Harper’s Highland Fling
After a gruelling academic year, head teacher Harper MacDonald is looking forward to a summer holiday trekking in Nepal.
However, her plans are scuppered when wayward niece, Ariel, leaves a note announcing that she’s running away with a boy called Pen. The only clue to their whereabouts is a footnote: I’ll be in Scotland.
Cue a case of mistaken identity when Harper confronts the boy’s father – Rocco Penhaligon, and accuses him of cradle snatching her niece and ruining her future. At loggerheads, Harper and Rocco set off in hot pursuit of the teenagers, but the canny youngsters are always one step ahead. And, in a neat twist, it is the adults who end up in trouble, not the savvy teenagers.
Fasten your seatbelt for the road trip of your life! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!
I was so looking forward to this one! I always, always enjoy Lizzie Lamb’s books, and having seen the gorgeous cover and the blurb for this book on social media for some weeks, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
It was worth the wait.
I always read Lizzie’s books with a sense of guilt, though. The hero of her first book, Tall Dark and Kilted, quite won my heart. Ruairi Urquhart, the Laird of Kinloch Mara, was so thoroughly delicious that I swore I would be true to him. Unfortunately, that devotion has wobbled several times upon reading Lizzie’s subsequent books. She does write such delectable heroes! I have to admit, Rocco Penhaligon might just have taken Ruairi’s crown. I’m really sorry, Ruairi! But look, Rocco’s gorgeous, and he rides a motorbike, and he’s a devoted dad and a loyal friend and… Well, you get the picture.
From the moment Rocco slides out from under that car in his garage, he had me intrigued, and as the story developed, I grew ever keener to understand this man more and figure out what made him tick. Together, I feel like we’ve been on quite a journey. Shove over, Harper MacDonald! Actually, I’m not being fair to Harper. She’s a great character, too. Although she seemed very buttoned up and brusque and judgmental at first, as the story developed I could see another side to her entirely. And who can blame her for being angry? She’s supposed to be spending the summer holidays in Nepal, for goodness’ sake, not chasing after two troublesome teens on the back of a grumpy, sarcastic stranger’s motorbike!
You can get the gist of the story from the blurb. This begins as a road trip book, and we follow Harper and Rocco from their village in Cornwall to Rocco’s other home in Plockton, Scotland, via Somerset and Leicester. Along the way we get to know more about the two main characters. We meet Rocco’s parents – oh dear – and begin to understand more about why he lives the life he leads. Harper’s parents are away, but we’re invited into their home to take a look around, and slowly we learn about the expectations and demands put upon her, and how she ended up in her job as executive headteacher of the federation of the Three Pols village schools, and assumed responsibility for her wayward niece, Ariel.
We also get to meet Morwenna, the widow of one of Rocco’s closest friends, who fills Harper in on Rocco’s past. Here we see a different side to Rocco, as his connection with Morwenna and her late husband is revealed, and his softer, caring side becomes more evident. We also, through Morwenna, discover how Rocco ended up a single father, taking care of his son alone, despite the disappearance of the boy’s mother and with little support from his own family.
The relationship between Harper and Rocco might be somewhat frosty, as they follow the trail of the errant teenagers, but that doesn’t stop some decidedly heated moments from occurring. It’s clear that, as inconvenient as it is, there’s a huge attraction between them, although neither will admit it – even to themselves. There’s a lot of snappy banter and caustic comments, and the sparkling conversations that Lizzie Lamb does so well.
I have to say, though, that as entertaining as the road trip part of the story is, it’s when the two of them reach Rocco’s house in Scotland that it takes on a new depth. Lizzie writes Scotland so well, and I felt as though I were right there in Plockton with her characters. Perhaps it’s the Scottish blood running through the veins of both Harper and Rocco, but when they reach the house, things change between them. It’s as if there, in that beautiful setting, they can stop the pretence and finally reveal to each other who they really are, and how they really feel.
Lizzie Lamb made me fall in love, not only with her hero, but with his stunning Highland home, too.
The story becomes something else as the relationship deepens, and we see a change in Rocco, and a softer, more vulnerable side to Harper. The heat between the two of them made my Kindle sizzle! This is a couple with real chemistry, and I loved the passion between them, and the gentleness and concern for each other after days of verbal duelling. As the defensive walls are finally taken down, true love, it seems, finds them at last. But with the teenagers due back any moment, time is running out for them. And with so many uncertainties to deal with, can there really be a future for Harper and her Highland hero?
You’ll have to read the book to find out, but I will say that the ending is just gorgeous, and left me feeling quite emotional – not least because I’d had to guiltily admit that Rocco had done the impossible and shoved Ruairi into second place. But if you read Harper’s Highland Fling for yourself, I’m quite sure you’ll understand why.
You can buy Harper’s Highland Fling here, and it’s also available in paperback. Discover the story of the book’s gorgeous cover on this blog post. And if you’ve never been to Plockton (like me) but would like to know more about it (like me) here’s a website that might be of some use.