Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Her Highland Fling by Jennifer McQuiston (e-novella)


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Having read a number of Highland-based romance novels with kilt-wearing heroes, I had always wondered about what happens when it gets windy ... and, to my mind, only Jennifer McQuiston has addressed the question.

As though summoned by his brother's fateful words, a ghost of a breeze stirred the wool that clung to William's sweat-moistened skin. He clapped a hand down over his sporran, ensuring the most important parts remained hidden.
- loc 47

For this passage alone, I'd rate McQuiston's novella 5 stars. I think it also sets the tone for the story: that a reader should expect an unusual point of view and, therefore, a unique insight into love from this story.

William MacKenzie's town of Moraig desperately needs an income for the people to survive, and William has decided to host a Highland Games, hoping to attract tourists from London. William's plan also involves promoting Moraig, and they've invited a newspaper reporter from a London publication to highlight the town's charms and appeal. Imagine his surprise when the reporter happens to be female -- a very beautiful female. William finds himself tongue-tied and befuddled -- two things he is unused to experiencing.

He wanted to say something witty. Something better than a stammered greeting. But despite the fact he counted a Cambridge education among his list of accomplishments, his tongue was apparently still as tied tonight as it had been this afternoon.

He paused in front of her table and grunted like peasant.
- loc 272

Our hero is a surprisingly down-to-earth heir to an earldom. He's very focused on making sure Moraig earns an income to offset the poor harvest season. He's so focused on helping his town. He never really thought about his own life, but Pen's arrival forces him to refocus and reassess -- and discover that he also has wants, desires and needs.

There were times when William could not help but battle a bit of envy at his brother's good fortune. Seeing this child he loved sitting on Pen's lap made that envy shift into something more defined.

Want. He wanted what his brother had. A wife, a child. Happiness.

...

And with a startled bit of insight, William realised as he looked at Penelope Tolbertson holding this small, blond-haired baby on her lap, he might find those things with this woman. It wasn't even an outrageous thought.
- loc 777 to 787

Pen is female and has a stutter -- both perceived obstacles by society, which she had overcome in order to build a career as a writer. The Moraig assignment is her first major piece. Pen has had to struggle to prove herself equal to others in her field ... And she's now living her dream life. When William enters the picture, Pen realizes that her own dream was incomplete.

It's fun to read about a couple who aren't really looking for love, but who accidentally stumble upon it. Pen takes William by surprise (with their first meeting), and vice versa, and Love takes both of them by surprise, and leaves them asking the difficult questions: what's next? William has duties and responsibilities in Moraig, and Pen has her job in London. When I'm reading, it's very rare for me to think of the character's life before the story -- but McQuiston sees it as part of the question: What now? It's a very real reminder that "happily ever after" doesn't come easily or without sacrifices -- and our hero and heroine realise this.

When I started reading this novella, I had expected something quick and fun and light -- but, I should've known I would not emerge from a McQuiston novel unscathed. This one made me laugh out loud quite a bit and did some major tugging at the heartstrings as well.

Her Highland Fling, a novella, is connected to Jennifer McQuiston's What Happens in Scotland, and Summer is for Lovers. To find out more about Jennifer McQuiston and her books, click below:
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