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A Scandalous Scot
by Karen Ranney
(Avon, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-006-202779-5
Karen Ranney has written a story set in the Highlands during the Regency period that could have occurred anywhere. The biggest scandal of the year has followed the Earl of Denbliegh, Morgan MacCraig, to his ancestral home Ballindair Castle. The scandal is the fact that he divorced his wife Lillian due to her continued infidelity. She bedded most of his friends, all of his enemies and many he didn't know. He finally decided he had had enough.

The heroine is a lowly maid at his castle. But Jean MacDonald nee Cameron is not your typical maid. Born of a physician and his wife, Jean is at the castle thanks to her Aunt Mary, the housekeeper. She and her beautiful sister Catriona are there due to a scandal in their own family. The scandal was so big that they have changed their names and no one knows their true identity.

Jean and Morgan are an unusual couple due to their standing in life. They keep running into each other late at night when Jean is either ghost hunting, looking for a book or otherwise trying to find some time alone. Morgan is amazed at her candor. She even had the audacity to ask him where his wife was, something no one else had done! Due to a circumstance best left to the reader they are caught in a compromising situation, even though nothing the least bit circumspect had occurred. Worried about his pride, Morgan agreed to marry. Jean is given no choice, but realizes that unless she shares her secret, the marriage will not be real.

These two are well matched both in and out of the bedroom. I enjoyed their banter. The lovemaking was well written and engaging. Theirs is a good romance as it develops from a weird sort of friendship. Sadly, it is half way through the book before their relationship takes center stage and by then, I had struggled making my way through the book. The beginning sets the stage but it is slow...and the other characters are either standard issue or too stereotypical. The best friend is unlikeable from the beginning and it is hard to see why he just hangs out for the majority of the book. Catriona is not a nice person, and it is hard to reconcile her with the beloved sister that Jean keeps talking about. The exception to the secondary characters is the steward who is dying and becomes an important figure in the ending. But his role comes in late and is all too brief.

A Scandalous Scot had its moments and those moments were fun and enjoyable. But it also had its tiresome scenes and these were too frequent to garner a four heart endorsement. The result was a mediocre yet at times, decent book.

--Shirley Lyons

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