The Scottish Companion / Karen Ranney. 2007

I don’t really have time to review as many books here as I’d like, but I think I’d be remiss if I’d let this one go by. Once again I’m in awe of an author’s ability to not just write a novel, but to carefully craft it so that each word is important and if you read it too quickly you might miss an important point. The Scottish Companion is Karen Ranney’s latest book. I have a couple of her recent books on my TBR pile, but decided to read this one out of order as I’m not aware that it’s connected to any of her previous books.

TSC is the story of Gillian and Grant—two people who’ve known tremendous loss. They are thrown together when Gillian, the paid companion of the title, accompanies her employer on a visit to Grant’s estate. Gillian’s employer, Arabella, is a very strange young woman who is obsessed with medicine to the point that she has absolutely no interest in anything that goes on around her unless it has to do with a medical ailment. Grant needs a wife and as he has no interest in finding one on his own, decides that his physician’s daughter will do and arranges a betrothal to Arabella. Arabella will come to his estate and visit for a month, giving the two of them time to become acquainted before they wed. While Arabella is a beautiful woman, Grant finds himself attracted to Gillian instead.

Gillian is a woman who has lost her good name and reputation and is a heartbeat from living on the streets. She is just as attracted to Grant as he is to her. But because of her past, Gillian is wary of any involvement with Grant. The two of them engage in a delicate dance as they begin to get to know one another while they deal with the circumstances of Gillian’s past, Arabella’s strange and unusual behavior, and Grant’s betrothal. And woven into all of this is a mystery involving the deaths of Grant’s two younger brothers.

What I think is so impressive about this novel is the way that Karen Ranney slowly and carefully reveals Gillian’s story. Gillian is, to me, a very intriguing character. It takes well over three quarters of the book to learn what happened to Gillian and why. It is revealed little by little—literally a sentence here and a sentence there. This is why I thought it so well crafted. Karen Ranney uses the tension of Gillian’s past to keep you reading and looking for the next snippet of information.

Of course eventually Grant and Gillian give in to their mutual attraction. They need to deal with their growing attachment to each other, the presence of a murderer, and the tangle of Grant’s betrothal to Arabella. I mentioned earlier that both Grant and Gillian have experienced tremendous loss. It is trite to assume that a grand love can erase that loss; Karen Ranney does not give into triteness. I appreciate that. Instead you see that love makes living with loss bearable; there is comfort to give and receive; there are still moments of great joy to be found. And isn’t that the truth? Well done, Ms. Ranney.

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