"Sword of the Highlands," Veronica Wolff

Pros: Enjoyable historical romance
Cons: Hard to visualize at times; doesn’t stand out
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Review book (uncorrected proof) courtesy of Penguin Group.
Expected publication date: 6/3/2008.
Visit Veronica Wolff’s website (plays music upon arrival).


Magdalena Deacon is an art historian who restores paintings for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her job helps her to avoid her wealthy socialite parents, as well as thoughts of her dead brother. On this particular weekend she finds herself called in to clean up a last-minute donation before a new exhibit opens. The two paintings she’s supposed to clean up are both simple pastorals, but she finds herself drawn to a much different painting from the same collection: one of a Marquis, James Graham, a striking and handsome figure who died at the hangman’s noose. While finishing up her work late at night in the museum, she’s drawn to touch the painting—and she finds herself tumbling through time & space to land in seventeenth-century Scotland, right into James’s lap (or rather, his bed).

James, an inveterate playboy and ladies’ man, finds Magda’s strength and independence intriguing. He swears to help her find her way home, but he’s already committed to a very dangerous political course that might get him killed. Magda’s desperate to get back to the future with its warm baths, its medicines, and its creature comforts, but each day she spends with James makes her worry more about the future she knows is coming for him.


Veronica Wolff’s Sword of the Highlands is a solid, enjoyable read. That said, it just doesn’t stick out in my mind beyond that. The characters are interesting enough; the battle scenes, romances, and bedroom scenes are fun. I particularly appreciated that Ms. Wolff included historical notes at the end detailing the actual history that inspired her and the sorts of things she changed—that kind of thing always intrigues me.

I did have some trouble with the visuals. Parts of the story were beautifully detailed and easy to imagine, such as a lovely river bath scene relatively early on in the book. At other times I found myself frowning from page to page as I struggled to map words to a visual image. I can’t quite figure out what about the writing caused this, which drives me a bit nuts as I have a very visual imagination and almost never have this particular difficulty. It’s a problem that sometimes distracted from the story and pulled me out of the immersion. This is even the case in one of the sex scenes, which is definitely not a place where you want to find yourself struggling to figure out what on earth the characters were actually doing!

Beyond that, though, while it is a solid read, it just didn’t stand out from others like it. The characters didn’t seem particularly unusual, ‘real,’ or lively; the plot didn’t have any real surprises to it. It didn’t sweep me up in its emotions the way some books do (and that aspect tends to be particularly important in a romance). As a way to pass the time it’s a perfectly enjoyable choice, but there’s nothing about it that makes me want to recommend it over any other decent example of the genre.

Standard romance notes: contains explicit (non-kinky) sex scenes.

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2 comments on “"Sword of the Highlands," Veronica Wolff
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