The Devil Wears Tartan
Karen Ranney
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Buy *The Devil Wears Tartan* by Karen Ranney online

The Devil Wears Tartan
Karen Ranney
384 pages
August 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Despite the clearly Scottish-themed title, The Devil Wears Tartan doesn't feelparticularly Scottish. Instead, explores how a young woman married to a man she doesn't know begins to chip away at her husband's reserve and to try to forge a future with him.

The husband in question is the Earl of Lorne, a Scotsman whose distinguished career in the foreign service ended when he was imprisoned by the Chinese and tortured. Since his return to England, he has shunned society and lives alone in his castle, succumbing to visions and fearing the onset of madness. Because of his responsibilities to his title, he realizes he needs to get an heir. He arranges a marriage with a local woman, Davina McLaren, whose reputation was ruined by an indiscretion and who is otherwise likely to remain a spinster.

Davina isn't the shy, retiring type of young lady, however. She finds herself wed to the Earl of Lorne, otherwise known as The Devil, yet she barely sees him. Something of a bluestocking and rather direct in her speech, she tries to learn about her husband and forge some kind of a friendship. She may also uncover love as she uncovers his secrets, and she may be called upon to fight for the future of her marriage and even the life of her husband.

I very much enjoyed The Devil Wears Tartan with its central romance, while not initially particularly encouraging, gradually growing into warmth and understanding. There are occasional nods to the Scottish setting and the Victorian era, with reference to the opium trade with China, but overall this is a romance developing from an arranged marriage. Some rather unfortunate errors in the text - including likening a character to a chipmunk (an animal not seen in the UK) and various characters speaking American words in the Scottish setting - detract from the novel's overall strength, as does the habit, oft-found in American-authored novels, of the heroine retaining her maiden name as a middle name after her marriage, something that almost never takes place in the UK. Some of the behavior of the characters isn't completely convincing, certain plot elements seem too unlikely, and the siege of the lunatic asylum at the end seems pretty far-fetched. However, this is ultimately a good read, Davina a rather unusual heroine and one to whom I warmed.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Helen Hancox, 2009

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