Desert Isle Keeper
The Scottish Companion
Great historicals are quickly becoming the Woolly Mammoths of Romanceland, but books like Karen Ranney’s The Scottish Companion give me hope for the future.
The bare bones plot is nothing new: cold nobleman with certain death looking over his shoulder must wed with all haste and produce an heir. He arranges a match with a woman he has yet to meet, but whom he assumes will give him the space and independence he wants after the wedding. Said young woman’s companion attracts the cold nobleman like none other before. The attraction is returned and they find themselves in quite the pickle since the cold nobleman can’t simply back out of his betrothal without harming the young woman and causing much scandal. Yeah, I’ve heard it, and read it, before. So, you say, what’s different?
The characters for one. Grant Roberson, our cold nobleman, is a scientist who studies electrics. His intended, Arabella, is the daughter of his physician and also a student of medicine who has never been inclined to marry. Grant thinks she is the perfect choice: She can be his countess, mother of his heir, and pursue her own studies.
Gillian Cameron is a woman with a shady background who has been employed as the thoroughly unwanted companion to Arabella for several years. Gillian was forced from her own home and out of options. She takes quite a lot of emotional abuse from the doctor and his daughter, who never let Gillian forget what she is, what she was, and what she could become if she continues to “forget” herself around her betters. Gillian’s strength of character enables her to stand tall and proud, making the best of a bad situation.
Grant has offered a month to establish some sort of relationship with Arabella before the marriage, and Gillian is expected to attend Arabella while she is in residence in Grant’s home waiting the marriage. At their first meeting Arabella barely acknowledges Grant, despite his attempts at civility, but Gillian is very aware of him, as is he of her. This meeting sets the precedence for how the characters go on. The physical attraction is undoubtedly there, but these two thrive on the friendship which develops from their first words.
And that is where this book stands out for me. The friendship between Gillian and Grant is firmly in place before even a kiss is shared. They bond over Grant’s interesting experiments in electricity, and come together in situations where Arabella has snubbed them both.
Another strong point is the “adultness” of Grant and, especially, Gillian. I don’t know when I’ve read a character that acted and thought as a true adult would. Gillian has come to terms with what life has thrown at her and, despite having reason to, she doesn’t naysay all men and love in general. Grant has his demons also, but they are less pronounced. Ranney keeps the full extent of Grant’s demons hidden until late in the book, but then – wow – poor Grant!
Woven throughout this beautiful love story is the mystery of the suspicious deaths of Grant’s brothers, and perhaps his own if he doesn’t figure out from where the threat arises. While the villain’s identity was fairly obvious to me, what keeps the mystery alive, and the pages turning, is the why of it.
I have one small complaint about the book. Grant and Gillian are very in love, but Gillian falls into the “not good enough for you” trap and Grant doesn’t seem to see too clearly regarding their future. It was a very short segment that is set to rights quickly, but it did give me some slight pause.
It felt good to read a great romance that felt every inch a romance of the kind I fell in love with years ago. This is not a light-hearted romance – anyone familiar with Ms. Ranney’s writing knows she has a darker, almost gothic undertone to her works – yet Gillian and Grant had me smiling. The dark, sinister mystery of The Scottish Companion is balanced out perfectly with the beautiful true love story that is its prominent feature. Don’t miss this one!