Friday, February 16, 2007

My Wicked Fantasy; K. Ranney

Written by Karen Ranney and published by Avon in 1998, at left is the original cover, but I believe there is another, newer one too. I think the title is weird & totally unrelated to the story. There were a couple of other odd quirks about this book, but in the end I liked it. More than I liked the last Karen Ranney book I tried. This one is set in the early to mid 1790's. The hero, Archer, changes & opens quite a lot by the end. The heroine was a stock character, comprised mainly of cliches, despite the odd events in her life.

Archer St. John, Earl of Sanderhurst, shuns & is shunned by the Ton because his wife is missing. Everyone who is Anyone presumes he killed her, supposedly because theirs was an arranged marriage & Alice made good time with her version of happenings. Personally, I didn't see that there was any 'real proof' of his bad intentions, other than gossip. However, St. John has spent good money on lawyers who are supposedly hunting for the missing Alice.

Mary Kate Bennett, abused orange haired Irish orphan cum governess' foster child cum early married-early widowed young woman, is en route to the tiny village where her enormous group of sibs lives. Due to lack of provisions in her lawyer husband's will, she is pretty much penniless and in need of a post. The farmer's cart she's riding in & St. John's coach are caught in a horrific crash. Mary Kate suffers a terrific blow on the head & is rendered unconscious.

From there, Archer ends up holding her hostage at his estate believing Mary Kate to be in cahoots with Alice to bilk him of money or a divorce proceeding or some such dreadful scheme. When St. John discovers Mary Kate's deceased husband was a) his lawyer & b) had done nothing despite recieving plenty of $$ to find Alice? Well, St. John is more & more convinced Mary Kate is not being honest.

My thoughts are complicated, honestly. As linked to above, the last Ranney book I read was a DNF & left such a bad taste inmy mouth it has been over a year since I've tried to read her work. In MWF the 'paranormal' element left me totally cold- but Archer &, to a lesser extent, Mary Kate, had hooked me. Setting aside MK's stock cliche-ness, her dialogue & interior life fascinated me. Her devotion to what remains of her family. Her desire to be independant & accepted for her own worth on her own terms resonated with me.

As I've mentioned previously I love emotionally tortured, damaged heroes, so Archer was fine. I loved that his secret passion is hothouse gardening. The ending, however, was not at all what I expected when I began this book. I was surprised, honestly, because I totally fell for the red herring. In the end, as a complete package, this books goes a long, long way to restoring Ms. Ranney to readable status but it isn't a keeper.

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