Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Three Karen Ranney Books

I've recently read a few Karen Ranney books and on the whole have really enjoyed them. I think she is definitely a talented historical romance writer and I've ordered more books from her backlist that will hopefully be as good as the ones I've read so far!


Title: Till Next We Meet
Author: Karen Ranney
Release Date: April 26, 2005
List Price: $5.99

Read: June 9-9, 2009
My Rating:

Book Page | Excerpt |

Setting: 1761, Scotland

Till Next We Meet is a beautiful Scottish historical romance with a Cyrano twist. The two main characters are excellent - by themselves and for each other - and interestingly complex; their romance is really one that slowly builds, making it completely believable and that much more precious - and the chemistry between the two is fantastic ;-). There were also a few well-executed plot twists and I only really guessed - or rather suspected - one of them before it was revealed, which was a nice change from the books where the villain is so painstakingly obvious.

SUMMARY (from back cover):
"Catherine Dunnan is devastated when her beloved goes off to war - and only his promise to write often can sustain her in her loneliness. And what letters they are, filled with heartfelt emotions that move her to respond in kind. But then the unthinkable occurs. He is cruelly lost to her, and his beautiful words of passion and devotion cease forever.

When Moncrief agreed to write warm and loving missives in a fellow officer's name, he never expected he'd become so enamored of the incomparable lady who answered them, a woman he has never met. Returning to England to assume the unexpected title of duke, Moncrief is irresistibly drawn to the beauty who has unwittingly won his heart. More than anything, he yearns to ease Catherine's sadness with his tender kisses. But once she learns his secret, will his love be spurned?"

MAIN CHARACTERS, Catherine and Moncrief:
The main characters of Catherine and Moncrief are wonderfully written and extremely vivid and the excerpts of their letters to each other throughout the book really add to the novel. This is only my second Ranney book, but in both this one and An Unlikely Governess, there is a real loneliness to the H&H and to the story itself - secondary characters exist and are always interesting and three-dimensional, however the main characters and their relationship always seems very isolated, as if her stories take place in a somewhat cold and harsh world. I'm not saying this as a criticism, but rather just an observation. I will say that either way, it serves to truly highlight the main relationship and to really focus on its development.

I did not like the character of Glynneth (Catherine's companion) and definitely think she should have been changed. Oddly enough, for most of the book when we're supposed to be unsure of her I actually was fond of her, but how she was in the end towards Catherine, which I think is actually supposed to make the reader feel better - or at least like things are resolved - only made me feel worse.

The evil Dowager Duchess Juliana is an odd add-in because she makes all sorts of trouble at the beginning and then kind of just disappears from the story. (And P.S. out of all the historical romances I have read, the name "Juliana" has rarely been used, however in the instances that it has, the character is always mean/evil/bad ... wouldn't mind reading a HR where my name is used for the heroine or at least a likable secondary character!!!)

The final scene wasn't as satisfying as I would have liked, though it's hard to pinpoint why - maybe too much sentimentality, not enough drama, no epilogue to follow-up ... I really don't know.

This book is absolutely wonderful and it will definitely be a reread and recommend for me!!


Title: An Unlikely Governess
Author: Karen Ranney
Release Date: December 27, 2005
List Price: $5.99

Read: June 1-1, 2009
My Rating:

Book Page | Excerpt |

An Unlikely Governess was a strangely quiet yet wonderfully intense historical romance. The characters were much sadder and lonelier than one usually finds in this genre; even when authors try to make their characters the "loner-type," I don't think they succeed as well as Ranney does here.

SUMMARY (from inside page):
"Impoverished and untitled, with no marital prospects or so much as a single suitor, Beatrice Sinclair is forced to accept employment as governess to a frightened, lonely child from a noble family - ignoring rumors of dark intrigues to do so. Surely, no future could be as dark as the past she wishes to leave behind. And she admits a fascination with the young duke's adult cousin, Devlen Gordon, a seductive rogue who excites her from the first charged moment they meet. But she dares not trust him - even after he spirits them to isolation and safety when teh life of her young charge is threatened.

Devlen is charming, mysterious, powerful - and Beatrice cannot refuse him. He is opening new worlds for her, filling her life with passion ... and peril. But what are Devlen's secrets? Is he her lover or her enemy? Will following her heart be foolishness or a path to lasting happiness?"

~ There's never a question as to whether Devlen is her lover or enemy: he becomes the former and he's never the latter. Also, he's never untrustworthy - I don't know why they always try to confuse and mislead in the summaries!
~ Robert, the 7-year-old duke who is Beatrice's charge, is actually under Devlen's father's guardianship and he is one of the questionable characters. If Robert died Cameron Gordon would become the Duke and though he may be confined to a wheelchair, he could still be orchestrating the attempts on Richard's life ... so is he?
~ There is also the interesting and tragic (though disturbingly so, you'll discover), character of Cameron Gordon's wife, Rowena.
~ Just my own PS: no major taking-over-the-plot-to-the-point-that-you-want-to-shoot-one-or-both-of-the-main-characters misunderstandings here! (There's a small one at the end, but it only lasts a few pages, is necessary for the plot, and is quickly resolved). Beatrice and Devlen are actually refreshingly honest with one another - it's one of the greatest things about their relationship and this book IMO.

For the first 20 pages or so I was not sure whether I would even like the book; I loved Beatrice and Devlen immediately, but their initial interactions were somewhat strange and I wasn't sure I would find their romantic relationship believable or compelling. It was like they were strangers meeting for the first time but they'd known each other their whole lives (if that explains it and doesn't make me sound crazy), which is why I was somewhat doubtful at first. I quickly realized how wrong I was, though, and if anything it only made their relationship more authentically intense; all in all they were absolutely amazing together and perfect for one another.

The supporting characters were very compelling and the mystery remained one until the end - I was never really sure who was behind the attempts on Robert's life. If anything, I would have liked some more clues as to who it was, because the reader ends up being almost too surprised. I was never sure about whether the other secondary characters were "good" or "bad" and of course nothing ended being that simple; they were all very three-dimensional and interesting.

Robert, the young duke, was a wonderful addition to the story and provided several humorous moments. Ranney did a wonderful job of writing a young boy who is wise beyond his years and has had to grow up too fast, feels alone and abandoned, covers his fear and loneliness by acting out, but essentially is a sensitive, perceptive, and clever child. So all in all: FABULOUS HISTORICAL and definitely a reread :-)!!


Title: Tapestry
Author: Karen Ranney
Release Date: April 1, 1995
List Price: Retail unavailable - buy used

Read: June 11-12, 2009
My Rating:

Book Page
(scroll down) |

I think the story idea for Tapestry had great potential, however this is one of Ranney's earlier books - it was her first to be published but the second one she wrote - and it shows. In my opinion, she just wasn't as good a writer or storyteller as she has now become, because I have absolutely adored the more recent books of hers that I have read.

MAIN CHARACTERS, Alex and Laura:
*SPOILER STARTS* The hero was heartbreakingly wonderful and the heroine's despair when she thinks Alex is dead and then miscarries was poignantly written and extremely tragic. Pre-tragedy Laura was a little too sugar-sweet for me; at the beginning of the book when she undertakes the charade to get into his household, she seems to have real backbone and be very courageous, but once they marry, I found her somewhat boring. *SPOILER ENDS*

The added character of the evil stepmother was unnecessary in my opinion - Alex suffered SO much before the story takes place and then Laura suffers even more during it, so I felt that there were enough obstacles and tragedies without adding in a cruel, promiscuous, unfeeling backstabbing ... witch. I loved Laura's uncles; Dolly, who is a late addition to the cast of characters, was a treat.

I actually (GASP - seriously, this is extremely rare/unheard of for me) found myself skimming through portions of the book in the middle; I can't really explain why, except for I was somewhat bored by the story and didn't really find it compelling anymore - there was nothing to really grab you and make you *need* to read what happens. *Extremely annoying* was Ranney's POV shifts - they were not at all done smoothly and went back and forth so much that I found myself very confused, feeling like I was watching a doubles tennis match with three balls in play.

Unfortunately, although it did have some great parts - the beginning and the ending were very strong, compelling, and emotional - it just isn't really worth plodding through. Instead, read some of her more recent books that truly show her talent: Till Next We Meet is fantastic and An Unlikely Governess is highly enjoyable.

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