Secrets of the Highlander

Secrets of the Highlander - Janet Chapman 2.5 starsI found this last installment in the official "Highlander" series of Janet Chapman to be a bit strange... and not at all a satisfying end to this series. Looking through her book list, it seems as if she did a split or spin-off of some of the characters into another series. But I'm not willing to read those books, taking the chance that they might include more info about the MacKeages, MacBains, and Gregors.Megan is one of the seven MacKeage girls, and the second of the 2nd set of twins. Megan featured in Winter's story, the previous book. Megan is a wild-life biologist returned home to Pine Creek, Maine after being rejected by a guy (Wayne Ferris) that she fell for on the Canadian tundra during a project. Oh, and Megan is pregnant by Ferris - she turned tail and ran home after his complete rejection of her and the baby. She spent a good four months crying into Gesader's coat, Gesader being Winter's former pet, a black panther, who in reality is Matt Gregor's brother, Kensie. (Yeah, I know. If you aren't up on this series, you'll have to read the previous book to figure it out.) ANYWAY, in this book, Megan learns that Kensie is/was Gesader, which doesn't make her happy. She also discovers that the new chief of police, Jack Stone, is Wayne Ferris. His real name is Coyote Jack Stone, and he's half-Cree (on his mother's side); Jack is no stranger to the magic that Megan and her family are quite familiar with, Jack just knows it by and through his First Nation heritage. Jack was raised by his great-grandfather (maternal) when at age 9 his family was killed in a fiery car crash. When his great-grandfather died, at age 15, Jack was in the foster system for awhile, but then ran off to take care of himself. He joined the military at 20 and became a warrior, but he eschewed the warrior life to turn to peace. Jack was posing as Wayne Ferris to do his current occupation - tracking down runaway teens and returning them to their families or helping them to a better life. Seems that the tundra project Megan was part of wasn't all that it appeared, nor was the teen Jack Stone (Wayne Ferris) was tracking. The teen's education had been funded by a shadowy organization/cult who didn't want the tundra project to proceed. When a man was killed, Stone (Ferris) was concerned for Megan's safety; warned in a dream by his great-grandfather, Jack used whatever means he needed against Megan to ensure she'd return safely home to her large family in Maine - breaking her heart and their relationship in the process. Then Jack grabbed the teen and shipped him home to his family. But Jack's since learned that Megan's most recent employer is involved with the same shadowy organization, and that organization wants something that Megan has or knows... So Stone not only wants to protect Megan, but he also wants to re-establish their relationship. Heck, he wants to marry her and have this baby together - a boy, or so his spirit family tells him.But Megan's not having any of this nonsense. She's sure that Jack or Wayne or whoever he is has devised this entire elaborate scheme as a lame way back into her and her baby's lives. Except that she can't account for being followed or her new home being broken into...And then there's the dragon-like creature that's somehow involved in recent town break-ins, where mostly sugary treats like doughnuts and candy bars are taken. But this creature, whatever it its, seems to make quite the mess. And then there's the town hoodlums causing mischief, like putting an "F" in front of Winter's sign, making it a "Fart Gallery"... Jack is up to eyeballs in weird crime, and he's sure that the elusive Kensie has something to do with this creature. When Megan and Jack are almost killed when the creature swoops at them, and their snowmobiles end up at the bottom of the lake, Jack is determined to get to the bottom of all of this, once and for all. His spirit family and ancestors supply the info and leads, but Jack is still uncertain how the dragon, Kensie, and the town hoodlums have anything to do with Megan and this dangerous shadow organization.And can Jack rebuild his relationship with Megan? Or avoid being beaten to death by her warrior family?-------------So much good and bad mingled in this book. The bad is that so much of the book, especially Jack's story, feels like hurried and muddled. Which is odd, because this author hasn't skimped pages or story before. As a reader, I've often thought she belabored previous plot points to make her eventual point. There just seems to be so much lost or buried... so much potential between the two different cultures and their approach to "the magic"... and even the love story is lost. Yes, Jack and Megan already know one another - they've already fallen in love. But Megan thought she was in love with Wayne, not Jack. They're "falling in love again" story is mostly Megan's not believing Jack and his trying to protect her. Sure, there's a night out in the snow and one in his cabin, but that's SEX, not love - not the re-establishing of a relationship. I felt cheated on many levels.Then there's the Kensie angle (or is it Kenzie?)... As Gesader, Megan shared her heart and her bed with him. No, he wasn't a man; and yes, I believe it's possible for him to be her friend. But even THIS relationship is under-developed, swathed in secrets and a "project" that Kensie gets Megan's help with and her promise to keep secret. How the dragon comes into the story... all the relationships... how the MackKeage/MacBain/Gregor clans just take it all in stride without question, without thought... Too much is missing, incomplete, or just plain muddled.I'm most ticked that I had to *purchase* this book to read it, since my local library doesn't have a copy. Figures, since, IMO, it's a very unsatisfying book with a very unsatisfying story and "end". UGH.