The Highlander's Touch  - Karen Marie Moning My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

Oh, this book is full of history! I’ve just clarified a few things/terms/words I didn’t know about. Phew! Ms. Moning did her research well I guess. Though I don’t like to ‘study’ history, I do love to do my own little research when I’m reading a book. This book includes incidents from the battle of Bannockburn, the castle Dunnottar, the Picts (and Brudes), of course the Fey and Tuatha Dé Danann (with our favorite Adam!) and some of the ancestors of the heroes/villains of book #1 and #2 ie: the Douglas, Comyn and McIllioch. The story is set in the middle ages and includes time travel from 21st century.

It’s 1308; Circenn or Cin is the laird and thane of Brodie clan, who has some kind of interactions with the Fey. Adam Black or sin siriche du is always in contact with him because Tuatha Dé Danann has given Cin the responsibility of guarding some of their ‘treasures’. Cin has been doing this when one of the treasures, a flask containing some magic, goes missing. As they talk, Cin who is always in control of himself and his keep, who runs by strict rules, warns Adam not to ‘play’ with his maids. Adam being Adam, laughs it away because that’s what he loves to do, ‘play’ with people. Anyway, as they talk about the missing flask, Adam commands Cin to find it. When Cin, who knows a little magic himself, tells him he has bind the flask with a magic that’d bring the person who touches it back directly to him, Adam reminds him that Cin didn’t consider that it might include a person from future. Cin is a bit confused. It seems like Adam has always asked him to learn the Fey magic but Cin has always denied with vehemence. Anyway, Adam makes Cin promise that he’ll kill the person with the flask, because the secret of these ‘treasures’ must remain a secret. In return, Adam will never darken his door ever again. Historically, the Knights Templars are already in Scotland to save themselves from the French King and have sworn their allegiance to Cin. They train with Cin and under his command. Castle Brodie, Cin’s keep is thus, a very protected place where no one but the most trusted are allowed.

Lisa, in the modern day, has experienced her share of loss and tragedies. Her father died 5 years ago in a car crash on her graduation day, leaving her mom paralyzed. A months ago, Lisa’s mom was diagnosed with cancer and dying. Lisa’s got no future apparently; no higher study, no financial stability and she’s working her butt out with two jobs and still it’s not enough. One of her job is as a night maid at the museum of Cincinnati. Lisa is beautiful and tall with coppery hair and green eyes but whenever the guys hear about her jobs, they just high tail, which is too hurtful for her. After all the suffering in her life, Lisa has never tried to find a man, knowing what it’ll bring. It’s while doing her nighttime duty, a very tired Lisa falls asleep in the director’s room. When she heard footsteps approaching, she hides and hears that the director and another man talking. The beautiful black box she’d spied on the desk contains something even those two men can’t identify. When they leave, her curiosity wins out. She opens the box and sees a metallic flask. Though it’s very apparent that it’s hundreds of years old, Lisa can’t but be mesmerized by it, so she touches and she feels like falling then landing in front of a giant man ... in front of a bathtub, ... a giant, nude man (as she later corrects herself later) who’s snarling at her and speaking some odd language. Whoo boy! Lisa can’t think, for a while that she’s just landed on the medieval Scotland, in front of a tall, dark and immensely sexy Highlander called Circenn Brodie.

It’s been six years since Adam has given Cin the command. But, he never specified what to do if the person is a woman, a tall beautiful woman at that, wearing odd dress and speaking English. Cin is more than intrigued by his ‘prisoner’. And, he can’t kill her, just can’t! Here we meet two Douglas brothers, Galan and Duncan, Cin’s two very trusted advisers. The Douglas clan has been serving Cin for centuries, as I got to know from their conversations. Centuries? Oh boy, didn’t I mention? Cin is immortal! And, boy it struck me hard. I wasn’t expecting this AT ALL. Later in the story, it’s revealed that it was Adam who did this to him, without his knowledge, when Cin was about thirty. He got to know about it at the age of forty-one, without aging a year more than thirty. It’s been a lonely 500 yrs old existence for him. Oh poor darling! Cin is not a womanizer because he can’t get involved with a woman without getting emotionally attached and you can guess, mortals only bring heartache to him. So, he married twice in his lifetime but never sired a child because he didn’t want to go through anymore funerals of his loved ones in his bleak existence. But, this woman, Lisa who’s from the future, is so different that she stirs something strong in his blood.

Have to say, I liked Lisa as a heroine. I liked that she was so responsible and felt guilty that she’s happy (later in the book) whereas her mother is dying, so, many times she tried to plan an escape, hoping the flask would help her. But, Cin hid it very well. And, he kept on telling her he can’t help her to get back, neither the flask. Cin knew only Adam can time travel and help her but he’d not ask him to come back here. Anyway, my point was, though Lisa was an admirable heroine, Cin was pure delish! From head to toe, from inside out. He was pure sin with so much goodness, I didn’t like seeing him in pain or suffer in the later part of the story. I agree with some reviews as they mentioned the character of Sin from Kinley McGregor’s Born in Sin. The hero, Sin was very much like our Cin here. And, Cin does many things for Lisa, to keep her with him, when he finally realizes he can’t possibly let her go, even if he had some means.

Now, there were funny scenes in the book. Some of them involves Lisa’s escape attempts in Dunnottar (which is where Cin was at that moment, awaiting Robert the Bruce). Cin was hard and aching, seeing Lisa in jeans. Later, he sees her in her bikini bra and panty. Oh, it was an accident for sure, he didn’t know she was changing clothes but Cin was a goner seeing her in those. :p And, it didn’t help that a very randy Duncan was f*cking one of Cin’s maids in the ... Oh, crap! Duncan the smug, nauseating pig will get his own paragraph later in my review because I’ve certainly learned quite a few things from him or observing his activities! Anyway, while Cin was trying somehow to save Lisa, he makes a plan; if Robert is here, he’ll ask him to act as if Lisa is his cousin. Robert, to whom Cin is one of the greatest of his warriors, listens to him. But, with that, he very tactically handfasts Cin with Lisa. It was another of the funny scenes, even I felt like laughing with Duncan the pig. The man has no, I mean NO shame; everything is fun for him, the day is always bright and good for a casual ‘tupping’. Egh! God, am I back to him again? Grrr! Later on, Cin explains Lisa about the handfasting. Lisa is sure she won’t be here to marry the giant, sexy, beautiful laird, however appealing that notion sounds. She needs to get back and get back soon for her mother. In the meantime, in the 21st century; Lisa has gone missing and the museum has contacted the police to find and arrest her because of the missing treasury. Also, Lisa’s mom gets sicker knowing it all.

After that, they travel back to Castle Brodie, Cin’s keep. Lisa wasn’t sure what to think of the keep but finally, when she glimpses a view she is astounded. It’s nothing like Dunnottar, which was already in shambles. Castle Brodie is strong and beautiful, like it’s master. It runs strict by rules, like it’s mater as well. Cin can’t but help falling for Lisa as the day goes by. I liked their communication though as I’ve already mentioned, I adored Cin so very much that Lisa kinda paled in comparison. I didn’t like that Cin trusted Duncan the pig with Lisa’s teaching all things medieval, even letting him in her bedchamber. Of course, Lisa had no idea about Duncan as I had. If it was me, I would’ve... Ugh I’m back to him again! Back to the story, Lisa did fight her inner happiness, something she never experienced, while being with Cin. You can guess, why. In the end, this issue returned between them, again and again but I guess it couldn’t be avoided. Then, in a hidden room, where Cin hid all his ‘treasures’ including the 21st era things Adam brought him back, he sees visions (he does that too) which involved a hot lovin’ and he knew instinctively who it was and what his future holds. Cin already knew that he’d go mad sometimes in the 17th century but seeing this vision, he gave himself into the temptation, of thoroughly loving and being thoroughly loved in return. By that I don’t necessarily mean sex. Of course he wanted Lisa in his bed but the feeling he’s been fighting for so long, more so after knowing Lisa; the intense love and happiness, he thinks he’s finally ready to feel that, saying:

"So, that is what is to be," he mused aloud. "Fate."

Their relationship was blossoming with a healthy dose of fantasizing (from both sides- some of Lisa’s association with desserts and a spoon licking Cin, I found great :p) and thorough kissing before retiring. In the meantime, Duncan and Galan reminds Cin that they want a feast, in celebration of Cin’s return. And, then, I loved the way Cin tried to seduce Lisa, the words and all, but controlling himself, knowing she needs time yet. They talk about things, including Cin’s own lovers. Trust me, whereas I usually find that yukky when the heroes past women are mentioned, Cin is such a gentle guy and full of goodness and knowing his plight of immortality, I found the whole conversation very intense and endearing. And, that was one HOT scene *fan please!* as when a half naked Cin turns to go, his kilt …ermm, slips downward and oooh, Lisa already had a good idea of what’s under Cin’s kilt from their first meeting but boy, this was so good. I was saying WOW myself with Lisa and that must be my most favorite scene in the book. Lisa was almost convinced ... almost when suddenly she learns of Cin’s wedding plans and preparations. Then she gets desperate to leave 14th century and so, she corners Cin with a knife to give her the flask. A resigned Cin, who’s been repeatedly telling her it’s no use, finally gives in. Lisa touches the flask, but to no avail. Cin stays there with her, knowing it’ll bring her grief, to finally see the truth. Then for a few days, Lisa is very depressed knowing that she’s stuck here, for better or worse. Then she decides it’s better to marry Cin because apparently he’s all she’s got. BTW: Adam has been visiting Lisa masquerading as a child, causing minor mischief in his wake.

Anyway, soon Lisa came to trust in Cin more and more. She had great time with him, strolling the castle together. Oneday, Cin showed her a ‘shian’ or a fairy mound and told her that if someone circles it seven times and spills blood, the Fey queen comes and grants his/her wish. And, I loved these little bits of information about the Fey myth and Cin himself throughout the story. The historical facts were also taking place, Lisa knew the battle of Bannockburn is coming soon. What I found seriously odd that she could be so comfortable with Duncan even after seeing him ‘in action’ with a maid in a bothy. It was too embarrassing for words, good lord! I was like, crap, not again! He had no problem with that of course, saying a little ‘oops’ when Lisa fled the place. Omigawd, you should’ve seen the look of horror (which I was sure there) on my face! But, the ‘real’ fun regarding Duncan was yet to come, to which I’ll return later.

Cin does a little thing, by his own hands, to please Lisa. He shows her the alter where he painstakingly crafted mosaic wooden handiwork, with Lisa and his own mother’s name in it. It was so so sweet, how the poor guy was a bit anxious that she might not be happy with it. *sigh* And it sure did won Lisa over. And finally, they made love. I loved this scene, not only because it was hawt and Cin was so crazy for Lisa but because of the ‘bond’ they shared while climaxing. It was magical, that they suddenly begin to feel each-others feelings. Cin previously never came inside a woman before, so he had no idea why this has happened. But, it has a reason which Adam in the final part of the book explains to him. And, then on, they were totally absorbed into each-other, left me sighing more than once and wanting Cin for myself. Lord but that guy was yum! Inside, Cin was always apprehensive about losing her and that from experiencing losses all through his damned immortal life. He was possessive, a little barbaric at times but ever so sweet to her. Lisa knew they were falling and nothing could help it. Meanwhile, the fey queen, Aoibheal learns of Adam’s games with Cin and Lisa. Yes, the whole thing was orchestrated by Adam, for a gain of course. The queen takes away some of Adam’s power because of it and tells him to let Lisa and Cin work their feelings for themselves. I was a bit confused about Adam’s relationship with the queen in Beyond the Highland Mist, in this book got my answer.

Soon, the feast to celebrate Cin’s return and handfasting was taking place. Lisa and Cin are very happy. But, one misguided templar threatens Lisa’s life in the midst of the celebration, which Cin felt though their bond. Anyway, this brings them closer to each-other and they talk more about themselves, Lisa have already said a lot about her life; now Cin does too. This was in the middle of it, summon from Robert arrives to join the battle of Bannockburn. The whole castle is bursting with men and their energies, readying themselves for the battle. When Cin goes to get himself ready and enters the hidden room, Lisa follows him. And, she sees all those things from her time. She instantly feels betrayed but soon, through their shared bond, realizes Cin never lied to her. But, I really didn’t like the way she made him confess his immortality and a few other things, too. She couldn’t even give him a little time, after everything they’d shared together? Cin leaves, telling her ILU. Lisa is restless and in such a state, summons the Fey queen through the shian. Then she’s confused if she wants to go back or stay. I know, when she thinks about her mother, it is a very difficult situation yet I was suddenly scared that she’ll leave Cin. Through the bond, she felt he was feeling her and it hurt him. The fey queen summons Adam to take care of it. The fool strands Lisa on the shores of Morar and proceeded to wait for Cin to return from the battle.

In the end, it was a little difficult to swallow a few things. There were many twists already but then, Cin’s ‘real’ relationship with Adam, I couldn’t quite take in, wasn’t expecting at all. It did explain some certain things like why Tuatha Dé Danann selected Cin to guard their treasure or why Adam was so interested to teach him the Fey magic. And frankly, I didn’t like it either; maybe because Cin is SO much better than Adam, who has a profound knack for seriously grating on my nerves. Then the other twists including Lisa’s life and so on, just lost me there. Which is why I couldn’t give it a 5 star, though I really wanted to. Cin more than proved his love for Lisa (and won me over). I so enjoyed reading him but she really paled in comparison. This book is 4 stars and Cin, it’s all for you babe!

Now, before finishing my review, coming back to Duncan the randy goat. Here goes the ‘Things I’ve Learned While Touring Cin’s Castle’ list:

While Duncan is around-

1. You might wanna check your food (preferably not eat it), coming from the kitchen, especially if it involves honey. Don’t look at me, he’s capable of anything!

2. DO NOT by ANY MEANS, venture into the outer buildings, parapets, shadowy corners etc. of the keep lest you catch a glimpse of things that might give you nightmares later on... ahemm.

3. (It’s from me) Do not let him into your bedchamber or let him sit/touch anything near you or yourself. Who knows where... *cough cough* excuse me!

But hell! I salute Beth aka Elizabeth (who came for the feast and met Duncan there) for calling him a ‘left over’ and telling him she preferred ‘last weeks rushes over him’ because those would be ‘less used than him’ *woot woot!* It was SO DAMNED GOOD woman! I did a little dancing reading that scene, was hoping for something more but alas, nothing! NADA! Oh why?! *headdesk* The book ended without an epilogue. And, there isn’t any book in the series on Duncan, as far as I know so...? Lord, I felt cheated because Beth is exactly what Duncan needs; a thorough lash of razor tongue. Goddamn it! I want that book, NOW! Grrr.

Something magical, to remind me of Castle Brodie:

Dunrobin Castle, Scotland

And of course, Castle Dunnottar by Gert-Jan Brink: