My favorite book this month took me by surprise. At first glance, it didn't appear to be anything particularly different a Highland tale, involving time travel, of which we've all seen more than one. The cover is ordinary, the name of the writer unfamiliar. And yet. . . . I picked up Return of the Highlander by Sara Mackenzie at the end of a long trip, with a very bad cold and a need to escape for an evening and boy, did I ever! Bella Ryan is a writer renting a cottage in the Scottish Highlands in order to research The Black MacLean, a fierce clan leader killed just after Culloden. MacLean himself is awakened by supernatural forces and given a second chance to heal a great wrong. He's a ghostly figure only Bella can see, but he grows more solid as he learns to be compassionate and take on the evil he and Bella must vanquish. I slipped into the story on the first page, seduced by clean and simple language, a compelling hero and a genuinely likable heroine. Billed as a dark gothic, the book offers magic, drama and redemption, but there is also a lot of heart.

Barbara Samuel's latest book is Madame Mirabou's School of Love.

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