A Scottish Love
by Karen Ranney, historical (2011)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-202778-8
A Scottish Love is a departure of sorts from author Karen Ranney's usual repertoire, and frankly, I hope this departure from her usual style is an anomalous occurrence. You see, the author excels in writing stories featuring characters that seem to understand each other so deeply that sometimes, no words need to be said. This one, however, has two characters that barely talk about the issues between them, instead choosing to antagonize each other.
Once, Shona Imrie and Gordon MacDermond were in love. Okay, they still are attracted to each other, bu their relationship came to an end when he joined the army and she went ahead and marry some other bloke. Now a widow, Shona has to sell her childhood home, a castle called Gairloch, and this is after she has sold off everything she can sell to pay off her late husband's debtors. Her brother Fergus and Gordon were comrades in arms in India a while back, and he's now back in her life to visit Fergus. Naturally, she has to lie to him about her circumstances and let him think the worst of her. Meanwhile, Fergus moons after some nurse in the employ of the Americans that plan to buy Gairloch, but like his sister, he is too proud to accept pity even as he assumes that everyone pities him and that pity motivates every shred of kindness or affection that he receives from other people. Both siblings are always prickly, surly, bitchy, and ready to launch into loud arguments. This book is, therefore, full of joy just in time for the holiday season.
The author tries to tell me that the whole rigid and ridiculous pride of the sourpuss siblings is a Scottish thing, and maybe she's right, and I have completely missed the point. But yikes, this book is such a joyless read. Shona shoulders much of the blame here - she is determined to be independent and self-sufficient even as she's obviously in a sinking ship, but this only means that she will not ask anyone for help or to share her burden. Instead, she is determined to drive everyone away from her. I don't know what Gordon sees in this incessantly confrontational heroine - maybe his own sad childhood has affected his judgment. It's not like Gordon isn't blameless here. He's depressingly clueless. The heroine is selling away everything she has... and the only explanation has to be that she's a hussy who doesn't have any family pride? Worse is Fergus, who seems to be aware of the depths of the family poverty but aggressively opposes his sister's pragmatic decision to sell Gairloch. I don't see him seriously doing his share of raking the dough in for the family. Maybe Fergus will be a happier martyr if he's reduced to begging on the streets. What a bunch of happy people.
Whatever the reason that binds Shona and Gordon together, these two don't behave like people in love at all. They are always fighting and arguing pretty much all the way to the last few chapters of this book. The secondary characters are either depressingly emo types or unpleasant sorts, so there is hardly any reprieve from the miserable main romance. I am a fan of this author, but this book misses the mark so much that it makes me cringe. But let's look at the bright side: if you are looking for a depressing read featuring characters whose angst and suffering are mostly self-inflicted, this one is very likely to be what you are looking for.
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