Under the Highlander's Spell
Donna Fletcher
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Buy *Under the Highlander's Spell* by Donna Fletcher online

Under the Highlander's Spell
Donna Fletcher
384 pages
September 2008
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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The heroine of this story, Zia, is the real focus of the book, although she's hardly under the Highlander's spell. We met the highlander in question, Artair Sinclare, in the previous book by author Donna Fletcher, but in this novel he seems emasculated - his only action appears to be following Zia around, making sure that she gets enough food and saying he'll protect her. His idea of protection is getting her to marry him; once she's a member of the powerful Sinclare family, then those who denounce her as a witch will find they can't get anywhere with the accusations. The common theme in this sort of book, that of the hero having to come to a realization that he is in love, is too hackneyed and unrealistic to work well in this setting.

Zia is a stereotypical healer - entirely unselfconscious when healing, totally devoted to her patients, liable to do foolish and risky things in the name of healing. She also seems remarkably successful: none of people she treats during the course of the book die, very unusual for the time (perhaps more evidence that she really is a witch!). The minor twist at the end with a secret that the bishop holds doesn't particularly surprise, allowing the story to be wrapped up well but not boding well for the bishop's honesty and integrity in his clerical role.

With the unbelievable Zia, the nebulous Artair, and a subplot about Artair's brother, Ronan, which isn't resolved here, Under the Highlander's Spell feels unremarkable - as if it's a transitional book between the author's stories of Cavan, the elder brother, and Ronan, the younger. Artair and Zia don't have anything special in the book to make it memorable. The potential of the 16th-century Scotland setting remains unrealized, and the fact that various characters regularly break into modern American English means that this story neither piqued my attention, nor will it stay with me.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Helen Hancox, 2009

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