Summary (from goodreads.com):
He was her Highland lover, but would he be her savior?
Catriona Cameron was once famed for her seductive beauty and charm. Now she saw no one, hiding from the world…and no one dared break through her self-imposed exile.
No one, that is, until Mark Thorburn burst into her home, and Catriona’s darkened world began to have color again. Thorburn, secretly the heir to an Earldom, claimed he was a footman. But Catriona didn’t care about the scandal their passion could cause…for this very touch sparked her back to a life of sensuality, one she thought she’d never have again.
Little does she know that Mark is part of a masquerade. One that will end when they become the target of a madman set on revenge. Mark realizes he will have to do more than win her love…he will have to save her life as well.
I picked this one up to alleviate boredom on a Sunday afternoon. I saw the A+ at the top of the Smart Bitches review, read the phrases “historical Scottish romance” and “Beauty and the Beast retelling,” and skipped over to Amazon where it was on sale for a cool $3.79. Lately, I’ve been reading a bunch of historical romance novels that are basically Beauty and the Beast retellings with physically/emotionally scarred heroes, so this seemed right up my alley. I generally don’t read reviews or descriptions because they tend to be spoilers, so this one ended up being different than I expected (in a good way).
I don’t know about you, but when I hear “historical Scottish romance,” I think Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: lots of giant dudes in kilts running around the highlands being stereotypical Scottish brutes. Which I like, but it’s only a tiny (and often inaccurate) piece of Scottish history and culture. So I loved that The Lass Wore Black was set in Edinburgh in 1863 and that the hero was a nobleman doctor. (Let’s be real. I just loved Mark. I enjoy the kind-hearted, put-upon, and overworked romance novel hero.)
I liked Catriona’s character development. She’s a self-centered bitch at first. I thought it was just the trauma of being maimed in a world that only values women for their beauty, but I like the way Mark’s exploration of her past reveals that she’s pretty much always been that way. Her transformation into a nicer person happens gradually and believably, as does her physical and emotional recovery from the accident.
The only thing that really didn’t work for me was the fact that Mark slept with Catriona without telling her that he was a doctor hired by her aunt to help her. That’s majorly unethical, no matter how much he tried to justify it to himself, which squicked me out and made me angry at the same time. I basically spent the whole middle portion of the book yelling “UNETHICAL!” at my Kindle whenever they had sex (which kinda kills the mood).
Overall, though, The Lass Wore Black was great. It doesn’t follow any of the historical romance formulas too strictly, it does different and interesting things with several familiar genre tropes (Scotland, Beauty and the Beast, etc.), and it’s well written (lots of showing, not much telling). It reminds me of A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant in that it’s bleaker and, I think, more realistic than many historicals (no bubbling optimism or wacky hijinks here). While this less fanciful tone appeals to general readers, it does so without alienating romance fans, giving it plenty of cross-genre appeal.
Rating (Spiciness, Not Quality):
1.5/4 chili peppers (0 being no sex, 5 being full-fledged erotica)