My Heart’s in the Highlands by Amy Hoff is a historical time travel romance that I’ve seen compared to Outlander. Seeing as I’ve never read that series or watched beyond the third episode of the TV show, I can’t confirm or deny it, but I can see why people are thinking it.
The story opens in 1888 Edinburgh with Lady Jane Crichton. She’s a scientist who’s been to university and is happily married to a gay man. The marriage suits her because it gets her family off her back so she can focus on her career. When we first meet Jane, she’s at a momentous milestone of her life and career: she’s created a time machine and it’s ready for its first major trip.
But something goes wrong and Jane doesn’t land where she expects. When she wakes up on the ground, having been thrown from the machine, she meets a hunky warrior woman. Ainslie nic Dòmhnaill is heir to the title of MacDonald and future Lord of the Isles, which blows Jane’s Victorian mind. Jane is in the Highlands in 1293, nothing is as she expected, and she doesn’t know how she’ll get home now that her time machine is busted.
Jane is welcomed warmly by the Ainslie’s clan and slowly builds a life with them as she tries to fix her machine. She also falls hard and fast for Ainslie. But can Jane really stay when she’s homesick for 1888? Plus, she’s keeping a pretty big secret from Ainslie and everyone else in her new reality.
I liked seeing Jane and how she handles being a fish out of water. Some of it comes down to her being a scientist, so she’s willing to take in new information all the time. All of her concepts of what the 13th century would be like are blown away and she not only rolls with it, but grows to appreciate the differences.
Ainslie is a total dreamboat. You could read this book for nothing but her and walk away satisfied because she’s just that great. I don’t think it’s fair to refer to her as butch because butch/femme don’t appear to be constructs here, but she’s definitely that beefy, warrior type. In a lot of ways she reminds me of Highlander men from the historical romances I swiped from my mom in highschool, but without any of the toxic masculinity rep that those books usually included. That occasionally wasn’t good (the consent in one of the sex scenes was dubious), but usually it was great.
There are a TON of extra characters between both time periods, but I found it pretty easy to keep track of who is who. They all added something to the story and I liked many of them very much. I’d like to give an extra shoutout to Ainslie’s mom’s dog, who is absolutely adorable and was a highlight each time she showed up, as well as Ainslie’s mom, who is a badass Viking and actual historical figure.
The Writing Style
The chapters in this book are very short, which keeps things moving along quickly in snackable chunks. However, I found the pacing overall kind of strange for a romance novel. It took me a while to figure it out, but it seems like the pacing is set by when and how Jane reveals her secret and not the actual development of her relationship with Ainslie.
Another thing to know is that when Ainslie and her people speak, the dialogue is written to better reflect the Highlands. For example, when Jane first meets Ainslie and asks what happened, Ainslie says “I was waitin’ to ask ye the same question […] Fiery ball fell oot o’ the sky, the seer-women will mak merry with this for months.” This worked for helping me distinguish Highlanders from non-Highlanders.
Friends, this book is bonkers and I mean that in the best way. I went into it with very few expectations and even still, I found myself wondering “what the hell is going on?!” There were so many unexpected things or things that didn’t quite make sense (for example, no one questioning that Jane was a time traveller), but as a whole, it worked for me. My advice: go into this expecting something fun and wild, and just hang on for the ride. Also, don’t bother skipping ahead because that will just confuse you, which I know because I tried it.
I’ve mentioned a couple of things already: some of the consent during sex in one of the encounters comes across as dubious at best and the pacing is a bit weird, so I couldn’t really figure out where the story was going.
One other thing worth noting is that I have no idea how close or far the historical details are. On the one hand, there’s a section at the end that’s a solid 15% of the book, chock full of historical background, which gives me some confidence. On the other, there are things happening in the 13th century that I know are impossible, like having champagne and potatoes (yes, there was champagne, but Jane wouldn’t have recognized it as such because of the massive change in how they made it during the 17th century). I am not a historian, but I was embracing the bonkers nature already, so this didn’t bother me as much as it made me mistrust how accurate any of the historical details were.
Before picking this up, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you like time travel romances?
- Do you want to read about a beefcake Highlander warrior woman sweeping a Victorian scientist off her feet?
- Do you like books that are fun and don’t always make sense, but that’s also part of the fun?
If you said yes to any of the above, then congratulations! You’re going to have a good time with My Heart’s in the Highlands. It’s not a perfect book, as I called out above, but it’s the most fun I’ve had in a while and it was a perfect distraction from everything going on in the world right now.
Excerpt from My Heart’s in the Highlands by Amy Hoff
Her vision was blurred—or, no. It was the fog.
Distantly, she became aware of rough ground beneath her, the twigs and dirt underneath her hands. Floating in this strange dream, which looked to her like one of the snowglobes she had seen in a London shop window, was the looming shadow of a mountain, white-capped in the distance, so high above her she felt almost dizzy with it and, in the foreground, on a rocky outcrop, a…bonfire?
She pushed herself into a sitting position, and what had seemed like a fire in the distance resolved itself into the figure of a woman with fiery ginger hair, her body wrapped in the woman’s version of the long tartan blanket-like garment that men wore as the more recognizable great kilt. Jane knew the word for it, earasaid, although she’d never seen one; that type of clothing was viewed as impossibly uncouth and savage these days. The woman’s back was turned to her. A large sword was at her side.
Jane suddenly noticed, to her horror, the broken, twisted remnants of her machine. She covered her mouth to stifle a scream; she had no idea where she was, or when she was, or who her companion might be. She only thought of getting away as fast as she could; something had gone wrong and she needed to find a way to get in touch with David or Joe Bell as soon as possible.
She rolled to her feet and started to creep away silently, her eyes all the while on the silent woman seated at the cliff’s edge. She reached the treeline at the edge of the clearing, congratulating herself on her stealth.
“The Argyll are in there, ye ken,” said a rich, rolling deep voice.
“Aye, I’m speakin t’you,” said the voice. The woman on the cliff hadn’t moved or even looked around. “The daft lassie tryin’ to skewer hersel on a Caimbeul dirk.”
“Excuse me?” said Jane, insulted.
The woman stood and turned around.
Jane’s heart was in her throat, beating like butterfly wings.
If Jane was tall and stocky, this woman was absolutely huge. Her long shock of ginger hair was held in an enormous braid, with a few other narrow braids hanging down on the right side, framing her face. She wore a gold circlet on her forehead and a gold torc around her neck. She seemed to be in her late thirties, close to Jane’s age, or a little older. Her skin was pale and freckled, an intricate design drawn onto her face, a tattoo of dark-blue ink in a knotwork pattern; sharp cheekbones swept down to full soft lips tinted pink. Her eyes were large and forest-green, and her stern expression was terrifying. She was incredibly muscular, from the corded lines of her neck to her strong arms and the solid build of her body. She crossed her arms and stared at Jane.
Jane found she was having trouble breathing.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781642471274
- Publisher: Bella Books
- Amy Hoff Online
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