A Borrowed Scot
At the beginning of Karen Ranney’s new romance, A Borrowed Scot, the hero, Montgomery Fairfax, is at a London club surrounded by Latin-chanting men dressed in hooded robes. He’s there because he’s curious about the provenance of a numinous diamond-ringed mirror he’s inherited. Montgomery is the newly named Lord Fairfax of Scotland’s Doncaster Hall and has been told the Mercaii Club are London’s experts on all things paranormal. This evening, however, Montgomery is alarmed to see the Club’s members aren’t appraising or advising; they’re about to rape a drugged young woman: Our heroine, Veronica MacLeod.
Montgomery, of course, rescues her. But when he tries to return her to her detestable uncle and his odious family — she’s an orphan — they decline to take her back. They say her nocturnal escapade has ruined her reputation and thus might ruin theirs. Montgomery feels he has no choice but to offer to marry her and she, of course, says yes.
A Borrowed Scot is the third book of Ms. Ranney’s to feature the clairvoyant Tulloch Mirror. The plot around the mirror — as in the other two books of the Tulloch Sgàthán Trilogy – is forced and silly. In fact, as I read the first few chapters of this book, I worried the whole novel would be forced and silly. It isn’t. Yes, the setup is feeble, but the rest of the novel is engaging. Honestly, I forgot about the book’s far-fetched reason for the wedding as soon as the wedding took place.
Montgomery and Veronica are both atypical characters, and he is the more unusual of the pair. It’s rare for romance heroes to be likeable aristocrats hailing from the antebellum South – there’s that problem of slave-ownership. Montgomery is from Fairfax County, Virginia and his family did indeed own slaves. However, when the Civil War broke out, he joined the Union Army in part because he disdained slavery and in part because his life’s passion is flying. He flew tethered balloons for the North — they were used to spy down on Southern troops – and, though he was on the winning side of the war, his family and home were destroyed. In A Borrowed Scot, he has come to claim his Scottish grandfather’s estate because there’s nothing but sorrow left for him in Virginia.
Veronica is an also oddity in her world. She has “the second sight” and can sense the true feelings of others. Her parents died terribly when she was young. Her sniping cousins deride her talent and she’s never known anyone else with her ability. She’s so anxious to know more about her “Gift”, she (incredibly stupidly) sneaks out to a night meeting of the Mercaii Club to consult them on the subject. This brainless move on her part however does bring her Montgomery and thus abruptly liberates her from a miserable life as her relatives’ mistreated poor relation. She’s grateful to Montgomery for saving her in all the ways he has — and for being a passionate, talented lover — and endeavors to make her marriage a good one. I found her to be, for much of the book, appealing and worthy of the relationship she forges with her new husband.
Then, annoyingly, she and Montgomery have a BIG misunderstanding so unnecessary I wanted to slap them both. She is the superior idiot of the two and behaves inexplicably. It’s especially irritating because, like many historical romances, this book has a serviceable suspense plot and Veronica’s bizarre behavior puts her and Montgomery needlessly in danger.
Fortunately, all this silliness is a small part of what, overall, is an interesting, well-written book. Ms. Ranney shares a wealth of knowledge about Scotland, the Civil War, ballooning, and 19th century beliefs about mysticism. Veronica and Montgomery develop – with the exception of their moronic moment – a charming, passionate relationship. I liked them as a couple and enjoyed seeing them both move beyond the tragedies in their pasts. Moreover, I assume from the last chapter of the novel that readers have seen the last of the tiresome Tulloch Mirror. I liked that too.