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Friday, November 23, 2012

The Lass Wore Black by Karen Ranney

The Lass Wore Black by Karen Ranney
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (278 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Catriona Cameron was once famed for her seductive beauty and charm. Now she saw no one, hiding from the world...and no one dared break through her self-imposed exile.

No one, that is, until Mark Thorburn burst into her home, and Catriona's darkened world began to have color again. Thorburn, secretly the heir to an Earldom, claimed he was a footman. But Catriona didn't care about the scandal their passion could cause...for this very touch sparked her back to a life of sensuality, one she thought she'd never have again.

Little does she know that Mark is part of masquerade. One that will end when they become the target of a madman set on revenge. Mark realizes he will have to do more than win her love...he will have to save her life as well.

A happy childhood wrecked and then a determination to survive brings “the murderer’s girls”, Catriona Cameron and her sister, to quite different stations in life. The sister becomes an earl’s wife while Catriona becomes promiscuous, haughty, willful, and inconsiderate of others. She trades on her beauty to get what she wants. If ever there was anyone ‘looking for love in all the wrong places’ it is Catriona. The horrific deaths of her mother and then her father leave her with an emptiness inside that sends her spiraling out of control—then the wreck—her beauty is gone.

The need for redemption is so often associated with the hero, but in The Lass Wore Black the heroine is the one in need. She is so self-absorbed and overwhelmed with her misfortune that she has become a hermit and is wasting away. Her lack of consideration of others is appalling, yet Dina MacTavish, Catriona’s brother-in-law’s aunt, truly cares about Catriona and seeks help from a doctor friend.

Dr. Mark Thoburn, flying in the face of his father’s wishes, follows his calling and becomes a doctor and even spends much of his time in Old Town tended the destitute as well as tending his rich clients. When his friend Dina MacTavish asks for his help, his well-scheduled and orderly life is thrown off kilter and his ‘best laid plans’ do go astray. He seems a direct opposite of Catriona, yet they are drawn to each other. Their interaction makes entertaining reading as they both learn more about themselves than they are comfortable knowing. The maturing pains are sometimes humorous and other times heart-wrenching.

Aunt Dina MacTavish and Sarah Donnelly, Mark’s housekeeper and so much more, are remarkable secondary characters that give the reader a glimpse of goodness that is sincere and loving. Other secondary characters that reach out and touch the heart are Edeen and her two children that make a home the best they can in the dark, deeps vaults of Old Town where poverty and degradation abound. They along with Aunt Dina help work the miracle of Catriona’s redemption.

Karen Ranney writes such graphic descriptions of the misery and horrors in Old Town the reader can almost feel, smell, taste, and hear the hopelessness and dehumanization of the squalor. Also, her development of the antagonist’s personality makes one shudder at the way his mind functions. Even though I had trouble empathizing with the heroine, I admire the compelling writing style of Ms. Ranney that evokes strong feelings. How she weaves together a story of such diverse characters to get to a happy-ever-after for the hero and heroine intrigues.