Callum Robertson never met his grandfather. His father and the older man were estranged almost from the moment of Callum’s birth. So when his grandfather bequeaths Callum a sprawling, run down, and supposedly haunted Highland estate, Callum just plans to sell the thing and be done with it. But as he learns more of the house and his family’s tragic history, Callum finds himself drawn more closely to the grandfather he never knew and to the house’s resident ghost.
Craig MacPherson was a bit shocked to find someone on the abandoned estate near his small farm, especially someone so handsome. He and Callum click right away and Craig can’t help hoping that Callum decides to stay in the Highlands. But Callum has a life in Edinburgh. Do a determined ghost, a dusty house, and a rugged Highlander have enough sway to bring Callum home for good?
I had high hopes for Highland Hearts. Alliteration aside, I’m keen on any book set in Scotland. Throw in a haunted house and a couple of sexy Scotsman and what could go wrong? Unfortunately quite a lot. I had some serious issues with Highland Hearts, but let’s start with the high points first. The story was short and sweet and the pacing was strong. The author did a good job of moving the plot and not getting bogged down in unnecessary details. The journal entries detailing the history of Callum’s family are the strongest part of Highland Hearts and certainly the most engaging. This was the novella’s real strength and kept it from becoming a complete victim to some of its other hurdles.
While the historical journal entries read as smooth and possessed a natural flow, the contemporary action often felt stilted and awkward. There was a stiffness and a lack of cadence to the language and the character interactions that was often jarring to the point of distraction. Additionally, I felt there was no real chemistry between the main characters. There was lust undoubtedly, but not the kind of passion that would inspire someone to abandon their well ordered life for the Highlands. Callum and Craig were both rather flat and had the same kind of stiffness that crippled the rest of the novella. They were just blah, adding nothing and detracting nothing.
The much spoke of haunting turns out to be a big ole nothing. The apparent ghost leads Callum to the journals of his family but that’s it. The fact that the ghost could have been removed completely from the story and wouldn’t have mattered, demonstrates how useless this aspect of the plot was. Additionally, this novella takes place in the Highlands of the Scotland, which from personal experience I can confirm is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Yet Highland Hearts has almost no sense of place. It could have existed anywhere and I felt the author let a tremendous opportunity slip away by not portraying the Highlands themselves as a vibrant character in Callum and Craig’s story. It certainly could have played a more important role than the ghost.
Overall, Highland Hearts limped rather than soared. Though quick paced and without much lagging action, uneven writing and a distinct lack of chemistry between the main characters added up to a story that really didn’t go anywhere and failed to achieve its full potential. Unless you are a diehard Scottish romance fan, I’d give this one a pass.