The Irresistible MacRae
Karen Ranney has written some wonderful romances; Upon a Wicked Time is a sexy favorite of mine. So I was a bit disappointed in The Irresistible MacRae, a static tale that bears a few telltale marks of slipshod plotting.
As the book opens, Riona McKinsey is returning home in shame. During her Season in Edinburgh, she was lured into the garden by Harold McDougal, a despicable cad with his eye on Riona’s fat dowry. Riona’s reputation is in ruins – unless she agrees to the hasty wedding that Harold demands. If she only had herself to consider, Riona would send him packing; unfortunately, though, her sister Maureen is desperately in love with the son of a very strict family. Maureen will not be able to wed her beloved if the slightest trace of scandal touches the McKinsey family. Pressured by her family, Riona agrees to marry Harold. Only after the betrothal is announced does she meet her destiny, James MacRae. The rest of the book tells the story of how Riona and James fall in love, even though she is irrevocably the property of another man.
The first of my problems is with the pacing of this book, though it’s something that many readers may not find troubling. Riona and James spend almost 300 pages falling in love – drawing closer together, pulling apart, looking at each other, looking away, talking, refusing to talk, and so forth. The development of their relationship is very slow and unsteady. While I’m sure that many readers will revel in this gradual building of the tension between them, I was not riveted.
Much of the problem is that the author did her job too well when she placed barriers between Riona and James. James knows that Riona is not for him. Riona knows that she must marry Harold, even though she will love James for the rest of her life. There is absolutely nothing they can do about it, and therefore they do nothing. The two characters seem to be suspended in aspic, rendered immobile by their own honor, completely incapable of taking any action to solve their dilemma. It made them seem passive. I confess I found them both a bit boring.
Another consideration is that the plot has holes in it that you could drive a barge through. The chief one is the incomprehensible behavior of Riona’s mother, Susanna. It is she who pressures Riona into becoming engaged to Harold, saying, “Sometimes we must put our own happiness aside for those we love.” Then, after Riona obeys and accepts Harold’s suit, Susanna meets James and absolutely falls all over him. Five minutes after meeting him, she invents a transparent and ridiculous lie in order to get him to stay in their house. At first I thought Susanna wanted for James herself, but no: soon Susanna is throwing James and Riona together. Why does she do this? On page 204 Susanna says that she thinks James would be a perfect son-in-law, but admits that she has no idea how Riona will get out of her engagement. Then on page 236, when she realizes that Riona is in love with James, Susanna quashes her daughter: “There isn’t any hope for it, Riona. Harold McDougal is going to be your husband.” Huh? Maybe I’m too harsh, but Susanna’s inconsistent behavior suggests to me that the author simply couldn’t think of a good way to get the main characters together.
Even more annoying is the way the impossible problem of Riona’s betrothal is solved. One of the basic premises of the novel is no more than a house of cards that is simply knocked down when the time is right. Ranney is capable of better plotting than this; reading it in one of her books was both frustrating and disappointing.
In this review I’ve focused on the problems I had with the book. They bothered me enough to keep me from giving it a recommendation. However, Karen Ranney is very good at evoking passionate love between two people, and the love tory of James and Riona is moving. I believe that there are many who will like The Irresistible MacRae better than I did. I’ve heard my fellow AAR reviewer Rachel Potter say that she likes books that focus on introspection and emotion rather than action; this might be a good choice for readers like her. But between the plot inconsistencies and the inert characters, it just didn’t work for me.
|Review Date:||November 20, 2002|
|Book Type:||European Historical Romance|