Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Highlander Unbound by Julia London

Book Description:
On leave from his Highland regiment, Captain Liam Lockhart comes to London on an urgent mission: to repossess the stolen family heirloom that could save his ancestral estate. He never dreamed it would involve surrendering his heart, but the beautiful and scandalous socialite Ellen Farnsworth sets his Highland blood aflame with a will as strong and reckless as his own. Though bound to Liam by a soul-searing passion, duty impels Ellen to commit a terrible betrayal.

Now, driven by passion, pride, and vengeance, this fearsome Highlander will reclaim not only his family's ancient treasure, but the one daring woman he was meant to love for all time.

I just can't put my finger on why, but this book just didn't do it for me. I have a couple of ideas and reasons, and all tolled together, the book just didn't thrill me. For one thing, this takes place during Regency times - 1816. Why does it just seem so incongruous to have a Scottish Highlander in London during these times? I much prefer them on their own turf, and preferably earlier times. I guess I'm a Scottish Highlander snob. I'm happier with medieval highlanders or highlanders set around the time of the risings. Liam, our hero, seemed like a fish out of water, scraping by with hardly any money and then falling for what turns out to be a beautiful, scheming liar! He fell hook, line and sinker for her, and he didn't always seem overly bright about things. I think part of my problem was, I wasn't "wowed" by him - or her (but I'll get to that later.) Their love scenes were lacklustre or just out of place. I felt like the author was writing these racy love scenes that would have been better suited to a contemporary romance.

Liam must go to London to save his family from losing their ancestral estate to retrieve this "beastie." An ugly solid gold statue that has rubies set in it as well. Worth a pretty penny, but he has to steal it back from his English cousins. And so we follow Liam in London scheming to get the statue. He is extremely clueless when it comes to London sophistication. He launders his own clothes in a fountain in Hyde Park, kills geese from the park as well (to roast and eat in his lodgings), and even has the audacity to cut some of the park's famed roses to create a makeshift bouquet. How can anyone be that dumb? Certainly not a grown man who is 35 years old and a sailor that has fought at Waterloo! Give him some brains, at least!

He meets Ellie, who is the mother of an illegitimate 10 year old girl. Ellie is living in the same house where Liam has his lodgings. She is a lady who has been disgraced and now lives with her miserly father (Liam thinks she is his wife at first). She and Liam fall in love and spend a lot of time in bed having racy, and sometimes kinky sex. I'm no prude, but it irked me. I just couldn't get past how she has already fallen from grace once, 10 years earlier, and now she's leaping into bed with another man who she knows she can't have a future with. Her solution? She steals "the beastie" herself after tricking him into allowing himself to be "bound" to the bed (buck naked) expecting some kinky sex. She absconds with the statue, even though she professes to love him and takes off with her daughter to a friend's country estate where she has some time to figure out what to do next. I never bonded with Ellie, I couldn't forgive her for stealing the statue, even knowing why she did it, it was just wrong and I couldn't get past it. If she really loved him, she would not have left him tied up that way, fleeing with his family's heirloom that would save them from losing their castle. She knew this too. In my book, that's a serious flaw. I was disappointed in Liam because he forgave her too easily.

Liam is "unbound" in the morning by the servant man and easily traces Ellie's whereabouts. Suddenly he's gotten smart - or so we think! He finds her and they have words, he winds up ingratiating himself with her aristocratic friends. He plans on stealing the beastie from her, but she tricks him again and he steals a fake! But, is he fed up with her and angry enough to wring her neck? Yes, he's angry, but he still loves her - all the more because she tricked him! What a gal! She's made for him! *rolls eyes* She flees after tricking him again, and sells the beastie for a fraction of what his family was hoping to get for it, and then realizes how wrong she was to have taken it in the first place (no, really?) and goes to Scotland to his family castle to return the money to him.

Eventually he gets back and has his own little payback moment tying her up in bed before he makes passionate love to her. She tells him about selling the beastie and the money, and even though everyone is disappointed - they all forgive her! Liam asks her to marry him - but he's a soldier - will she follow him or stay at his castle with his family while he's away campaigning? Meanwhile, they're still going to be up a creek because they don't have money to save the estate, and they've given his brother, Grif, the job to go find the statue again and steal it - this is the lead in to Book 2 in the series, which I don't intend to read. Also, we never found out what his English Lockart cousins did when they found out the statue was stolen? Did they even care? Did they call the police? Or is that in the sequel as well? I dislike reading books that have such obvious open endings to prepare you for the next book. It's so calculating to me to get you to buy and read the next book in the series.

I won't say the book was bad, but it wasn't great either. The first half was all about Liam getting used to London and planning to get the beastie back. It was sort of dull, and the romance, as I said before, was out of place - forced in a way. It didn't make me like either Liam or Ellie further, it sort of lowered them in my opinion. I guess I have standards when it comes to reading these romances and if I don't necessarily approve of their having hot sex (with her daughter sleeping in the room nextdoor, or alone upstairs when they're down in his rooms) then so be it.


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