The Scottish Duke by Karen Ranney

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The Scottish Duke by Karen Ranney
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (268 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Though raised as a gentleman’s daughter, Lorna Gordon is obliged to take a position as an upstairs maid at Blackhall Castle when her father dies. Alex Russell, the Duke of Kinross, is the most tempting man she’s ever seen—and completely unattainable—until, at a fancy dress ball, Lorna disguises herself as Marie Antoinette and pursues an illicit tryst…with scandalous consequences.

Months after his mysterious seductress disappears, Alex encounters her again. Far from the schemer the distrustful duke assumed her to be, Lorna is fiercely independent and resourceful. She’s the one woman capable of piercing his defenses. But when danger threatens Lorna, Alex must prove himself not just the lover of her fantasies, but the man who will fight to protect her.

One time is all it takes and the rest is history.

Lorna’s obsession and unusual upbringing allowed her to make a daring choice: meet Alex, the Duke of Kinross, incognito, the result of which tested her mettle and set her on a path she could never have envisioned even in her wildest dreams. The one thing I’m so glad about is that there were no hysterical screams of witchcraft because of her talent with plants. I was vastly relieved by that.

Alex is the typical tormented hero who was cuckolded once and swore never to leave himself vulnerable again to a woman. Never say never. The poor guy had a serious chip on his shoulder, yet he’s a decent man with a marshmallow heart surrounded by briars and moats and brick. His desperation to protect that vulnerable part of him was almost his undoing. What he did to make up for it truly redeemed him in my eyes and I accepted him as a worthy hero for Lorna.

Redemption comes in many forms and what shocked me was the redemption of one of the secondary characters. I was ready to thoroughly write the person off, but Ms. Ranney had different plans. The end result was an ‘awww’ moment. After reading that, I agree with Lorna – everyone should get a second chance.

However, there are some instances where second chances should not be allowed, at all, ever. That became apparent too. It created a believable conflict, even if I figured out who did it, and why. I was annoyed actually as to how forgiving Alex was to this person for most of the book, yet he was so harsh to Lorna. That bothered me. This other person was so poisonous, annoying and irritating, I just wanted to shove them out a window to see if they could fly.

The best parts are when Lorna and Alex are on the same page. The least stressful moments were the happiest; when the hero and heroine explore and allow themselves to enjoy the passion that is like an inferno between them. When they smile at each other and are in perfect accord, it was sublime. I was thrilled when that occurred more and more towards the end of the novel. At that point, they were slowly coming to the realization that they were falling in love. It was so beautiful. And yet, that was when the author struck and shook it all up like earthquake. Talk about pages flipping in a fury!

Nan is my favorite secondary character but it’s a tough call because I really adored Alex’s mom, too. They both were assets to the story and made the book better. The love of friendship is strong and special between them and the Ms. Ranney caputured it beautifully.

All in all, The Scottish Duke is a delightful romance story. I liked Alex’s and Lorna’s personalities. Their dialogue, both spoken and internal, was well done and helped me understand their motivations and challenges. I liked the pace of the novel and I was intrigued with Alex’s passion with soot. It was a clever idea to use it to solve a mystery. I just had no idea that it would lead to more than one thread of conflict. That was very cool.

Even though I think readers will figure out the antagonists of the novel, I do believe they’ll be surprised as I was as to what eventually happens to them. I enjoyed reading this book and I think many other historical romance fans will too. It has a lot to recommend it.

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