eARC Review: My Heart’s in the Highlands by Amy Hoff

My Heart's in the Highlands amy hoff

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Historical Romance, F/F

I received an advance copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lady Jane Crichton is a scientist, one of the seven women to have gone to the Edinburgh University, even if they weren’t given diplomas for their graduations. She is smart and beautiful, happy in a marriage of convenience with David, who gives her the means and the support to pursue her career, and for whom she guards a secret. When Jane creates a time machine and travels to the 13th century, the last thing she expects is that the people she thought of as “savages” may be, in many ways, far more civilized than 1888 Edinburgh. She meets Ainslie, the daughter of the clean chief, and slowly finds herself realizing she might be falling in love for the first time in her life.

The cover of this book is a bit misleading, as both Jane and Ainsle are supposed to be very tall (and Ainsle quite muscular, plus wears an earasaid) and nearing their forties. This is one of those books where a lot of side characters are cinnamon rolls and a historical romance where you don’t have the main characters fighting homophobia. There is some mention of homophobia in the 19th century, but most of the story happens in the 13th century really, and we don’t get to see much of the struggles of LGBT+ people in Victorian Scotland. It’s also noteworthy that Jane is demisexual and demiromantic, which is lovely to see represented!

This is by no means a very sci-fi story, the time machine’s technology is pretty much glossed over and hardly acknowledge for the Huge Accomplishment that it is. When Jane was telling her friends (incl. some scientists) about meeting Ainslie in the 13th century, no one asked anything vaguely scientific about the machine, or how it’s supposed to work, and were 100% curious about the romance instead. I know this is a rather unimportant rant, but as maybe some other readers might also read this thinking it will be somewhat sci-fi, I thought I’d make it clear here that it hardly counts as sci-fi at all. The time machine could easily have been replaced by a glitch in time, or a magical portal instead – it’s hardly relevant to the story, except for being a plot device & establishing Jane as a brilliant scientist.

Where I think this book really shines is when it shows that morals and views on what is appropriate, decent or right for someone to do (for example, women working in science, or men taking care of children and being midwives) changes with each culture and with time, and has more to do with having power over a certain group than an actual care over actual historical precedence (i.e. “it’s always been this way”, when in fact historically it has not been this way in many places).

There’s a lot going on in terms of plot (I will not go into it for the sake of not spoiling the story), and it felt like too much. There is also some dubious consent in a few scenes, plus I thought some of the conflicts were not dealt with entirely, and their communication was missing a lot of clarity. If you are into the rough, passionate lover and prim lady kind of romance, I think this is a better match for you than it was for me.

In the end this left me wanting a bit more out of it, both from the writing and from the characters. I enjoyed this as a cute romance and loved the inclusion of some famous real characters (Joe Bell, for one!), and enjoyed it less when the story tried to take itself seriously. My Heart’s in the Highlands felt like it tried to be fluff, high stakes historical fiction and a queer, feminist history lesson in one, and it did not quite work for me. Still, it brings so much to the table (warrior queens! Victorian scientist lesbians! Druids!) and was a mostly enjoyable read!

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