I’ve been wanting to review this book for a while, but decided that I should re-read it first. Ok, really I was just looking for an excuse to read it again. I might as well admit it: I really, really, really like this book.
This happens to be the first book in Howell’s Highland series that I read, although it is not the first book in the series. (I often end up starting a series somewhere in the middle, or even with the last book. It’s a hazard of buying used books by the bagful.) The series follows the Murray family through several generations. Highland Vow follows Elspeth Murray, daughter of Balfour and Maldie Murray who are the subject of the first book of the series. The book starts with a prologue where we meet 9-year-old Elspeth. She is shown to be helping Cormac Armstrong, who has been accused of a crime he did not commit.
I don’t think I’m spilling any great secrets when I reveal that Elspeth and Cormac meet again as consenting adults. Like many books of this genre, it requires that you suspend your disbelief at the amazing coincidence that brings Elspeth and Cormac together again. He happens to be staying at the home of the man who kidnaps Elspeth and happens upon her. He helps her escape, and most of the book follows the journey they take together to return her to safety. It is also Cormac’s journey to the woman he had pledged to marry before he and Elspeth met all those years ago.
Elspeth had fallen in love with Cormac even as a child, and being thrown in with him again seems like fate. She uses the journey to try to win Cormac’s heart from Isabel (the woman Cormac is traveling to be with). The narration takes you inside both of their heads, so you can know about both her determination and his turmoil. And, of course, exactly how much they are lusting for each other. I don’t know, a madman willing to kill in order to get his hands on me might cool some the passion for me, but I guess that’s just me. Several other reviews I’ve read of this book complain that Cormac is too wishy-washy, is too stupid for too long, or is unworthy of Elspeth’s devotion. I’d be willing to bet that if he fell in love with Elspeth too quickly, other people would complain that he got over his devotion to Isabel too easily to be believable. Did I want to smack him occasionally for being an idiot? You bet. Elspeth has similar feelings. You’re *supposed* to want to throttle the man because he *is* being an idiot. These characters have well-developed, consistent personalities that have subtle nuances.
There are a few things that might put a reader off, and these are true for the entire series (or at least the ones I’ve read so far). One: Howell writes in what I assume is an attempt at an old Scottish brogue. I’m not an expert, so I can’t vouch for how accurate it is. For the first few pages, the “mither and fither,” the “dinnae” and the other unfamiliar words/spellings were annoying. However, I quickly got used to it and started to hear the words run more smoothly in my head. Two: There’s a touch of the supernatural going on in these books. Nothing really out there. In fact, nothing that I, personally, find any less believable than a virgin having multiple orgasms the first time she has sex. Apparently the Murry family has a streak of mild ESP running through its members. In Highland Vow, Elspeth can sense feelings, no matter how well someone attempts to mask them. This ability only feeds the passion she has for Cormac. It also means that no one can lie to her, which must come in quite handy.
I’d like to include quick note on the Highlander series. I’ve read six of them so far, so it’s possible that this doesn’t apply to the *entire* series, but I suspect that it does. They’re all essentially the same book. I know, a lot of people say that about the entire romance genre, but it *really* applies to this series. That being said, this didn’t occur to me until I had read the 3rd or 4th book. Notice that I kept reading them. They’re comfortable and familiar, but without being something that I’ve already read. I wouldn’t read two or three of them back-to-back, but I’m sure I’ll be finishing off the series a little bit at a time. If you’re a fan of historical romances, I’d recommend trying this series.