Thursday, February 22, 2007

Beau Crusoe / Carla Kelly. 2007

You know how it is when you wait ever so long for something that when it finally arrives whatever you've been waiting for simply cannot live up to expectations? I was actually afraid to pick this up and read it after it arrived in the mail a week ago. But 24 hour after it arrived I started in on it and I wasn't disappointed. It was trademark Carla Kelly all the way and full of the things that make her a distinctive writer and one of my top 5 favorites in any of the romance sub-genres. It was in turns funny and poignant. It's a lovely character-driven romance, which seems to me to be rather rare these days.

The hero, James Trevenen was an officer in the Royal Navy who was marooned on a small, deserted island in the south Pacific for 5 years prior to the beginning of the story. He is on his way to London to receive a medal for a paper he wrote upon his return to society about a species of small crabs he spent many hours observing while alone on his island. I loved the way CK got me to think about what it would be like to return home after 5 years in isolation and haunted by the trauma that caused him to be marooned in the first place. James' back story is unveiled slowly and to me it's thoroughly believable. James had gone to sea at age 8 and the idea of him growing up at sea was probably enhanced by my multiple viewings of Master and Commander over the last few years.

In London, James stays with the family of Lord and Lady Watchmere and he becomes acquainted with Susannah Park, their younger, widowed daughter, and her son, Noah. Susannah is assigned the task of acting as hostess to their guest. Susannah lives under a cloud of scandal because her first marriage was to her father's secretary. They'd eloped to Gretna Green and then run away from the scandal by going to India until David Park's death. As an amateur history buff, it's my understanding that what Susannah and her first husband did was a truly scandalous act that had a negative impact on Susannah's family. I find it interesting that many novelists today romanticize a Gretna Green marriage to the extent that most readers probably won't realize that CK is closer to the mark in describing what it really would have been like for Susannah and her family. But I digress. Susannah has an older spinster sister who is bitter over how Susannah's actions had a negative impact on her own chances to marry.

James and Susannah are quickly attracted to one another and sensitive to the respective wounds they each carry. The book progresses as they gently uncover those hurts and deal with them. In addition there are some interesting secondary characters, although the woman from James' past was a bit over the top. Susannah's sister finally sheds her bitter skin, perhaps a tad too quickly, but sometimes things have to move quickly in a story with a fairly condensed timeline.

Was this CK's best book? I don't know. Perhaps Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand will always be a sentimental favorite of mine, but this one ranks right up there, along with The Lady's Companion. It gets an A from me and so far is my favorite book of 2007. Of course, it's early yet. But still, an awesome return for Ms. Kelly and I hope this means there will be more books to come.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Mini Nora glom

When I came back to romance reading a number of years ago, I stuck almost exlusively to historicals. So even though her books are everywhere, I never read a Nora Roberts book until Angels Fall last summer. And even though I really liked it, I had so many books in my TBR pile, I wasn't ready to start in on her backlist. But with the Lifetime movies this month I figured I'd at least read those 3 books prior to watching their adaptations. I finished Carolina Moon last night and I wasn't disappointed. I loved all 3 books. So here are some random thoughts based on my NR mini-glom:
  • Unlike some readers, I love all the head hopping and various POVs. I like her style that gives us a glimpse from the perspective of so many characters.
  • Blue Smoke was my favorite of the 3. Reena's family made that book for me. I have read too many books with characters coming from dysfunctional families. I loved seeing that you could have this strong heroine who certainly had experienced trauma come from a loving, healthy family. Because there are families like that out there.
  • I've been to Montana. I haven't spent any time on a ranch, but Nora's descriptions of the terrain and the sky, etc. were spot-on.
  • I will say I wasn't crazy about the ending of Carolina Moon. Spoilers ahead. I had kinda' figured that Hannibal wasn't the killer, but if there were clues about Dwight earlier in the book I totally missed them. So it came out of nowhere that he's the villain and here we are with 5 pages left in the book. Maybe it was me, but I'm just nit-picking. I still loved the book.
  • I like how different each book was from the other (and Angels Fall was different from them). No recycled plots here.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Finally almost finished

I really like this one, but it had to be the most frustrating thing I've quilted to date. I went through a dozen needles and countless starts and stops with the way my thread kept shredding. It was the coolest, hand-dyed thread that matched the blues so well. But I'm not sure I'll try to work with this thread again. The fact that I was using batiks didn't help. Definitely a learning experience.
The quilting itself is boring--just basic meandering. I seem to lack the courage to try something more complicated. One of these days....