Take one bedeviled man trying to recover from hideous tortures while imprisoned and one sorrowful woman who is dealing with her own demons from the death of her aged husband. Then throw in a shameful secret for each of them, an unknown but ardent suitor for her, and a murder accusation, and you have an inkling of the gist of Karen Ranney's novel To Love a Scottish Lord.
To that promising premise add a refreshingly drawn female character, Mary Gilly, and an obligatory male character, Hamish MacRae, a man of few words who manages to be fascinating in spite of -- or perhaps because of -- all he has endured. Toss in well-drawn secondary characters ranging from Mary’s best friend, Elspeth, and Hamish’s brother, Brendan (who are a shining example of love at first sight), to Charles Talbot, who hides his villainy behind a mask of civility until his passion for Mary turns to hate.
With an original plot and a talent for pacing, Karen Ranney propels the story along at a crisp clip without managing to fall into the easy entrapments of most romance novels. It is a blessing to have a female protagonist who has a mind of her own, a mission in life and knows a thing or two about sex. This is all the more admirable by the fact that although the story is set in 1782, Mary Gilly is believable as an emancipated woman long before those words existed.
With an ability to move readers from laughter to tears and back at the turn of a scene, Karren Ranney has created an exceptional example of how good a romance novel can really be when the author has the imagination to make it so.