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Throwback Thursday Review: How to Steal a Highlander

How to Steal a Highlander audiobook cover. A dark haired man embraces a brunette woman. The background is a mystical, electric blue light. How to Steal a Highlander by Olivia Norem.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars ⭐⭐
Duration: 8 hrs 55 mins.

How to Steal a Highlander is a time-travelling romance about an independent American cat-burglar who falls for a handsome seventeenth-century Scottish Highlander.

I really liked the premise, and instantly warmed to Simeon and Ian’s characters. However, I found Kat to be really tough to like or even to develop any real interest in. Compared to Simeon her character was rather flat and often quite dull, despite attempts to make her into a ‘feisty heroine’.

Simeon’s character had warmth, humour, and charm, and Kat’s brother Ian was very likeable and fit the story nicely. Kat’s character development never really felt believable and was a bit disjointed. Her role in the tale is to follow the well-worn trope where the female protagonist starts off remote and determined not to let anyone in, but gradually softens when she meets the right man, Taming of the Shrew style. In this story, however, the jump from unattainable to declaring undying love is so abrupt and out of character that rather than feeling like a dramatic epiphany it simply feels unrealistic. It was a shame because I was genuinely interested in Simeon’s character, and could really have invested in this story had it been written well.

My overall opinion was that it reads like Outlander fanfic by an author who has a lot of potential but needs a good editor and an honest critique group. The sex scenes in particular need a lot of work as at present they don’t quite hit the mark. Simeon's Adonis-like physique is described with frequency, as his his proficiency as a lover, but we are given very little to support these assertions. Kat is also supposed to be a confident and assertive woman, but is incredibly passive throughout the majority of their encounters. I don’t particularly like sex scenes that pull out all the stops to be as graphic as possible, but if you’re going to let desire and emotion drive the scene instead then you really need to invest the time in building the anticipation and exploring the effect that burgeoning need has on both characters.

The narrator, Greg Patmore, did a great job with Simeon’s voice in particular. Kat’s I didn’t like, but through no fault of his. The narrator’s slightly whiny and disinterested tone for Kat suited the character, but didn’t help me to warm to her. His Scottish and Irish accents were deliciously warm and engaging, and I would gladly listen to him narrate in either accent (plus his English, male accent) in future.

As a straight woman, I really wanted to hear more from Simeon’s perspective during their amorous liaisons. It was all just a bit too dismissive and lacklustre. Don’t just tell me he was the perfect lover, make me believe it. Really build up his need and desperation considering he's been devoid of any companionship for centuries.

I might try other books by this author as some of her characters were engaging and I liked the ideas she explored in the book, just not their execution. It often felt rushed and carelessly written, which I am sure it wasn't, but was a shame as it had a lot of promise. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't as good as it could have been and that was disappointing. I don't know much about the author, Olivia Norem, but I think that perhaps this book could be one of her early works. It bears several of the hallmarks of a good storyteller, but lacks the polish that would make it stand out or have me raring for the next one. I'd like to see how Norem grows as a writer, and perhaps look into later books if this was indeed an earlier attempt.

I'd recommend this book if you’re looking for a throwaway fantasy. If you just want to read a soppy, vaguely-erotic romance about an old-fashioned man in a kilt, then have at it. You’ll enjoy the book. But if you want a sultry Historical Romance that you can really connect with, then I think other authors (Tessa Dare to name one) do it better.

*I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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