by Karen Ranney

December 2006
ISBN: 0-06-075745-0
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

Charlotte Haversham MacKinnon once longed to be a bride, a wife, and a mother. Those dreams were put aside five years ago when her husband, George, the Earl of Marne, deserted her one week after their marriage, running away with her dowry. She now lives in his Scottish castle, Balfurin. She’s not the mother or wife she had hoped to be, instead, Charlotte is the headmistress of the Caledonia School for the Advancement of Females.

Charlotte’s world changes again when, on the night of the senior girls’ graduation, the Earl of Marne returns! Only… all is not quite what it appears.

After ten years away from Balfurin, Dixon Robert MacKinnon, cousin to the Earl of Marne, returns. Unfortunately, he is mistaken for George and instead of correcting the initial misrepresentation, he lets it stand, in the hopes of discovering more about Charlotte and what is going on at Balfurin.

Dixon has come home to Balfurin to find some inner peace. Tragedy in the Orient has caused Dixon to reevaluate his life. He hopes the memories surrounding him at Balfurin will help him heal, but instead, they just cause more confusion. Though he’s not the Earl, he covets the Earl’s possessions, especially his wife. Charlotte calls to Dixon in a way he’s never experienced before. But he knows that any future with her is impossible. Charlotte doesn’t even know who he really is. Her trust in him is paper thin.

Charlotte can’t believe George is back, but she has no intention of forgiving or forgetting. She just wants him gone again. But when she starts to realize he isn’t quite the same man she remembered, will she change her mind?

Karen Ranney is usually a master at creating flawed characters that are engrossing, engaging and in the end, triumph over the odds in plausible situations. However, Autumn in Scotland never quite attains the grandeur and romance of her previous tales. The shaky storyline starts off on a lie and it never seems to move beyond lies and subterfuge. Dixon’s continued hidden identity just makes Charlotte despise him and yet long for him. She has no peace from his return and her strength seems to crumble in the face of his handsome demeanor. For Charlotte, a woman who has accomplished so much in the five years since George’s disappearance, seeing her succumb to Dixon when his lies are still in place seems a bit like a slap in the face to the reader. No matter how much Dixon professes to love Charlotte in his heart, his actions show otherwise.

Autumn in Scotland is a mediocre offering from an author who usually shines in the historical romance genre. I felt only pity for Charlotte, and dislike for Dixon; emotions hardly conducive to a happy-ever-after and a realistic denouement. I won’t give up on Ms. Ranney but I would recommend getting this book from the library.

Reviewed in October 2006 by Sarah.

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