Lord Morgan MacCraig and Jean MacDonald are both living lives shadowed by the moral attitudes and perceptions of Victorian society. For Morgan, he has lost the respect of his peers and his standing within the House of Lords all for the crime of divorcing his wife rather than turning a blind eye to her indiscretions. Sadly, so much of Morgan's sense of self was wrapped up in his political aspirations that being cut by the London elite causes him to retreat back home. Jean's secrets are kept secret from the reader for much of the story, but how they affected the lives of her and her sister Catriona is plain from page one. She was born into an affluent family from Inverness but has been lowered into service at Ballindair Castle as all her friends abandoned her in the wake of scandal.
After reading an excess of historical romances I've somehow created in my mind's eye an idealized version of 19th Century England; one that allows for many types of modern ideas to exist without the characters even raising an eyebrow. In A Scandalous Scot, author Karen Ranney tries to keep the attitudes, behaviors and choices of the characters as period appropriate as possible. It was fascinating to watch Morgan rebuild a life after divorce when everyone around him is too scared to even talk about it or acknowledge what he had done. Morgan's main support is a childhood friend who himself lives outside of society's opinion, but he quickly turns out to be the worst person Morgan could associate himself with.
The scandal that touched Jean is still taboo even in our modern culture so I could empathize with her attempt to escape that stigma, however unfairly it was given to her. What I felt was an interesting dichotomy within the story was how the two sisters handled their personal demons. While Jean dedicated herself to proving how wrong society had judged her, her sister made the choice to live to the very worst of that opinion.
I was torn about the level of chemistry that I felt develop between Morgan and Jean outside of a strong friendship. Neither character was written with an overwhelming or passionate nature, but I feel that their romance would never have happened if the story was allowed to leave the setting of the castle. Jean's reluctance to enter into the relationship with Morgan was perfectly logical and once again appropriate to the times she lived in, but when I'm reading a romance actions like hers become more of an annoyance than an amusing quirk. I did like how Jean was portrayed as pretty but plain and that her appearance didn't end up changing to suddenly make Morgan fall in love with her. His feelings towards Jean were a slow progression from putting all women into the category of “betrayer” through to the point that he can see that one woman's actions cannot taint the gender as a whole.
There were many other things that kept this book an enjoyable read: watching Jean realizing her own personal strengths but also finally seeing the weaknesses in her own sister, Morgan's journey away from the shadow of his Father's legacy to become his own man, both characters accepting that the scandals of their past shouldn't define them but have helped shape who they are now. I came away from A Scandalous Scot happy to have watched these characters find themselves and content that they would weather any storms from their scandals as a unified front.
~Reviewed by Sara Anne Elliott