To Love A Scottish Lord
by Karen Ranney, historical (2003)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-82106-0

"A slow build-up and a rushed wind-down" best describes Karen Ranney's To Love A Scottish Lord. While the author's prose is as always elegant, there is a disjointed feel to the book that it doesn't succeed in shaking off.

Hamish MacRae was captured in India when his ship was taken by the natives in a localized rebellion. He was badly tortured in a pretty horrific (and don't tell anyone, but I think it's also a little sexy - I know, I know) way. When he returns to Scotland, he pretty much makes himself a hermit in Gilmuir, entertaining himself only by firing his canons at who-knows-what. Concerned, his brother Brendan hires a local healer called the Angel of Inverness to help his brother heal. Mary Gilly is a widow who is keen on studying medicine. She has a good reputation around Inverness. Surely she can help poor suffering Hamish?

Hamish doesn't want to be pitied, but soon he and Mary start talking. From talking they start playing chess. From chess they move on to some good old sexual healing. Then, abruptly, late in the story, Mary is accused of murdering her husband and Hamish has to marshal his ragtag allies to save Mary.

The bulk of the story deals with Mary and Hamish exploring their relationship. As always, Karen Ranney shines best when she's letting her characters discover their feelings for each other. However, something seems off in the conversations. Hamish is a little on the too-good side, perhaps: he refuses to hate the country for the tortures a group of men inflicted on him, for example. How does he come to such enlightening belief? This story offers no such explanation. Likewise, Mary is a refreshing heroine - mature, sexual, and intelligent - but there are times when she too comes off like some zen mistress discussing enlightenment with her soulmate Hamish. The author succeeds very well in showing me how Hamish and Mary are perfect for each other. But she doesn't actually succeed in showing me who Hamish and Mary actually are, if I'm making any sense here.

The fast-paced second half is like a lit dynamite thrown into a flock of restive pigeons. While it is still readable, this fast-paced portion of the book also feels rushed in the resolution, and when the story ends, I'm still scratching my head and wondering, "Huh? How... is that it?" The faster portions of the book and the slower portions feel as if they are from different books.

While readable, there's an unfortunate half-baked feel to To Love A Scottish Lord. Having read the best the author can offer, I think I can safely say that this book is definitely not up to par. It may be a good book if it's written by someone else, perhaps, for a Karen Ranney book, this one is a disappointment.

Rating: 76

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