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My Heart Stood Still    by Lynn Kurland order for
My Heart Stood Still
by Lynn Kurland
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2001 (2001)

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* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Thomas McKinnon enjoys setting personal challenges and has done just about everything in his thirty-plus years - from becoming a millionaire a few times over, to scaling Everest and building his dream home along the coast of Maine. His newest endeavour involves taking a year off to re-furbish the crumbling castle he's purchased, sight unseen.

A short time before he leaves the U.S. odd things begin happening. Thomas sees out of the corner of his eye, a mouse-eared figure that looks vaguely like a ghost, and he's soon doubting his sanity. It happens often enough that he begins wondering if, like his Scottish mother, he's developed the gift, (or the curse), of sight, being able to see what others can't. He figures the faster he's on his way, the better for all concerned. But no sooner does he set foot on English soil than he's being accosted by not one, but a host of unfriendly ghosts.

Iolanthe MacLeod has languished in her crumbling keep for over six centuries, staring out toward the sea and wondering if she will ever be rescued from this lonely place where she chose to remain after being brutally murdered by her greedy husband. Over time nearly two dozen Scottish Highlanders, a few of them her own kin, have come to keep Iolanthe company, help her haunt her castle and vigilantly guard not only their privacy, but the secret to a hidden treasure. Yet in the depths of her heart, Iolanthe continues waiting, always waiting for that dark stranger to come to her rescue.

When Thomas walks through the gatehouse of his keep and sees Iolanthe, his heart literally stands still. At that moment he knows without a doubt that there will never be another woman for him, even if Iolanthe is a ghostly apparition. With slow, sure determination he begins his campaign to win first her trust, then her friendship - and hopefully more. Two match-making ghosts named Ambrose and Fulbert help out, as does the whole company of rugged (once mistrustful) Highlanders. Thomas begins unraveling the mystery that is the beautiful and haunting Iolanthe - and the truth surrounding her brutal demise.

Lynn Kurland writes a marvellous, character driven tale that is alternately laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreakingly touching. Thomas makes a wonderful hero - a genuine and caring man, yet one who knows exactly what he wants. To Iolanthe, he is an anomaly, for most men she knew during her short life showed her nothing but harshness and cruelty. Yet fall under Thomas' heady spell she does. Readers who enjoy stories that have a touch of the fairy tale to them, should find My Heart Stood Still spell binding.

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