Tempting the Highlander

Tempting the Highlander - Janet Chapman If you've been following the series, it seemed like like quite a "skip" to jump from the 1st generation MacBains and MacKeages to the 2nd generation in this book. We've seen Robbie as a baby in book 1, not even talked about in book 2, and then an 8 year old in book 3. In book 4, Robbie is a grown man. Boy, does time fly! While Robbie's age isn't specifically mentioned,he left to join the military at age 22 and was in the special forces for at least 5 years; he's out now, convinced by his dad, Michael (married to Doc Libby from book 3) to rejoin the Maine group and make a life. Robbie spent 2 years working to buy land, and another 2 years to build his business. If you do the math, he's in that "golden age" of 28-35, the age where most Highlanders and even Regency/Victorian English gentleman finally decide to look for a bride. And being that these are just as much romance books as they are about Highlanders, druids, spells, magic, etc., we know that Robbie will likely find a bride.Seems that Robbie has fully accepted and come into his "guardian" role, a role that we didn't really learn about until book 3. While we knew that Robbie had to be special as a baby, I can't say that until Robbie, himself, mentioned a Guardian role in book 3 that I ever quite caught just what he was destined to be. As Guardian, Robbie looks after his "clan", which includes both the MacKeages (his aunt Grace is married to a MacKeage) and the MacBains (his dad). But Robbie is also legal guardian to 4 foster boys, aged 15-18 -- boys who have seen enough and been enough trouble to get kicked out of every other home. And while Robbie seems to be a good foster dad, he's a bit of a soft touch, IMO; the boys don't seem to have to keep house or cook for themselves, and Robbie supplies them with condoms. {Hmmm... I applaud his sense of duty, but I wonder about his looking completely the other way where his charges' hormones are concerned. Is it enough to simply supply the condoms for safe sex? We never see or hear Robbie deliver any talks about sex, safe or otherwise.}After we catch up with Robbie a bit, we learn that he's got several problems on his hands:1. Robbie and the boys can't seem to keep a housekeeper/cook around for long. {Gee, wonder why? Boys who don't pick up after themselves and run ladies' undies up the flagpole?}2. There is a long-legged woman breaking into the chicken coop and taking fresh eggs every morning, although she is leaving $1 behind for the eggs. And while Robbie's fast, he can't ever quite catch the woman.3. The "priest" Daar (Pendaar) tells him that he (Robbie) has to go back in time to get a book of spells in the next 10 days, or within months, the spell that brought his father and the MacKeages through time will reverse itself and hurl the remaining 5 men back into their own time.Talk about action-packed!Robbie, seeing no other course of action for his family, agrees to go back in time. He can only return with items from that time, such as the MacBain and MacKeage plaids and his uncle's sword and dagger. Daar sends Robbie back in the evenings, after sunset, and when Robbie is ready to return, he uses one of the burls from Daar's newest staff to return home. Regardless of the amount of time that Robbie spends in the past, when he returns to his own time, it's always sunrise. Convenient, huh? And, Mary, Robbie's snowy white owl, accompanies him on his journeys. Mary likely contains the spirit of his dead mother Mary. And we learn more about Mary and her Guardian role... Robbie also learns that he has some "powers" of his own, powers that extend to his being able to time travel.It takes Robbie several journeys, because Daar tells him that there's another younger druid wizard who's a rival of Daar's, and that druid wizard has the book of spells that Robbie needs to return with. Except it's not really a book, it's the root of a tree. (Don't ask, just go with it.) And Robbie will have to use cunning and stealth to find the druid's tree, because the rival druid has his own reasons for wanting to interfere with the MacBains and MacKeages and their progeny. Robbie learns a few secrets about his clan, and how they're much more related than we or any of them (except Daar) knew.The chicken egg thief turns out to be Catherine Daniels, on the run from her wife beater ex-husband, a cop, who got out of prison early. Catherine has her two young children with her (6 & 8). But her car broke down on the wrong side of the mountain, and she's running low on funds. With his law enforcement background, Catherine's seen her husband track her down before, and this time she's not sure that she'll make it out alive. Since it's the middle of winter, Catherine holed up in an abandoned cabin with her kids, she's been stealing eggs to keep them all fed. Hmmm... On one of his "returns" from the past, Catherine and her kids find Robbie in nothing but Highlander plaid with a sword... badly beaten and bleeding. They lug him back to the cabin they're staying in, and Catherine has the presence of mind to tie Robbie to the bed while tending to his wounds. So, of course when Robbie wakes, he falls instantly in love with Catherine, amused at her "wisdom" of tying him to the bed. And he offers Catherine a job -- as housekeeper and cook, and she can bring the kids with her. Robbie needs a housekeeper and a cook, but he also needs someone to watch after the foster boys when he's on his nocturnal journeys.Suddenly, with Catherine and her kids in his home, Robbie realizes how slovenly he and the foster boys have been. Huh! And of course, the boys fall in love with Catherine - well, her cooking and cleaning first. And the toughest, eldest boy falls in love with Catherine's youngest, her daughter Nora, and he becomes Nora's protector. The foster boys all have problems with violence; Catherine and her family have been victims of violence. See a confrontation coming? Yep, and Catherine discovers she's stronger and more capable than she ever thought -- she stands up without fighting. Instead, she shows the scars her ex gave her during her many beatings.Robbie teaches Catherine how to fight after that, using a staff a la Gabrielle (Xena). Mary gives her seal of approval on Catherine by bringing her the 1/2 of Daar's original staff that everyone thought was lost. Robbie hides the staff, concerned what Daar might do if he got it back; besides, Mary gave it to Catherine - there has to be a reason.Mary's not done interfering yet, though. Ian MacKeage is homesick and wants to return to his own time and his wife and kids. He discovers that Robbie is making "trips" back, so Ian asks to come along. As Guardian, Robbie decides that Ian has the right to be with his family and to die in his own time. But Catherine (or Cat, as Robbie has nicknamed her) is too curious for her own good, and she follows Robbie and Ian to see what Robbie's up to at nights. For reasons not quite clear to me, Mary pushes Catherine from her hiding place to where Ian and Robbie are standing, just as Daar is winding the spell to send them back. Was Mary punishing Catherine? Or was it her way of helping Catherine find the truth? Robbie's already in love with Catherine, and his family knows it; his father told him to be sure that she's in love with him before telling her the "truth" about them. Mary took that away by forcing Catherine to join the time travel trip.Catherine, of course, thinks that she's dreaming. Except in this bizarre dream, Highland men can just grab her and run off with her to a priest to marry her. She has to be rescued several times before Robbie gets wise and takes her before his own priest to marry her, thus taking her off the market. That is, as long as Ian and his family can protect her. But Catherine has decided that she's a Guardian, too; and now that she's married to a Guardian, she's the Guardian's Guardian. So... she accompanies Ian and Robbie to the place where the rival druid's tree must be. But can they find the right tree root before the warring MacBains and MacKeages start warring again? Or before Catherine is kidnapped away? ------------------There's a lot of enjoy about this book, and we do get to time travel again - all good. But there's so much disbelief that you have to set aside to stay with this book... it's engaging and fun, but it's definitely eye-rolling and head-shaking all the way. It seems as if the time travel isn't really the point of the story, but a plot piece -- a way to take Catherine and the readers back into the 13th century, rather than to resolve the future/present dilemma. There's much more "meat" given to the story about Catherine and Robbie and their wooing, so the problem of the spell and Daar and this suddenly unheard of rival druid wizard just get lost in the mix. The rival wizard isn't even seen or heard of until the very end of the book, and then for just a glimpse. Are we to believe that he'll return and make trouble for the clan in future books? If not, he was a real waste of a character!It's great to see the two sides of domestic violence - both the victim and the abuser. We see the spiraling circle of those who are abused often become abusers. Catherine is worried about that with her 8 year old son, who had started striking his own 6 year old sister in fits of temper. And the foster boys seem to see and learn both sides, too. Robbie is definitely a Guardian and a wonderful "old soul"... just the sort to take on the foster boys, Catherine and her kids, and his clan's problems. And it's nice to see that the Guardian finally admits to needing someone to look out for him, too.But while it's a fun story, it's just so... out there. And by that I mean without apology. It's a fantasy that doesn't try to be anything but a past/present/future Highlander fairy tale, where the villains are vanquished without much thought or real threat, and everyone lives happily-ever-after. I've stuck with this series for this long, despite the unreal reality that it presents, so I guess I'll start into Winter's story, "Only With A Highlander" next. But don't look for these books to be great literature -- just a guilty pleasure, fun fluff of a read.