon Samantha and Jix are flying off to Scotland instead of to Samanthaís wedding. Jix is sure Samantha is going to meet a sexy Scottish man. Jixís prophetic dreams never lie and sheís dreamed of seeing her buddy at a wedding, next to a man in a kilt.

Jix is right: Jamie MacGregor is sexy and Scottish and they do meet him. But everything else goes wrong - Jix is more interested in Jamie than a furious Samantha is. Then all three of them sail back in time to the Scottish Highlands, where Jix is supposed to marry Griffin Campbell to save them all. But no one - Griffin, Jix, or Jamie - likes that idea.

Where do I begin with this story? The author strives for zany and madcap. It gets zany, I guess. But I couldnít suspend disbelief and laugh. First, I couldnít figure out why Jix and Samanthaís father decide kidnapping Samantha will rescue her. Why canít they tell her the truth? I donít care how stubborn Samantha is. If the guy is actually already married, it doesnít matter how soon the ceremony is going to take place - Samantha just canít get married. No one acknowledges this. Since that happens within the first few pages of the story, my patience was already strained before the implausible events start. There was more to try my patience in store.

Jamie is all right. He seems to have some faint grasp of reality. Samantha and Jix are annoying. I donít mind a light-hearted attitude in a bad situation to keep your spirits up, but both of them seem to ignore the problems swirling around them far too long. The only character I truly liked was Griffin, who is meant to be a secondary character. That poor guy is trapped with a reputation as the clan stud and is terrified that people will find out the truth - heís never had sex. His attitude toward Jix and the others is remarkably sophisticated and tolerant for a 17th century male. (In fact all the guys are tolerant of Jix - she must be really sexy to males, because I found her incredibly infuriating. Samantha can be even worse - she comes off as a spoiled little snot.)

Comedy is hard to write. The pacing, the dialogue and the plot have to work well. The dialogue here has a few good moments, but the pacing is off and the plot veers between farce and - well, Iím not sure what. In addition, for a time travel novel somehow the contrast between the centuries isnít jarring enough. This Scotland is a 17th century Scottish Disneyland where things are quaint and amusing but modern enough to not upset anyone. Even worse, though, I didnít care if the hero or heroine came home. And thatís not a good sign.

--Irene Williams


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