Marrying the Captain / Carla Kelly. 2009
Technically this book doesn't go on sale until January 1, but Harlequin makes its books available a month early via their website for print books or via their ebook site. Using the latter, I had this loaded on my PDA in the early hours of December 1 and finished it the next day. Carla Kelly is one of my favorite authors. I really look forward to her new releases and once again I was not disappointed.
Here's the blurb:
Ever since her father tried to sell her as a mistress to the highest bidder, Eleanor Massie has chosen to live in poverty. Her world changes overnight when Captain Oliver Worthy shows up at her struggling inn. Despite herself, Nana is drawn to her handsome guest….
Oliver planned to stay in Plymouth only long enough to report back to Lord Ratliffe—about Nana. But he soon senses that Lord Ratliffe is up to something, and Oliver will do anything to keep this courageous, beautiful woman safe—even marry her!
Nana Massie, her grandmother, and their two servants make up a small household struggling to keep their inn open. Plymouth has fallen on hard times. The British Navy is busy with a blockade against the French and few ships come to call anymore. When they do, there are other, bigger, more established inns that receive patronage from the sailors. Captain Worthy, as a favor to Lord Ratliffe, shows up to stay in the Massies' inn while his ship is in dry dock being repaired. Captain Worthy is also ill and his need to recover means he spends extra time in the inn getting to know Nana, who helps nurse him back to health. Oliver and Nana soon fall in love with one another, but Oliver is resistant to marriage. During his career he's seen too many women become naval widows. Life in the Navy is dangerous and he has no desire to inflict that kind of anxiety on a wife. Meanwhile, Nana believes herself to be unworthy of the Captain; marriage to her would be a serious social misstep.
This book is in many ways a standard, gentle romance. It is set apart from most Regencies however because of the setting (not London) and the fact that the major characters are not from the aristocracy. The backdrop of the war with France and a look at naval life are also unusual if you are a regular reader of Regency historicals. Ms. Kelly does a masterful job of giving the reader a real sense of the way of life for those men who made their livings at sea--and what it was like for their women who were left ashore. She does it with a deft touch; the details do not overshadow the romance.
There is also a subplot involving Nana's father and the real reason he shows concern for her after neglecting her for so many years. As much as Oliver loves Nana, he did not want to marry her as I said above. Yet threatening behavior from her father leads Oliver to marry Nana to protect her. The situation with Nana's father has to be resolved and the subplot carries the book to its conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed this. It didn't have the dark weight of her last book, Beau Crusoe, but there was plenty of tension to make it an engaging read.
I also want to point out that this book is on sale right now, too:
Buyer Beware!! A Homespun Regency Christmas is not a collection of new stories. All 4 of these have been published in previous Signet Regency Christmas anthologies. The copyright page for the 4 novellas is the last printed page of the book. It is easy to overlook. BUT, if you haven't read these, or at least haven't read the Carla Kelly entry, it is worth reading. Interestingly, the CK story, "An Object of Charity" is set roughly around the same time as MTC. The hero is also a naval captain; the heroine's brother died while serving on board the hero's ship. Near the end of this story, the captain describes life on the blockade. It was a nasty, dangerous way to live, yet necessary to prevent Napolean's incursion into England. It's a powerful passage that I remembered from my initial reading of this story years ago. I highly recommend reading both if you can. While they do not appear in any way connected, the similarity of the setting makes them go well together. I wonder if the republication of "An Object of Charity" was deliberately done.
Anyhow, good stuff. Enjoy.