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Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning

Friday, July 29, 2011

Beyond the Highland Mist
Highlander #1

Karen Marie Moning
Medieval Romance/Time Travel/Fantasy/Paranormal/Contemporary
Published in 1999

H/h - Sidheach 'The Hawk' Douglas, the Earl of Dalkeith/Adrienne De Simone
Setting: Scotland, the Highlands 1513/Seattle, 1997.

Read in July, 2011.
My rating:


                                                              [spoiler alert]

My first Karen Marie Moning book and the story is Hawks, the Laird of the Douglas clan.

I’ve read a few books that had The Fey in them, so I was instantly interested. The title is beautiful. Also, it might be that I’m a nutcase for highlander novels so ummm ... *daydreaming*

Oh, but I digress! I’m still learning about the Fey. And, the character of Adam is new to me. I’m still gathering information here and there otherwise I won’t feel easy mentioning things I don’t have any idea about. The Fey were believed to have roamed the earth with humans at the same time. I love this myth, really. I’ve also read some stuff (and books) about the Rom/Roma gypsies, who play a vital role in this book. Adam Black, the ‘smithy’, is the fey jester/fool (though he turned out to be anything but a fool!). He, of course, works for king Finnbheara and is madly worships the Queen Aoibheal. The prologue sets up the story. In the royal court of Tuatha Dé Danaan, the queen makes a joke about a mortal man, as beautiful and as accomplished in bed, that he’s caught the Fey queen’s attentions. Both the king and the fool take offense in that. What the queen didn’t really know what her statement would unite two people born apart 500yrs and make a mess of their lives.I wasn’t sure what Adam’s relationship was with the queen. But, the queen knew Adam is a preening peacock, totally in love with himself. I knew the Fey are devastatingly beautiful, with their fey glamour and all that. Adam is no exception. But, he can take different shapes and figures, to make mischief. He’s also called Puck, Robin Goodfellow, Sin Siriche Du or ‘the black elf’ etc. The king orders Adam to do ‘mischief’ with this human’s life, who is called the Hawk. But Adam takes this order by heart as to destroy the man who dared to ‘please’ the queen when it’s his job to do so. Oh the jealous fool!

From the starting, I disliked Hawk. Yep! I couldn’t quite believe that he was staring out the window while he was screwing his latest mistress, in the act! Huh? *blinks eyes* The woman is a Rom and the Rom have lived in the lands of Dalkeith-Upon-the-Sea for a long time. The woman is jealous because that she can’t have the Hawk. He’s already distracted. She competed with her sister to get into his bed, outmaneuvering her from it (egh!). And, she promises that she won’t give him up so easily. More of Hawk’s ‘scintillating’ times when he was ‘servicing’ King Jame’s court comes out. Holy hell, he did service or what! I kinda made my mind blank, knowing his past is quite unsavory. He’s left legions of conquests in his trail with many broken hearts with them. It’s rumored that he can make stallions envious with his manly endowments ... ermmm. Hmm, he has served the king for 15 yrs from his 18th birthday. But, it’s known that Hawk’s mother was king’s favored match but she fell in love and married his father, which earned them the spoiled and selfish king’s wrath. Hawk’s father died when he was just born. Then came the king’s order, otherwise it’s his and his clan Douglas’s downfall. Hawk just had to give in to save everything he loved. But, I didn’t know all these until I was well into the story. Initially, he came off as a shallow, manwhore-type character. And yes, I thought he enjoyed what he did. But, as I learned more about him, I had to change my mind. He lost his virginity (hope I’m correct) at a very young age, with a Rom girl. The Rom did teach him a lot of things, about life and sex. I came to know about portions, which can make man very horny southward but emotionally, he’s left cold and unfeeling. I’m mentioning all these because it’s related to how Hawk had to survive the ‘torture’ of James’s court (and why he acted such a way with the ex-mistress). Yah, it was pretty demeaning. My one stupid question: why have such sex where you don’t wanna feel anything? Bleh! Anyway, when he went to James’s court, some Duchess ‘trained’ him in all things sex. I was like: eek, he so sounds like a gigolo! The legendary Hawk was wild in his youth, even using Rom aphrodisiac portions. It certainly was overwhelming for me to know how he was the best lover in and out of this part of the world or how can he give the best orgasm to his partners that ruin them for other men or how women clamor for his attentions all the freaking time and he obliges them. Oh hell!

But the man inside, the Sidheach James Lyon, is tired of all these games. He had to do what he had to do to survive in the spoiled, dirty king’s court to save his people. Now, after 15 years he’s finally free! Or, is he? It seems like James have some final twist for him, to marry the mad daughter of the brutal Lord Comyn of the Comyn clan, aptly named Mad Janet. But, Hawk has other ideas. He sends Grimm, his best friend to marry the woman by proxy. He would just dump her somewhere and go on as he does. James didn’t say he has to consummate the marriage. The man, Sidheach, wants a family of his own and children, lots of them. A tour of his home shows us that he has a distinct interest in architecture and he’s brilliant, designed a lot of things in his keep with modern ideas. The Douglas keep has a big nursery too, as it’s revealed later. But Hawk thinks well, WTF. So Grimm does what he was ordered to do. Before that, Grimm and Hawk was having a ‘manly’ talk when he jokingly wished upon a falling star that Hawk should end up with a woman who’d never succumb to his charm and defy him in everyway. That’d teach him a lesson. Hawk only laughed, not knowing what’s waiting for him and that the wish has already been granted.

Adrienne has a dark past and she’s scared of it. Her life in the 20th Century isn’t a happy one. A look of all the security systems in her home tell us she’s hiding from someone. Then it’s revealed; her ex-fiance, a man named Eberhard who was a rich, spoiled, selfish, playboy a$$hole who proposed a gullible Adrienne when she was just starting her university. Adrienne is an orphan, has no idea about her parents. And she is very beautiful with pale blonde hair and grey eyes. After being cheated, manipulated and used, Adrienne now hates beautiful men which Eberhard was without a doubt. While thinking of him, she says those words loud. Adrienne lives almost alone, with her cat Moonie and the caretaker, Maria. Born and brought up in New Orleans, Adrienne believes in magic and superstitions, well at least to some extent. Today, her instinct tells her something is very wrong with her surrounding. She was thinking of her life while taking care of the chess pieces she stole from Eberhard’s home, when she was sucked into a whirlwind and landed on the lap of Red Comyn, the nasty laird of the Comyn clan. Adrienne is appalled to see the dirty (literally) man and she faints. When she wakes up and was forced to take a bath, while her maids informed her she’s to be married soon. The laird shows her later how disgusting and abusive he can be by beating a maid in front of Adrienne to gain her agreement. She didn’t know that the real Janet was dead. Then the lairdess, Althea, comes and talks to her. She’s a nice and strong woman. Adrienne doesn’t know how to cope up with all these and the fact that this is the year 1513 and not 1997.

From the first moment I liked Adrienne. She’s just the type of smart, witty heroine I love to read. Her thought on Hawk, as the maids inform her with great details of his conquests and bedskills, was great. Adrienne is exasperated. It’s like what da hell have I done to deserve this, again? The proxy marriage was funny, she thought Grimm was her bridegroom but of course, soon she learns he’s not. Adrienne is fuming mad knowing the bridegroom couldn’t even bother to show himself. She knows he’s another shallow a$$whole and decides to point it out when she meets him, doesn’t matter who or what he is. In the Douglas keep, no one welcomes her and Hawk is not in sight. Adrienne understands she’s an unwanted bride. So, she takes a stroll and stumbles upon to the smithy, who lives and works under a Rowan tree near the keep. Adrienne is immediately attracted to him (Yah, his description was enough to make any girl drool and oooh, he was in a kilt). The smithy introduces himself as Adam and starts flirting with her when a deep voice interrupts them. Adrienne is intrigued finding that was the smithy and the one standing behind her was her husband. She’s also apprehensive of what to find behind her. And she turns. That man is yo! tall and big, with long silky dark hair and dark brown eyes that adorns the most beautiful face with utterly kissable lips. He’s in a kilt too, which adorns a hard, manly body ... Hallelujah! First attempt on Adrienne’s life takes place soon, which was foiled by Hawk. Lord I loved their banters and Adrienne’s witty, sarcastic replies to Hawk. Hawk is astounded to find that there is a woman alive in this world who doesn’t fall for his legendary charm! Eh, does no good to his monumental manly ego.

And it goes on. Hawk is instantly into Adrienne, not because she’s utterly beautiful but also because of her straight forwardness and honesty about things. He’s very determined to consummate the marriage but is jealous because he thinks Adrienne is actually attracted the damned smithy. But, she wasn’t. In fact, Adrienne feels wet just thinking of her husband but she’d never be a conquest to another shallow womanizer. I was like *clap clap*, give.him.hell! And she did, for a time. Conflicts brew between them, so grew the attraction. Adam, whom by now I knew, is responsible for this mess is playing his role earnestly. He’ll destroy Hawk by marrying a woman who’d never love him, which would make it easy for Adam to cuckold the man. Adrienne, at first fits the bill quite thoroughly, which is why he stole her from her time. But, when it’s apparent that she feels something for the Hawk, Adam thinks it’s better to take more necessary steps. Meanwhile, Adrienne learns more about Hawk’s unsavory past as well as about a very different man, when his mother Lydia takes her on a tour of the house. Lydia quite approves of her daughter-in-law. Adrienne also meets the aging, jolly tanner called Tavis, who’d been in service for a long time. Hawk also has two half-brother and sister, from Lydia’s second marriage. They aren’t introduced here other than only by mention.

I loved the scene where Hawk barters a kiss for coffee beans for Adrienne’s morning coffee. Adrienne knows this can’t go on for she’d surely succumb, just because this man is pure sex on legs, no denying that. Not from me either! Hawk is sexy. But, he’s sensitive too, something he suppresses with a ruthless inner will (loved his interactions with his mother). I knew, otherwise, it would’ve been hard for him to cope with his nasty past. When Adrienne thought she might form some kind of friendship with him, one of his ex-mistresses from James’s court show up; to make trouble for them of course. I hated the conceited, yukky woman on the spot. Adrienne is appalled by the woman’s innuendos and other displays and a tinsy-winsy bit hurt. Hawk tries to talk to her, she won’t listen. He makes it clear to that woman that he has NO intention of returning to who he used to be. In the meantime, Adrienne flaunts Adam, to make Hawk jealous, which works. Hawk takes Adrienne to another side to the keep, on a cliff’s edge and they talk and kiss. Adrienne was sure to say ‘yes’ when the woman barges in on them and calls Hawk ‘the King’s Whore’. Oh, I was shocked myself as much as Adrienne. But, she takes a supportive stance for Hawk and says some ‘in your face’ stuff to the woman.

Now, have mention, there was a funny scene, where Adrienne gets a nice view of Hawk while she was thinking of him. He comes out of the keep and climbs his horse and oh my, naughty naughty wind! Adrienne is... ermm confused if she mixed things up with the stallion he was riding *cough cough* Ahemm, anyway she certainly got her answer to ‘what’s under the kilt’ question! Lord, I was laughing so damned hard. But, things did get a bit stretchy and a bit more than frustrating as they were interrupted over and over again in the story. Hawk takes some initiatives to make love to her because he’s already realized he was in love and boy, this got me. So easily he fell, whereas most of the heroes have to be hammered it in! I loved the stalking scene in the broch (where Hawk trains his falcons), loved the ‘seeling of a falcon’ innuendos with his seduction. Then, Adrienne was hurt, with a poison dart. By now we know it’s the jealous ex-mistress, the Rom woman who’s trying to kill her. Also, it’s very apparent she’s f*cking Adam right now but Adams gives no s*it about her (or any human for that matter).

Hawk goes mad when the healer says she’s going to die because the poison has no cure. Adam is called at Morar by the King, who’s incensed because he thought it’s Adam. Adam assures the king he’ll take care of it. And, he does. For his cure, Adam bargains with Hawk that if Adrienne’s willing, he’ll have her, Hawk can’t oppose. Just to save Adrienne’s life, Hawk agrees. In her feverish state, Adrienne muttered some stuffs, which makes Hawk suspicious. While acting as Mad Janet, Adrienne told him she was from the future, which of course he didn’t believe. Now, he learned there was a man called ‘Ever-hard’ *snorts* in her past. Adrienne gets well and tries to flee. I loved the scene when she goes to retrieve her boots from the room where she stayed when she was ill and saw Hawk sleeping there, naked, with her dress in his hand. But, knowing about Hawk’s past was kinda overwhelming for her. I understood that she was really homesick and confused so I couldn’t entirely blame her for this pesky dilemma. But she’s found and kept heavily guarded. Hawk was trying to be nonchalant about the whole thing. His musings told us what he had to do as the ‘King’s Whore’. The woman who came to his keep earlier, Hawk didn’t want to have sex with her so that nasty b*tch got a petition from the king and forced him to ‘service’ her. Hawk also worked as some sort of a spy, as I understood, to gain ‘treasures’ for the ghastly king by ANY means necessary. Oh, hell! I felt really sad knowing all these. :(

Anyway, back to the story. Lydia and Adrienne form a good bond too. Adrienne learns quite a lot of things from her about Hawk’s childhood and how he came to be in the king’s services. In the meantime, debates going on between Adam and the king in Tuatha Dé Danaan. The king wants her returned, thinking the queen wouldn’t like any of this. Adam persists and convinces the king on keeping her. While they were debating, Adrienne zaps in and out of 1997 3/4 times in a few seconds. Her guards and Lydia saw it. Lydia who already knew that Adrienne isn’t mad, now believes that she is from the future. Another attempt was on Adrienne’s life, Hawk gets injured while protecting her. The woman was caught by Adam and got her comeuppance. Grimm won’t let Adrienne see Hawk. Hawk is hurt thinking Adrienne doesn’t care. He decides to leave for Uster. On the way, he stops to the Rom camp and learns about the woman’s death and why. The chief is scared of ‘Him’ so he won’t take his name. The Rom always knew about the Fey. Then it’s revealed that the Rom wanted to show their gratitude by marrying the most beautiful girl of their tribe aka that woman to a young Hawk. It didn’t happen and in a jealous rage, she became what she was. Anyway, I didn’t feel any sympathy for her; she made her bed and paid for it. The seer of the tribe gives Hawk some information with the vials of aphrodisiac and the one which makes men horny and cold simultaneously.

Instead of going to Uster, Hawk rode back to Dalkeith and found Adrienne in Adam’s arms. Lord, Adam pissed the hell outta me. Now that I think of it, he’s a fool, vain preening fool at that! He was using his magic to make Adrienne forget about Hawk but Hawk thought she went to him willingly. Boy, it was too frustrating, these twists! Later on, an angry Hawk binds Adrienne and takes her to Uster. He promises to make her take his and his name only. I was like, FINALLY! Erm, not yet? Grrr! But, he tells her some hot stuffs, ‘showing’ what she can expect from him. On the 2nd attempt, he takes the ‘horny but cold’ portion, yet doesn’t make love to her. I was about to tear my hair out when something funny happens. Adrienne was falling for him no doubt and things he did to her were making her crazy but this time, it felt like her husband acted as a stranger. She is mad and takes the other portion, that’s right the aphrodisiac thinking this’ll help her act as cold as Hawk seemed then. But, the opposite happens. Hawn returns at night, to find his wife naked, willing and purring! Oh God! But, he doesn’t make love to her because he’s decided already he’d never use a portion ever again when he makes love to her. Then, Adrienne surrenders to him willingly as Hawk’s dream comes true. It was strangely heart warming, his way of thought. I kinda felt his loneliness and his yearning for Adrienne now. Meanwhile, the king and Adam, again try to zap Adrienne through time but seeing they were in the middle of... ermm, returns her.

Adrienne calls him Sidheach, something Hawk wanted from her from the beginning and never permitted any of his whores to call him that. Then finally, it’s done! Hawk was amazed to find her a virgin and eagerly stakes his claim. :p The scene was nice but, as I write this review, I was disappointed with the scanty love scenes (two scenes and few only by mention, oh WHY?!). Doesn’t do any judgment to Hawk’s legend as a lover. Bad that those informations on him got me too interested, guilty as charged! So, I expected more. But, NO. More twists. The ‘so in love’ couple planned another wedding, to exchange vows face to face this time. Adam blackmails Adrienne to ditch Hawk on their wedding day, threatening her with Hawk and the clan peoples’ lives. Adrienne already felt that Adam isn’t human so she does that. I didn’t know how to react but I felt for Hawk, he couldn’t believe it but immediately thinks Adrienne betrayed him. She goes back to 1997, forlorn and miserable. I felt for her too. She’s lost, knowing the man she loves so much and had such devastatingly wonderful time with, is now dead. Oh, too sad to contemplate. Her past with Eberhard is also revealed here.

Hawk in 1514 was now behaving like an angry, raging bull; drinking and destroying his nursery. Adrienne finds out she’s pregnant and very happy. The Fey queen, upon knowing what Adam has done takes a step. But, I couldn’t believe that from a little hint that Adrienne left in the broch, Hawk figured out so much! Anyway, he brings the Rom chief in and asks for his help. It was good, what Hawk did and funny to some extent. In the end, the fey queen gives them her troth and a promise to keep them safe. Adam will be eating some ‘cheese’ soon, with a mousy fairy, thanks to the queen muhahaha! I loved the epilogue and I loved this love sick man, Sidheach, who was building the nursery again with his own hands. Loved the little ‘kilt’ revelation. ;) I again wish that there were more of the passion between them and less twists. The book needed this IMO, I'd rather read more about this lovesick man. The next book is his friend Grimm’s. I liked this sensitive, caring man so up for that one. For this book, 3.75 stars. It had such opportunities to be a great book!


Favorite Quote:
He stepped into the morning feeling more alive than he'd felt in months. Hold fast and believe in me, love, he whispered across the centuries. Because love and belief were serious magic in and of themselves.


 Something to remind me of Dalkeith *sigh*:

The Highlands, Scotland

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Punya
I'm a simple girl. I love to read in my spare time and do reviews the books I read. I also write, mostly songs/poems, though I'm not published. I love music and traveling. Sometimes, I wish I could live inside a book, having my own HEA. :)
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