Thirty Nights with a Highland Husband
by Melissa Mayhue
(Pocket, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-1416532866
This book takes fantasy to a whole new level – faeries, time travel, and utter disregard for historical verisimilitude mixed together with characters inspired by Julie Garwood and lots and lots of Big Misunderstandings. The result is a complete hodgepodge.

A powerful faerie, angered at the mistreatment of his daughters, placed a duty of care upon their male relations with a resulting curse if they should fail. The females of his blood will be named Rose. The Legend of the Faerie Glen has begun.

In the Highlands of Scotland in 1272, Connor MacKiernan is caught in a dilemma. He serves his king, but he needs to protect his sister Mairi. His aunt Rosalyn comes up with the solution. She will arrange for an emerald pendant to come into the possession of one who can help.

Caitlyn Coryell works as the office manager for her family’s security firm. She has purchased an emerald pendant at an antique store to wear for her wedding, but she’s thinking about calling the whole thing off. Her fiancé Richard has cheated on her then in typical cad-fashion blamed it all on her. One of his accusations is that she isn’t adventurous. Her brother Jesse has never liked Richard but agrees that Cate is too timid.

She is astonished to see an ancient Scots warrior appear in an emerald green sphere right in her bedroom. The jeweled pendant has led him to her. He informs her that he needs her assistance. He has taken a vow never to marry (in classic fashion, another woman done him wrong), but he needs to marry in order to be released from his service to the king. Otherwise, his uncle will marry his sister Mairi to a disgusting old man in order to clear a debt. All Cate has to do is marry him, and she’ll be able to return to her own time. This way he can keep his vow but have no wife.

Cate agrees to his request. This is an adventure, isn’t it?

Artair, Connor’s uncle, complicates matters. He is not about to let Connor and Mairi off the hook so easily; he insists that the marriage should be managed in the old style complete with a reading of the banns and visiting the people. This means that Cate will need to remain in 13th century Scotland for a full month.

During that time, there will be political intrigues, nasty family quarrels, misunderstandings, and ample opportunity for Cate and Connor to be in each other’s company.

There are so many problems with Thirty Nights that it’s difficult to know where to begin.

Cate is attracted to the manly Connor but is irritated by his intractability. Connor rages at the annoying traits of the “wee lass” (5' 4" was not particularly small in the 13th century), but he canna help feeling things he dinna want to. Naturally, the way they handle all this is by making false assumptions and never talking. The Big Misunderstandings pile up page after page. One misunderstanding that does not arise is that Cate and the 13th century Scots are able to communicate perfectly well. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales written in 14th Century Middle English begins:

Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote, The droghte of March hath perced to the roote...

Not easy to decipher, right? So you may be surprised to learn that according to Thirty Nights in 13th century Scotland people did not speak Gaelic or even Chaucer’s Middle English but 21st century modern English with a few dinna and canna and a lot of no (for not) thrown in for good measure.

Cate is a throwback to those dim-bulb heroines in Julie Garwood’s historical romances. You remember the type – naive, virginal, oblivious, preternaturally busy, leaving confusion and disarray in her wake. It’s somewhat understandable that a heroine in an earlier era might be inexperienced in the ways of the larger world, but Cate is supposed to be a well-educated, well-informed American woman in her mid-20's in the early 21st century. (She sometimes compares what she learned in European history to what she is observing in her visit to 13th century Scotland.) There is not necessarily correlation between education and common sense. Whatever her failings, however, you know she’s a winner because Connor’s wolfhound Beast takes to her immediately.

The novel’s sole virtue is that the narrative flows smoothly. Thirty Nights>b? is author Melissa Mayhue’s debut book. If future books feature more realistic characters and credible story lines, they might prove more promising than this first effort.

--Lesley Dunlap

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