When my friend Moss
puts an HR book on her "clutched-to-my-bosom" shelf, attention must be paid. And so, I enthusiastically turned to this inspired-by-Cyrano book, even though I had not before heard of the author.
Catherine Dunnan pines away at her Scots estate for her husband of one month Harry, who is fighting the wars in North America (the French and Indian War as it's called in the U.S.). Harry is a bounder in every way, and he cruelly ignores the heartfelt letters she constantly sends. Harry's commander Moncrief takes up Harry's offhand suggestion that he should respond to them, and thus begins a correspondence between the lonely bride and the even lonelier colonel, posing as Harry.
Fortunately for everyone, Harry is killed. Moncrief unexpectedly inherits a dukedom from his elder brother, and upon his return to Scotland pays a visit to the widow. He finds her near death from laudanum and saves her life. When the obsequious vicar suggests that Moncrief has compromised the lady, Moncrief impulsively marries her on the spot and carries her away to his fabulous castle, Balidonough. Will Catherine, still overwhelmed with grief for Harry, ever accept Moncrief as her husband? What will happen when she discovers -- and we know
she will -- that Moncrief wrote all of the beautiful letters that she clings to? What I Liked
•Moncrief! Not a tortured hero, but certainly a sad one. As a third son, he never expected to inherit a dukedom, so he made the army his career. Although never close to his father or elder brother, he nevertheless regrets not having reconciled with them. He takes his new duties seriously and wants to improve the lives of his servants and tenants. He loves the Catherine he discovered in her letters, and he burns with desire for the Catherine he has married. (And, of course, like all the best HR heroes, he's tall, muscular, handsome, and blessed with a big beautiful wang. Prim, proper Catherine can't take her eyes off of him, and we begin to wish that this book came with full-color illustrations.)
•Catherine and Moncrief together. It takes a long time for the two of them to come together, but when they do -- wow! Have patience, because it's worth it. (And as Moss said, "I think if there's a nut to crack in HR, it's that you want to keep the squirrels apart and looking for it for as long as you can.")
•Surprise! About two-thirds into the book, we learn that there's a villain, and I was totally blindsided. Very well done, Ms. Ranney.What I Didn't Like
•There's nothing not to like, with one possible exception. Balidonough sounds like a fantastic place, but there was way more description of the rooms, hallways, keeps and secret passages than we need.
•The shrewish Juliana and the retiring Hortensia practically disappear, which was really too bad, as they added a touch of variety to the story.
•The ending was a bit abrupt, and I would have enjoyed learning a bit more about the fates of the secondary characters. What Bugged Me
The writing is excellent, but here's where I vent about those little things that good editors should catch:
•The author refers to Catherine's ever-present ache for Harry as a "succubus," which is a female
demon believed to have sex with sleeping men
. Huh? Perhaps she meant incubus?
•Moncrief is colonel of the Lowland Scots Fusiliers, yet Catherine recalls first seeing him in his Highlands Regimental uniform. Now I don't care about the difference, but those touchy Scots would run their claymores through anyone who confused the Highlands with the Lowlands.Overall
A totally five-star read.