Highland Dream

Highland Fling

Highland Magic

To Touch the Stars

Highland Rebel
by Tess Mallory
(Berkley, $6.99, PG-13)† ISBN 978-0-425-22635-3
Highland Rebel is a time-travel romance with some fun twists. Interestingly, it was the present-day premise that gave me the most trouble, not the parts of the book set in the past.†The heroine wasnít terribly convincing, either, but the hero was delightful.

Ian MacGregor is the hottest singer in the world of Celtic music.†Backed by a rock band, he enthralls fans across the U.K. and is ready to embark upon an American tour.†The problem is, Ianís from 17th-century Scotland, and he was transported into the present a mere year earlier (at the end of Malloryís previous book, Highland Rogue).† Just how heís managed to become an overnight sensation in the Celtic-rock world in less than twelve months is brushed aside, and this didnít sit well, but hey, itís fiction.

Ellie Graham is Ianís manager.†Her beloved sisters, Maggie and Allie, are all she has left of her family after their parentsí death in an accident years before.†Ellie retreated into a shell, hid behind a Goth look, and turned off her emotions so she wouldnít be hurt again. Sheís desperately in love with Ian, and heís shown decided interest in her, but she wonít let him near her, no sir.† Better to turn a cold shoulder than risk ever losing someone else she cares about.

Okay, is this anyone I want to spend time with? In a word: no. She doesnít need a romance, she needs serious therapy, or at least a long bout of introspection.†Ellie has two adoring sisters, sheís in her mid-twenties, and itís been years since her parents died, so this is nothing more than a contrived pity party designed to keep the leads apart.†

Then Ellie, Ian, and a scientist named Davey end up transported back to Scotland, circa 1734, and Ian has to work to keep them safe and find a way to return them to the twenty-first century.† Ian is half in love with Ellie to begin with. Heíll have to face some old family ghosts and work through a number of conflicts that he left behind in order to keep them all alive.

I liked Ian.†He was compassionate and intriguing, but his interest in Ellie seemed misplaced.† The only thing that seemed to draw him to her was her avowed disinterest in him.†In a twist, Ian returns to Scotland 23 years later than he left it, so his family is all older, but he is unchanged. He quickly uses this to his advantage, demonstrating quick thinking and smarts.†Mallory does a great job of showing Ian as a man with his feet in two different centuries, and he uses his knowledge to his advantage.

Tess is, in a word, annoying.†Sheís a giant bag of ďpity meĒ when the story opens, then she morphs into rather idiotic behavior, refusing to believe her eyes even after being kidnapped by a group of Highlanders on horseback wearing kilts and carrying very old-fashioned weaponry.† Instead, she spends tiresome pages asking Ian where her sisterís cottage is and throwing a fit about sleeping in a cave. Eventually she shuts up and starts to think, and the plot improves from there, but if I hadnít been reading this for a review, the book would have been tossed aside by page 70.

Ian is stunned to find he has a half-sister named Katie, and the author sets up a secondary romance between Davey and Katie.†Itís sweet, and Katie is no pushover.†Sheíd have made a fine heroine for a full-length book.†Ianís father is deathly ill, which creates Ianís internal conflict: should he stay in old Scotland and fulfill his duty as the next lead of the clan, or return to 2009?† Meanwhile, he works to break down Ellieís resistance.

Romances where the hero is in love with the heroine and works to woo her are usually a great deal of fun, and Mallory does a fine job with Ianís courtship of Ellie.†Eventually, she becomes a worthy heroine for him.†Readers are going to need some perseverance to get to that point, though.†I ended up enjoying the second half of Highland Rebel very much.†I have a feeling Ellieís twin sister, Allie, may be next in line, and it wouldnít surprise me to see Ianís brother Angus pop up in a story of his own.

Highland Rebel gets a cautious recommendation, with a nod to the author for putting a slightly different spin on the usual time-travel format. Iíll be watching for Allieís story.†

--Cathy Sova

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