Once the ton’s most notorious rake, Dalton MacIain has returned from his expedition to America during the Civil War-wounded and a changed man. Instead of attending soirees, he now spends his time as a recluse. But Dalton’s peace is disturbed when Minerva Todd barges into his London townhouse, insisting he help search for her missing brother Neville. Though Dalton would love to spend more time with the bewitching beauty, he has no interest in finding Neville-for he blames him for his injury.
Minerva has never met a more infuriating man than the Earl of Rathsmere yet she is intrigued by the torrid rumors she has heard about him…and the fierce attraction pulling her toward him.
Dalton does not count on Minerva’s persistence-or the desire she awakens in him, compelling him to discover her brother’s fate. But when danger surrounds them, Dalton fears he will lose the tantalizing, thoroughly unpredictable woman he has come to love.
Dalton MacIain, Earl of Rathsmere, stood in the doorway of his library, listening to Howington argue with a harridan. Were there peddlers in Tarkington Square now? He couldn’t hear their words, only the tone. Howington was maintaining his usual calm demeanor. The woman wasn’t, her voice growing louder, vying with the thunder growling overhead for dominance.
Turning back to the room, he dismissed the two of them. Howington would get rid of her, whoever she was.
He shouldn’t have sent his majordomo to Gledfield. If Samuels had remained here he would have opened the door, thereby sparing Howington the duty. Samuels would have also been a buffer between him and Howington.
Pity that he hadn’t considered that earlier. Now Howington was always present, forever hovering in that obsequious way of his.
He moved unerringly to the window, reached up and closed the drapes against the storm. He remembered their shade, an emerald color he favored. Everything else about the room was as he recalled it: two wing chairs upholstered in a dark green fabric sat before the fireplace with a small table between them; enough books in the shelves that he gave the appearance of being a well-read man. His onetime companions would have been genuinely shocked to know that he had read most of them, a good thing now.
Thunder rumbled, the windows shivering in response. The drumming of rain on the street outside sounded like muffled artillery.
He made his way to the sideboard on the opposite wall, a distance of exactly ten feet.
Removing the stopper from the cut glass decanter, he reached for a glass and tried to hold it steady.
Another roar of thunder, this one sounding too much like cannon fire, made him put down the decanter and the glass, hearing the chink as they landed on the tray.
He stood with his fingers braced against the sideboard, staring straight ahead and willing his hands to stop their trembling.
Publisher and Release Date: Avon, September 2015
Time and Setting: London, 1862
Genre: Victorian Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Review by Lady Wesley
Karen Ranney writes books that are a consummate blend of history and romance. In the first McIain book, In Your Wildest Scottish Dreams, Glynnis and Lennox’s second chance at love was set in Glasgobw, where River Clyde shipbuilders turned out thousands of blockade runners for the Confederates during the American Civil War. That war also serves as a distant backdrop for Scotsman of My Dreams, as our hero, Dalton MacIain, has returned from fighting in America a blinded, broken shell of his former self. Moreover, upon his return he learned that his beloved elder brother had been killed in a hunting accident, making Dalton the Earl of Rathmoor, a title he neither expected nor wanted. Dalton has become a virtual hermit, drinking to forget the horrors of his past and his present. His handsome face is horribly scarred – one eye is missing and the other is sightless; and his former friends in society have forgotten his existence. He doesn’t trust his secretary, who moves around stealthily and never announces himself, and he has no interest in running his estates. The only semblance of love or joy in his life is his faithful housekeeper, who coddles him with tasty meals and makes him a patch to cover his empty eye socket.
Truly, Dalton’s life is depressing, and the first quarter or so of this book is equally so, but that’s because Karen Ranney is such a good writer than a reader can’t help but feel what the characters are experiencing. So, don’t give up, because into Dalton’s hopeless life bursts Miss Minerva Todd, a most exceptional young lady. Minerva is twenty-nine, wealthy, outspoken, lacking in social graces, and much more interested in archaeology than marriage. She raised her younger brother Neville after their parents’ deaths, but upon his majority he began to carouse and move in Dalton’s hell-raising circle. Now, after accompanying Dalton and friends to America, Neville has gone missing, and Minerva is determined to make Dalton help her find her little brother.
When I said that Minerva “bursts” into Dalton’s life, I meant that literally. First, she breaks into his house but is summarily thrown out. Next, she climbs the garden wall and confronts him face-to-face, finding herself horror-struck by his injuries.
Eschewing the discretion that someone with better manners might have chosen, Minerva blurts out, “What happened to you?” When Dalton threatens to bodily remove her from his garden, she retorts, “You’d have to call for someone to help you.” Never one to back down from a challenge, Dalton strikes back, and the ensuing confrontation is hilarious in its rudeness.
“Are you ugly? I found that women without an iota of appeal often appear strident.”
“I have never measured myself by my appearance.”
“That’s a lie. Every woman has.”
“Should you care so much about the appearance of other people?” she asked. “Especially since your own appearance has been so grievouly altered by your stupidity.”
“I know why Neville came with me. To get away from you.”
These two really don’t like one another, especially after Dalton informs Minerva that it was Neville who shot him in the face. Dalton does not know why Neville wanted him dead, but he begins to wonder if perhaps Minerva could be part of her brother’s lethal plot. Now this is romance, so you know that this pair will fall in love, but at this point in the book it’s pretty difficult to imagine how that’s going to happen. A less-experienced author might have had love come quickly, but Karen Ranney has the confidence to allow it to come upon them slowly, as Dalton and Minerva reluctantly join forces to find Neville. Minerva becomes his eyes, and notwithstanding his blindness he becomes her protector. They form a grudging respect for one another, followed by trust, affection, physical passion, and only after all of that – love.
Ms Ranney excells in writing dialogue, and the couple’s progress is a joy to read, as they come to know one another by talking forthrightly. Both characters are fully realized, as are the several secondary characters such as their respective housekeepers, Dalton’s creepy secretary, his investigator friend and Dalton’s spoiled younger brother. The element of mystery is well done, but fairly easy to figure out. My one criticism is that Minerva is a bit too progressive for her time (she took her coachman as a lover, just to experience passion), but she is so darn much fun that I overlooked that. Dalton, however, is just about perfect. In creating a man who transforms from a surly, self-pitying drunken wreck into a man who finds himself thrilled by a woman who despises his wealth, his reputation, and his title, Ms Ranney doesn’t put a foot wrong. His blindness is always there, but it does not define him.
And may I just add that I loved Miranda’s elderly spinster neighbors, the Covington sisters. Read the book, and you’ll see what I mean.
You can follow the rest of the tour HERE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen Ranney began writing when she was five. Her first published work was The Maple Leaf, read over the school intercom when she was in the first grade. In addition to wanting to be a violinist (her parents had a special violin crafted for her when she was seven), she wanted to be a lawyer, a teacher, and, most of all, a writer. Though the violin was discarded early, she still admits to a fascination with the law, and she volunteers as a teacher whenever needed. Writing, however, has remained the overwhelming love of her life.