Desert Isle Keeper Review

Till Next We Meet

Karen Ranney
May 2005, European Historical Romance (1760s Scotland)
Avon, $5.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 006075737X

Grade: A-
Sensuality: Hot

Nicholas Sparks says that "Romance novels have happy endings while love stories are not bound by this requirement. Love stories usually end tragically or at best, on a bittersweet note." One of the best love stories ever written is Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, which is bittersweet indeed. Read it or watch the movie sometime if you are in the mood for a good cry. Steve Martin updated the story and gave it a happy ending in his movie Roxanne, and Karen Ranney uses the story for the basis of this wonderful romance novel. Even though it is early in the year, I know Till Next We Meet will be one of my choices for best historical romance of the year.

Montcreif is the third son of the Duke of Lymond. His relationship with his father and brothers was never a good one, and as a young man he joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers and became their colonel. When the regiment served in Canada, one of Montcrief's men, Harry Dummond, received many letters from his new wife, Catherine. Harry wouldn't take the time from his gambling and womanizing to answer his wife's letters so Montcrief did. Gradually, he fell in love with Catherine. Her wit, her warmth, and her goodness all came through in her letters, and the lonely Montcrief responded in Harry's name. As she read the letters, Catherine fell in love with Harry all over again. It was as if she never really knew her husband.

Harry was killed by a jealous husband, then Montcrief's brothers died, leaving him as the Duke of Lymond. His last act as Colonel of the Regiment is to pay a call on Catherine, and he finds her sick with grief over Harry's death. Montcrief is in torment over the suffering of the woman he has come to love, especially since he knows that Harry was unworthy of her, but he can't bring himself to shatter her illusions. Before he goes to his own home, Montcrief visits Catherine again, and finds her almost dead from an overdose of laudanum. He plunges her into an ice cold bath, to shock her back to life and they are discovered by the vicar in a very compromising situation. So Montcrief marries Catherine, to preserve her reputation and because he loves her.

Catherine accepts the reasons for the marriage, but she still mourns Harry. She wears black, even black nightgowns, and obsessively reads and re-reads the letters. All the while, she hasn't a clue that the author of those letters is right there with her. Catherine asks for a month to get to know Montcrief before they consummate their marriage, and he agrees, but insists they share a bed. And so they begin to discover each other.

This was a wonderful book, but not a perfect one. Some readers may think the circumstances leading to Catherine and Montcrief's marriage were far-fetched and that she was coerced, especially since she is half-conscious when they marry. I thought the circumstances were a bit over the top, but it really didn't bother me very much. Another problem I had was that the ending didn't quite match the rest of the book. Almost all of the book shows us Catherine and Montcrief's slowly developing relationship, but at the end the author introduces an external threat that didn't quite mesh with the character-driven story. But even that did not bother me. The mood and the characters were so memorable that I had to give it a DIK.

I truly loved the characters. As I grow older, I find I haven't much patience with a pouting and feisty romance heroine - I much prefer one who is moved by common sense, rather than her emotions. Catherine isn't perfect, but she is sensible. Montcrief was also a memorable hero. Unlike Cyrano, Montcrief is very handsome, but Catherine is sunk so deeply in grief for Harry that she compares his looks unfavorably to Harry's. But slowly, she realizes that Montcrief is as good inside as he is handsome outside. Montcrief is not an ultra-demonstrative macho alpha male, and he has a lot of responsibilities as a new Duke. There is no forced seduction here; instead, Catherine and Montcrief develop a slow and very sensual realization of each other that is more erotic than any romantica I have ever read.

I have several of Karen Ranney's books in my TBR pile and I'm due for a trip to the UBS this weekend. I know I will have to glom her backlist. Her writing is intelligent, sensual and everything I love about historical romances. Don't miss this one.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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