Call it romance. Call it smut. Call it sweet. Call it whatever you like. But somehow, someway, this genre’s wormed its way onto my bookshelves and into my Kindle before I realized it happened. (See the On My Bookshelf 2021 page for proof).
Along the same lines, I’ve also come to love Scotland/Highlander tales, and I do believe that all started when I watched the first season of Outlander. I just wish I could’ve continued watching it. As it happens, I wasn’t keen on many things they were willing to film for the show. I didn’t start with the books the show’s based upon, so I’d no idea those scenes were coming. Perhaps I’ll read the book and enjoy that more than seeing it on a screen?
Enter in HIGHLANDER’S UNWANTED BRIDE by Ann Marie Scott. I read the synopsis and thought I’d give it a go. Fifty pages in, I’m left with more confusion than where things began. Let’s take a deep dive into why I couldn’t finish reading HIGHLANDER’S UNWANTED BRIDE.
Issues With Main Characters and Points of Views
William – main character
Susanna – main character
Aisla – secondary character
Michael – secondary character
Simon – secondary character
What do all these folks have in common? They’re each given their own points of view. Or so it would seem.
Let’s take a look at the Japanese anime, Ouran High School Host club. It’s a fun show that’s still incredibly popular, years after its original run. Each member of the club has their episode(s), and they all break the fourth wall when it comes to the show’s narration. While ninety-five percent of it is told through the heroine Haruhi’s point of view, we still see glimpses into the other character’s lives and their perspective of her. (OHSHC wiki page)
That’s how I feel Ms. Scott tried to write HIGHLANDER’S UNWANTED BRIDE. She tried to write it as though the book was a television show, not a novel. An odd cross between a script built from a show and a novel from a novice trying to hit all the marks of what “every writer should do.”
Because who’s speaking jumps so frequently and often without warning, there’s very little development for the main characters in the first fifty pages. Nothing to endear you to either William or Susanna. If you enjoy reading multiple POVs, as well as writing them, more power to you! I don’t think I could ever write more than two or three in any given novel myself. This one had at least five before chapter four.
Flashbacks and Uneven Flow
There’s much debate over the inclusion of flashbacks in stories as a whole. While many authors feel they reveal too much backstory, others love peppering them throughout the novel’s timeline. They can be used to show motivation behind a character’s belief system, or reveal why a MC behaves the way they do.
There are two flashbacks (probably more – I wouldn’t know) in HIGHLANDER’S UNWANTED BRIDE, and both happen before chapter four. Add to them time jumps backwards and you’ve got one confusing symphony of scenes.
Author KM Weiland has a fantastic post about flashbacks. If you’re looking to include one in your novel, I suggest you stop by this page first. The two flashbacks included in this particular novel fall under the latter half of the following quote:
Writers love their flashbacks. And with good reason. Flashbacks are a multi-functional technique for stepping outside your story’s timeline and sharing interesting and informative nuggets about your characters’ pasts. But just as they can be used to strengthen your story, they can even more easily cripple it.KM Weiland; Helping Writers Become Authors – source
The first flashback is of Susanna and a man named Simon. We’re immediately greeted with one of the first instances of how the point of view changes, without warning, from one paragraph to the next. The next flashback reveals how William lost his first wife to childbirth. This information is later told to Susanna as she and William are out on the clan’s land.
While flashbacks can help an author sort out future scenes, they can run the risk of feeling repetitive to a reader. And that’s the case with both of the aforementioned flashbacks. This leads directly into the choppy nature of the novel’s dialogue and use of punctuation.
The Dialogue and Use of Punctuation
Choppy, choppy, choppy. Everything about this novel’s first fifty pages was choppy.
If you want the actions of saying and doing to be more like separate events, then repeat the subject for the verb of doing.How to Write Dialogue | Neil Whitman – source
Oh, the punctuation! Don’t get me started on it!
Did those two sentences feel overly dramatic? That’s because they were meant to. The next time you write dialogue, or even a blog post, take a look to see how many, if any, exclamation points you’ve used. Here’s a very useful article from Grammarly on proper usage of the exclamation point.
Now I know I’m not perfect on my use of punctuation. In fact, I’m positive you could pick out several things right off the bat. In the case of Ms. Scott’s novel, she really loves using exclamation points. With every character. No matter how old they are.
Here’s my humble opinion: exclamation points make characters younger than they are. Or seem like they’re always angry. Or, or, or, or. Now I’m not saying using them in a novel is wrong. It’s just a little odd when you find yourself counting how many are in any given chapter.
Overall, the story read like a first or second draft. So much so that I couldn’t get into it just to find out what happens to William and Susanna. Honestly? I don’t really care to know. That’s how detached the two of them feel to me, and I didn’t root for either one. If you’d like to give HIGHLANDER’S UNWANTED BRIDE a try, it’s available via Kindle Unlimited. (NSFW warning)