Beyond the Highland Mist

The Highlander's Touch

Kiss of the Highlander

To Tame a Highland Warrior

The Dark Highlander
by Karen Marie Moning
(Dell, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-440-23755-6
Dageus MacKeltar is a 16th century Scot living in self-imposed exile in 21st century New York. In order to save his twin brother’s life, he broke a sacred treaty with the Tuatha De Danann (AKA the Fairy). Now the poor fellow has 13 evil Druid spirits fighting for possession of his soul. Hoping to find a way out of this predicament, he has stolen (OK, “borrowed”) what few remaining antique texts exist on the subject. In the interim, he’s discovered the only way to starve off the darkness is through sexual pursuit.

Chloe Zanders is a student of antiquities, and disgusted when her boss asks her to deliver a priceless text to Dageus MacKeltar. Just because the man donated some beautiful artifacts doesn’t give him any special rights! When she arrives at Dageus’ posh penthouse she discovers the stolen manuscripts, and he sees no alternative but to hold her hostage. Problem is, now that he’s met Chloe, he’s ruined for all other women - and our hero needs sex to fight the evil within him. Unfortunately, Chloe is not about to tumble into bed with a man who is not only a thief but a womanizer as well.

What follows is an interesting plot of good vs. evil with some paranormal and time travel elements tossed in for good measure. Too bad the whole thing is wasted on characters that set my teeth on edge.

I initially liked Chloe. She seemed like a smart girl and her passion for antiquities is admirable. Too bad she has an unfortunate too-stupid-to-live streak that causes her to stick her nose where it doesn’t belong. She could very easily have avoided being Dageus’ hostage - but then where would our story be? Naturally she doesn’t learn her lesson and again finds herself in hot water during the climatic finish.

I didn’t like Dageus from the outset. One would think that a guy with 13 evil spirits fighting for control over his soul would have some personality. Dageus has two speeds - brooding and constant seduce mode. That’s it on the range of emotions. If he’s not sulking about, he’s working overtime trying to get into Chloe’s panties. From the moment he meets her, our hero is unnaturally possessive and obsessed.

Which leads this reader to the biggest problem of the book - where the heck is the love? Possession and obsession? Yep. Love? Nope. Chloe soon begins to come off as the clueless virgin powerless in the wake of the strapping he-man. Dageus is the kind of guy that should have stayed put in the 16th century and never been allowed to escape.

Fans of Kiss Of The Highlander will be happy to note that twin brother, Drustan, and wife, Gwen, make healthy appearances, as well as the twins’ father and stepmother. Moning’s passion for all things Scottish is quite infectious, and I did find her plotting interesting and imaginative.

For readers who cannot get enough of the innocent virgin and mucho-Alpha hero, The Dark Highlander will likely register higher marks. Those who left that sort of thing back in the 1970s would do wise to think twice.

--Wendy Crutcher

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