I have to give Karen Ranney a lot of credit for choosing to write an entire romance based upon a character who was absolutely abhorrent in her first appearances within the series. Catronia Cameron was the little sister to the leading lady of last year’s A Scandalous Scot and I remember writing in a personal review how much I hated her character. She was selfish, slightly mean spirited and had little regard for the consequences of her actions towards the main characters or even a secondary character she claimed to love. With all of that history already established, the author had her work cut out for her in gaining any sympathy for the heroine. Thankfully, in Ms. Ranney’s skilled hand, I was able to let go of the past and enjoy this story for everything new.
Why a horrible heroine works in The Lass Wore Black is that as a reader I always want to see any redemption truly earned by either deep introspection or by deeds done. I want to see the character realize that their previous choices may not have been in the best interests of those around them. Basically, I want to root for them to succeed. All of those things came to pass for Catronia, and while on her journey of self-discovery she manages to find the one man who can both challenge her and accept her for the person she was and is becoming.
I will admit that the hero, Mark Thorburn, had his own flaws. He was all consumed by his medical practice, to the point he was sacrificing any personal relationships. He is at loggerheads with his father over the direction of his life and he feels his brothers are wasting the opportunities granted to them by their position in society. Mark has his own selfish tendencies, yet they are tempered by his charitable works within the poorer neighborhoods of Edinburgh. It took almost as long for me to warm up to Mark as it did for me to accept Catronia in the story. Initially he was too cold and removed from his emotions for me to embrace as a romantic lead. As both characters slowly come out from the emotional shields they had each put into place I began to enjoy their story much more.
Another interesting part of this story was that Catronia and Mark seem to come to their romance almost backwards. Catronia was a woman with some experience before her accident kept her in seclusion in her aunt’s home. In meeting Mark, all she initially sees in him is a possible bed partner. It is only after the physical act is out of the way do both characters start to get to the more emotional side of a relationship. Catronia must accept the reality that she can no longer survive on her looks but must utilize the other strong parts of her personality. In Mark, he must let go of the distance he places between himself and others and finally let someone past that barrier into his heart. I liked how Catronia and Mark both wanted to one-up the other person, taking some of their conversations to very intense places. Yet, for each confrontation they were drawn even farther into the other person’s regard. The love they came to share may not have been of the kind to set the pages on fire, yet it was just as intense for how it affected the characters.
I am on the fence about stating whether this book could stand on its own or if I would suggest reading the previous title to get a more rounded picture of Catronia. It is ultimately her redemption that kept me turning the pages, yet there is enough mention of her past infamy to give a new reader a sense of who she was before. I am glad I picked up The Lass Wore Black and I will have to start looking into Karen Ranney’s back catalog for more character driven stories like it.
~Reviewed by Sara
Book: The Lass Wore Black
Author: Karen Ranney