This month's theme in Keishon's TBR Challenge is "thanksgiving." I carefully looked through my inventory of books and I couldn't find one that matched the theme. But with Thanksgiving around the corner here in the US, I wanted to do something that would at least acknowledge the theme. So I chose this book and I'll explain my thinking at the end of the review.
I first read Lynn Kerstan back in 2003 when I began reading romance again. I loved The Golden Leopard so much that I even briefly considered putting it in my Winsor List last month. Anyhow, back in the day I ordered a bunch of her old Regency traditionals and they ended up stashed away in the closet all this time. It was time to bring them out.
Marry in Haste is the story of Diana Whitney, a young woman and substantial heiress living with her chaperone at an old manor in the country. With the assistance of the Earl of Kendal (hero of an earlier book), she is in hiding from her uncle (and legal guardian) who is determined to see her wed to a nasty man she doesn't want to marry. The manor actually belongs to Alex Valliant, the Earl's younger brother who is in the army and presumed to be out of the country. In fact, Alex has returned to England and when he winds up at his manor a minor scandal ensues and Alex offers to marry Diana. She doesn't want to marry someone she barely knows even though she's attracted to him and she turns him down. But when the evil uncle shows up to force Diana to come home she ends up accepting Alex's offer.
Let me just say up front that this is a lovely, lovely story of two people forced by circumstance to marry and then learn to live with and love one another. I loved both characters. They are, in their own way, rather shy people, so neither of them express their feelings well. But they are also strong and determined. Diana in particular works hard to overcome her fears and stand up for herself. They quickly fall in love with one another, but because they don't know how to talk to each other only the reader knows how they feel. Meanwhile, they settle into a chaste marriage. Alex doesn't want to touch Diana until she's "ready" and she doesn't know how to tell Alex that she is ready.
We watch Diana and Alex get to know one another as Diana becomes involved with a group of poor women in the area near their home who are barely making a living. She needs Alex's help as she finds a way for them to earn money for their families and Alex teaches her leadership principles he learned in the army. The ladies become "Diana's Regiment" and through this work Diana and Alex learn to appreciate one another's strengths and gifts. Kerstan writes beautifully...there were moments that made me laugh out loud and moments that made me weepy. There's great emotion in this little book.
For a traditional Regency, this is a pretty atypical book. Only the last 7 pages take place in London; the bulk of it takes place in Lancashire, with a brief trip to Gretna Green. And while Alex is a character who saw plenty of military action, it is Diana who bears a disfiguring scar. That scar is part of what makes her so timid. While Alex initially comes across as autocratic and arbitrary, he ends up deferring to Diana's wishes in the face of her determination to help the abandoned and widowed women around her. Making Diana happy quickly becomes very important to Alex.
After last month's TBR disappointment, I'm happy to say that I highly recommend this one. It was republished as a Signet two-fer in 2005 and you may be able to get your hands on it. Do so if you can. Hopefully Kerstan's backlist will make it into ebook form one of these days.
Kerstan's last book was published in 2005. According to her website, she was in the middle of a trilogy when her publisher decided not to print the last book in the series. Kerstan participates in a group blog with 5 other authors called Story Broads. It was there I learned earlier this year that Kerstan has recently survived a very close call with cancer. She has blogged about it some and so I decided to express my thankfulness that she is still with us and continuing to get better. I don't know if she is still writing or trying to get published again. Selfishly, I hope she is. But mostly I hope she has many more years to live life on her terms, whatever those may be. And if we don't get any new books from Lynn, well, I am very thankful to have a couple more of her backlist in my TBR pile, including the 1996 RITA award-winner, Gwen's Christmas Ghost, co-written with Alicia Rasley.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!