January 10, 2017
A Beauty and the Beast tale
What is beauty? What is beastly? In The Lass Wore Black, by Karen Ranney, we get to
ponder that question in so many ways. In the prequel to this book, The Scandalous Scot, we met Catriona Cameron. Catriona is one of the most outwardly beautiful women to ever walk the earth. But on the inside, she is the beast. She's one nasty woman. She uses her beauty to get what she wants. She is entirely selfish, mean, nasty, catty, rotten - I can go on and on. I disliked her intensely in the previous book and I could see no way that Karen Ranney could redeem her enough to make her into a heroine. I must say that Karen gave it the good old college try, but in my opinion she wasn't quite successful in redeeming her to the point where I could actually like her.
I am glad I read this book, because I was really really interested in how Ms. Ranney was going to transform this beastly woman into a beauty. Well, first of all she took away her physical beauty. Catriona is involved in a horrific accident in the very beginning of the story. She has some damage to her arm and leg, but most of it is to her face. Catriona hides herself away, in her room, with her face covered by a veil. So now her face is as ugly as her personality. Her whole way of surviving the world, the only thing she knew, what made her popular is now gone. But, she is still a very unpleasant person and I could not feel any sympathy for her. And, that's ok, because I don't think at this point in the story I was supposed to feel sorry for her. I think the problem I had with Catriona wasn't really her but our hero Mark.
While I liked Mark all right, his character wasn't as fleshed out as Catriona. I didn't see him as being strong enough to give a balance to Catriona. And, when I say strong I don't mean some alpha hit-over-the-head-caveman-grunt-guy, I mean his personality was just sort of bland. Catriona was such a strong character; she was so angry, so defeated, so unlikable, that she overpowered the book. Mark's side of the story was weak. He was a nice guy, a good doctor. He loved his work, he saved poor orphans and single mothers, but he was almost boring and he was no match for Catriona. I didn't think they worked together as a couple, plus there were long segments of the book when they weren't together at all. I think it's very rare for a love story to work when the couple is separated for a lot of the book - it's been done in some stories, sad to say not this one just didn't succeed.
While I like the way Ms. Ranney writes, I didn't care for the couple as a couple. Catriona's story was a fascinating try at making a creepy person into a nice person but I felt it didn't completely work. She was too boo-hoo-poor-me for waaay too long - she didn't have her epiphany soon enough. I would have liked to have seen her struggle with her newfound awareness a little bit sooner... and while I liked Mark, he was no match for Catriona. The Lass Wore Black just didn't quite reach the plateau it was reaching for.
Time/Place: England 1860s-big skirt time
Sensuality: Hot, I guess