The Highlander Next Door - Janet Chapman

Series: Spellbound Falls (Book 6)

Legend has it love is carried on the rising mists of Spellbound Falls, and not even time-traveling highlanders are immune to its magic...


Birch Callahan has seen the trouble men can cause. After witnessing her mother’s four marriages, Birch now runs a women’s shelter and doesn’t want a man in her life. But there’s something about her neighbor, Niall MacKeage. Birch can’t figure out how the cop can be so big and gruff and yet so insightful and compassionate -- and sexy. Or how she’s falling for a man who acts like someone from the twelfth century.


Niall knows that Birch is attracted to him, even if she seems to distrust all men. Yet he also knows she has a secret -- something that drives her to place herself in harm’s way for the women of her shelter. Niall would gladly rush to Birch’s side to protect her from harm, but with their secrets standing between them, he’ll have to reveal his own truth if he wants to keep her...


Another fun trip to Spellbound Falls. Here we have Niall, twelfth century Highlander, brought forward in an earlier book as a possible suitor for Titus's daughter. He lost out on that one, but decided he liked the current time, so he stayed and has become the town's first police chief. One of the benefits of the job is free housing, next door to the local women's shelter, with the understanding that he will watch out for them. This puts him in frequent contact with Birch, the shelter director, a woman with very definite opinions about men.


Birch is new to Spellbound Falls also. She has brought her mother with her to help run the shelter. She is of the opinion that men are more trouble than they are worth. After witnessing her mother's four disastrous marriages, plus the ones she sees in her work, she has decided that marriage is not for her. Currently at the top of her list is her neighbor. She needs his cooperation in support of the work she does, and she isn't getting it. There's something about him that rubs her the wrong way, but that may just be the attraction she refuses to admit.


I loved the relationship that built between Niall and Birch. Niall freely admits that Birch aggravates the heck out of him, but that very feistiness is one of the things he likes about her. He also senses that beneath her frequent confrontations, she is just as attracted to him, which amuses him a lot. Their encounters are fun to see as they deal with situations with very different methods. As they begin to work together, Birch starts to realize that Niall is someone she can trust and her attitude begins to change a little. However, she's still stubborn about what she does and tends to get herself into trouble that Niall has to save her from. Niall reverts somewhat to his medieval Highlander persona, as his protective nature kicks in. That clash with Birch's modern attitude makes for a few interesting situations. The intensity of his first rescue of her kicks their attraction up a couple levels. I loved seeing Birch go after the comfort she needed afterwards. As their relationship progressed, Niall was able to understand Birch and her ways better as he learned more about her background. I liked seeing Birch learn to trust that Niall would be there for her, and Niall convince her that he loved her just the way she was. The only thing I wonder about is that he hadn't yet told her the truth about who he was. I missed that because it has always been a fun part of previous books.


There was some mystery included in the book as something from Birch and her mother's past creates trouble for them. Starting with a strange car that runs her off the road, Birch and Niall try to figure out who is after her and why. When the final confrontation comes, I have to say that I was impressed with Birch's ability to stay calm and focused. I loved how Niall was able to get help and support from his friends, and how it all came together at the end. 


The secondary characters were terrific, especially Birch's mother. Though the initial impression was one of something of an airhead, but it turned out she was anything but. I understood Birch's need to protect her, and loved seeing their close relationship. It was great fun to see Hazel really come into her own as Niall's secretary and Girl Friday. She was really quite a powerhouse. I also loved seeing her with Sam, and then with Birch's father Claude. It will be interesting to see if anything happens with them in future books.


Also present throughout the book are appearances by a new deity, one that was brought forth in a previous book, The Heart of a Hero. The question everyone has is whether he'll be a good one or a bad one. I quite enjoyed the way he appeared to Birch, and the conversations she had with him. I especially liked her talk with the eagle who ate her pie. Eventually we have a name for him, and I get the feeling he'll come down on the side of good. It was fun to see the differences between a "modern" deity and the ancient ones like Titus and Mac. I'm looking forward to seeing more of him in later books.