Tapestry (This DIK review was written by a reader)
1996, European Historical Romance (Seven Years War 1756-1763 [Georgian] England)
Zebra, $4.99, 380 pages, Amazon ASIN 0821754848
As a long time romance reader, sometimes I find myself forgetting why I love this genre so much. At times titles, plots, and characters all blend together until all I can say is "love prevails in the end". But at other times I read a book that refreshingly, uniquely, and unequivocally reminds me just why I love romance novels. Tapestry by Karen Ranney is quite simply one of the best this genre has to offer.
Lady Laura Blake has been in love with Dixon Alexander Weston, her neighbor, all her life. Although ten years apart in age, she recalls many childhood memories spent with him. Raised by her loving uncles after her parent's death, it was Alex who was her greatest comfort and companion. When Alex is called away to war, Laura, who is only 14 at the time, bids him a heart-wrenching farewell. Years do nothing to lessen Laura's love for Alex, and when she hears that he has been horribly wounded and disfigured in the war, she longs to be with him. When Alex finally comes home, four years have passed. Laura reaches out to him via letters, but they all come back unanswered. Not accepting Alex’s brush-off, she decides to become a servant in his household just to be near him again.
Dixon Alexander Weston, who had been the spare to the heir, has now inherited the title of Earl of Cardiff following the deaths of his father and brother. He returned from the war a different man. His once handsome face was severely disfigured following an accident involving a cannon. He has only one eye which is limited in its vision, horrendous scars, and a hand that has been so mutilated that it resembles a claw. Alex has resorted to hiding his face behind a mask and isolating himself in his home, Hedden Hall, rather than face the horror of other people's reaction to him. He sees himself as a monster and contemplates suicide.
When Laura comes to him, he does not recognize the woman she has become. She hides her identity, not wanting to be sent away. He is instantly attracted to her, but knows he would repulse her. Laura is absolutely still in love with him, and could care less about his physical appearance. She sees him as the same as she always has, and gradually works her way into his inner circle by becoming his secretary. The friendship they develop during this part of the book is sweet, convincing, and tangible. The scene where she finally gains the courage to offer herself to him is one of the most memorable scenes ever, and I love how fate intervenes on their behalf to let the truth of her identity come to light.
Tapestry is split into two parts. The first details Laura and Alex’s courtship while the second illustrates their life together. While the first half alone would make this book a keeper, it is the second part that launches it into a category all its own. Ranney's use of the English language is remarkable. You "feel" what the characters are feeling in such real and powerful ways and become so enmeshed in the story that it's hard to put the book down. The emotions that the story evokes are intense, powerful, and all consuming at times. This is easily the most emotion-filled book that I've ever read.
Tapestry is is more than a love story - it is a story of survival in the midst of great odds. It is a story of unconditional love, of growing up, and becoming a better person after unbearable pain. It is what I believe true romance is all about, and I wish I could personally thank Karen Ranney for this beautiful reminder.
LLB: Incredible buzz on this book prompted me to ask Karen Ranney to write about Two Hanky Reads in 1997
-- Krista Wadholm
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