How To Abduct a Highland Lord, by Karen Hawkins

Karen Hawkins had a good thing going when she began How To Abduct a Highland Lord. The story had solid dramatic potential, the characters were appealing, and she’s a decent writer. Unfortunately, there was one serious flaw: Hawkins can’t write angst worth a damn, and an angst-free romance novel is like the literary equivalent of mild cheddar cheese: there might be a little calcium, but it’s too bland to be worth the calories.

The heroine of Hawkins’ novel is a strong-willed woman named Fiona MacLean. Fiona is determined to end the ancient, pointless feud between her family and the Kincaid clan, and decides that marrying Black Jack Kincaid is the best way to go about it. Unfortunately, she and Jack have a messy history, and there’s no way that he would willing agree to marry her... which is why she doesn’t ask him. Instead, she has him kidnapped, knocked out, and dragged to the altar:

“Fiona, lass,” Father MacCanney said in an exasperated voice, “he’s not fit to be a groom!”

“All the more reason for me to marry the fool.” At the priest’s blink of surprise, she quickly added, “’Tis a known fact that a good woman can turn even the most contrary, rotten, stubborn ne’er-do-well into a responsible man.”

The priest glanced uneasily at her prospective groom. “Aye, but—“

“Have no fear for me, Father. I know he’s no prize, but he’s the one that I want.”

“Fiona, I know the lad might benefit from the match. ‘Tis just—“

“I know,” she said, sighing bravely. “He’s a philanderer who’s been with every woman from the North Sea to the fleshpots of London.”

The priest flushed at the mention of fleshpots. “Yes, yes. So everyone knows, but—“

“He is also a complete wastrel who has made no effort to embrace a useful life. I know he’s not the best choice of groom, but—“

“He’s not even conscious!” the priest burst out. “He canna even say his own name!”

Fiona glanced down at where her man, Hamish, had dropped her groom on the cold flagstone at her feet. Muddy rivulets dripped onto the church floor from Kincaid’s clothing. “I was afraid that was your problem.”

This is a great set-up, with lots of opportunities for smokin' hot melodrama. Hawkins ups the ante by introducing the vixenish Lady Lucinda, Jack’s evil ex-mistress, and Alan Campbell, a handsome reprobate with a torch for Fiona, as well as sticking in a minor subplot about a family curse. And yet, despite all this potential, nothing much happens! Jack doesn’t want to be married, but he gets over it. He and Fiona are never tempted by the attractions of the secondary romantic characters. They fight over Jack’s lifestyle, but Fiona rapidly manipulates her way to victory. In fact, there is so little drama in this novel that Jack comes across as a pushover, and Fiona a nag. (It's unclear why, exactly, we're supposed to think that Jack should change his way of life, just to please the wife that forced herself upon him. I wouldn't, in his place.) The lack of serious emotional conflict—there’s a little physical peril at the end, which is not the same—gets boring fast, and completely wastes the novel’s promising start.

How tough could adding a few angsty scenes be? Korean soap opera writers manage them all the time! Actually, a good Korean soap writer would have done great things with this plot. If this book were a K-drama, Jack and Lady Lucinda would have a serious yet conflicted relationship. Fiona’s marriage scheme would screw things up for them, but Jack would agree to it for his family’s sake. He’d pine after Lucinda until he notices a growing attraction to his wife (and vice versa, although she tries to conceal her feelings). At this point Campbell would turn up and fall in love with Fiona, and Lucinda would put up a fight for Jack’s affections. There’d be some hardcore drama, but everything would turn out fine in the end: Jack and Fiona would be happy, while Lucinda and Campbell would trudge off into the sunset, heartbroken and alone. Viewers everywhere would cheer.

I think you can rent Goong through Netflix, Ms. Hawkins, and I keep seeing My Name is Kim Sam Soon on that AZN channel. Seriously, you could learn a lot.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


No comments yet. Be the first!

No new comments are allowed on this post.