Doon, by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon, kicks off a new series where performing arts, medieval Scotland, handsome princes, and magic with a touch of danger collide.
Doon, takes its title and inspiration from both the classic poem “Tam o’ Shanter” by Robert Burns that mentions the magical Brig o’ Doon, and the Lerner and Lowe musical Brigadoon inspired by the same poem.
Rather than strictly repeating the details from the Burns poem or the Lerner and Lowe musical, Doon has its own distinct mythology. Fans of the earlier works will find similarities with the strange land of Doon that appears through the mists of Scotland only every few decades to protect the inhabitants from the witches and forces of evil. On the other hand, there are real differences. This Doon has modern plumbing, sushi stands, and pizza parlors juxtaposed against castles and kilted princes.
Mid-western, teenage friends McKenna and Veronica find themselves spending the summer together in Scotland at the cottage that McKenna has unexpectedly inherited from her great-aunt Gracie. The two girls have bonded over the years via their love of the performing arts. McKenna is an aspiring musical threatre actress who will be attending an intensive program in New York City upon her return to the States. Veronica is a talented dancer who earns her spending money teaching younger students and dreams of escaping her broken home.
Veronica’s homelife is a wreck. Her drug-addict father abandoned the family, and her self-absorbed mother resents Veronica as a impediment in her relationship with her creepy boyfriend. Veronica’s only solace has been her relationship with McKenna, who recently moved hundreds of miles away.
Since McKenna moved, her only escape has been time alone in the dance studio. Recently, however, Veronica is starting to wonder if she is going crazy. Whenever she’s had a particularly tough day, she sees visions of a handsome boy in a kilt who seems to be comforting and calling out to her. Finally, after yet another disastrous confrontation with her mother, Veronica decides to pool all her money, leave town, and spend the summer with McKenna in Scotland.
The girls get settled in the cottage and immerse themselves in the local culture. They hear of the tale of Brig o’ Doon down at the local pub, though initially they don’t put much stock in it. As they continue to clean out and explore Aunt Gracie’s cottage, they find an interesting pair of rings and Aunt Gracie’s diary.
The diary reveals Aunt Gracie was almost 150-years-old when she died, and owed her long-life to having been in Doon. Though the exact method isn’t fully detailed, she got to Doon via the rings. After reading part of the diary, a very upset McKenna thinks her aunt was delusional, but Veronica, whose life is far less stable, wants to believe in Doon.
Veronica wanders off in the night to see if Doon exists, and McKenna follows her because she’s worried about her friend’s mental state. McKenna is still a firm believer in only what she sees with her eyes. To both of their surprises, after they cross a mist-covered bridge, they find themselves in the land that Aunt Gracie’s diary described. Unfortunately, their path back to the present is blocked, and they have no choice but to travel deeper into the kingdom.
The inhabitants of Doon don’t know what to make of the girls in their modern dress. Many are inclined to think that they are servants of the evil witch who nearly destroyed everyone’s lives hundreds of years ago. No one was supposed to arrive from the modern world for another week when the bridge officially appeared for one of its rare 24-hour crossings. When brought to the royal family, the girls are in for a surprise when they meet the two sons of the ailing Laird, Jamie and Duncan.
Jamie seems to be the boy from Veronica’s visions, but, unlike the visions, he’s not exactly welcoming. On the other hand, Duncan is willing to give them a chance. He has a fun-loving and boisterous personality, while Jamie remains brooding, suspicious, and aloof.
Ultimately, the girls are given living space at the castle until such time as they can go home. Although no one knows how they work, they suspect the rings the girls found were how they were able to crossover to Doon early. So for the next week, they are stuck in Doon until the passageway home opens up. They have two princes as their hosts, and the locals, who slowly warm up to them and try to make their time enjoyable.
As Veronica and McKenna spend time in Doon, they start to unravel the mystery of the witches. Are they gone or just dormant? Are there other secrets that Aunt Gracie’s diary holds? Do true love and destiny exist? Is each of them falling in love with a handsome prince, or is is just a vacation romance? Is there a future in Doon that is worth giving up life in the present for? Lastly, what do each of them (Veronica, McKenna, Duncan, and Jamie) learn about true courage, self-confidence, sacrifice, and love from each other and the people they encounter?
If you are a sucker for historical romance, in a great setting, Doon will fit the bill. There’s enough castles, highland vistas, and local fetes to keep you wanting more. The novel is fast-paced, and you’re constantly wanting the girls to unravel the mystery quicker than they do. You’re also drawn into each girl’s life, and root for each one to get over her self-doubt, and to connect with the princes on more than a superficial level.
Minor characters, such as some of the villagers, are warm and vividly written. You definitely want to spend more time with the common folk, especially a girl they befriend named Fiona.
I was definitely more invested in Veronica’s storyline with Jamie than McKenna’s with Duncan. Though each girl narrates her own chapter in first person, I found Veronica much more real and instantly likeable. Though what did keep me going through the McKenna chapters was Duncan being unpredictable and interesting. It made me want to know more about him, and since he was often paired with McKenna, I was also reading about her.
Minor irritations include the girls not delving into the diary in detail earlier. You’d have thought they would have read it cover-to-cover looking for information and a way out. Also, McKenna’s incessant need to make musical theatre analogies and burst out in snappy quotes makes her somewhat unlikeable, and at times unbelievable. As someone who was and is obsessed by Broadway culture, I found it grating.
By the mid-way point of the book you want to say “enough already, we get that she’s the theatre girl.” The “Sweet baby Sondheim!” and “Holy Hammerstein” exclamations and the like get annoying rather than endearing. Other theatrical allusions that would have been funny just aren’t, because now they are overkill since every time McKenna opens her mouth, some theatrical metaphor pops out. Even the most obsessive theatre nerd doesn’t do this. Hopefully, in the next book in the series these will decrease considerably. It’s absolutely a case of less is more.
Overall, despite the flaws, the novel is enjoyable. I’m curious as to what they will do in the next three books, as it is slated as a four-book series. In short, if you love castles, kilts, and the highlands with a smattering of danger, mystery and romance, this one is for you.