February 25, 2006

you know you can follow my voice

Posted in books tagged , at 1:27 pm by placeinthestars

Last night, I reread One Good Turn by Carla Kelly, a book that never fails to set me crying. I don’t sob, I just can’t stop the tears from rolling down as a I read, until I am a soggy mess clutching a handful of damp tissues in one hand and the book in the other. It wasn’t the book I really wanted (that would be The Wedding Journey, which I hope I have at home, because it doesn’t seem to be here), but nearly all of her books make me cry like that, even the lighter ones that don’t involve traumatic memories from the third siege of Badajoz.

this is what I wrote when I first read it:

I did read One Good Turn by Carla Kelly (the sequel to Libby’s London Merchant, which I wrote about a few weeks ago*), and in the mood I’ve been in, it damn near broke my heart. I was in almost in tears at various points in the story, and I *knew* what Liria’s secret was.

I mean, not only have I read enough of these books to easily figure it out, I’m not stupid.

The British laid siege to Badajoz three times. I can only imagine – and really, I’d prefer NOT to – what they did to the people inside – the women, specifically – once they broke through.

So yes, again, not your typical Regency, as Nez was there as well, and his hands are not clean.

It was harder than The Wedding Journey**, partially because Nez isn’t quite as likable as Jess Randall, and of course, Nell was only threatened. Liria was gang raped, watched her sister die, was tossed out by her family and then had a baby.

Even though the events are only narrated in retrospect, and we don’t have to go through the rape in real (narrative) time, it’s still… it’s not graphic but it’s not easy to read.

So while I quite liked One Good Turn, liked it quite a lot more than Libby’s London Merchant, in fact, it’s not for the faint of heart.



I’m surprised I didn’t cry. Huh. I wept like a baby this time. I think I liked it even better, without the shadow of Libby’s London Merchant hanging over it. I really liked Nez a lot this time around.

There’s something about Kelly’s style or tone, a sort of rueful matter-of-fact acceptance of the frailties of human nature, that makes me love her books, and there’s always an undernote of melancholy, even in the happiness. Like, the joy is joyful – and I do mean *joy*, not just happiness – but there’s always some echo of lingering sorrow, and I guess that makes the joy more precious, more deeply felt. It’s a tone I try for sometimes, my favorite tone, really, for stories – that sort of quiet, lip-quivering, achy-in-the-chestal-area melancholy (or possibly wistfulness) broken with some humor.

ANYhow. I totally recommend Carla Kelly’s books, even to people who don’t like romances, or Regency romances, and one day maybe I will do a reread of my favorites again and try to post something about each. The list is long and includes Marian’s Christmas Wish, Miss Whittier Makes a List, Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand, Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career, Miss Billings Treads the Boards, and With this Ring, in addition to The Wedding Journey. I hope I still own all of them. *frets* And I know there are still a number of hers I haven’t read, which makes me sad.

*I really didn’t like the bait-and-switch of Libby’s London Merchant. I mean, you start out with the Duke, everything points to the Duke as the romantic interest, and then bam! Libby chooses the doctor. It felt off. I mean, I have no objection to the fact that the heroes and heroines (and note, heroin is the drug, heroine is a female protag. I wish people would stop confusing the two words. /peeve) of most of Kelly’s books are not noble (though I personally prefer aristocracy in my romance novels, as that adds even *more* distance and fairy-tale feeling to the stories, which is one reason I read them). I like the more ordinary people she writes about, as she is very, very good at making her characters three-dimensional, lovable and flawed.

But for some reason, even though the I believed the realism of the Duke offering Libby carte blanche rather than marriage once he discovered her lesser birth, and I believed that she would be offended etc. and that the whole thing would never work out, thus paving the way for her to realize her feelings for the doctor, I *still* had trouble with the setup. Maybe I like my romance formula too much, and was thrown off by the sudden switch of romantic interest midstream.

I guess part of the problem is I’m used to these Regency heroes doing their learning and growing all in one fell swoop and Nez did not. I see he’s the hero of her latest book (in which I presume he finally gets the girl, and, I hope, hasn’t taken up drinking again), so I get that she had a different story she wanted to tell with his character, but… I was unsatisfied.


**I started The Wedding Journey by Carla Kelly, which is, as most of Kelly’s books are, a different kettle of fish.

First off, it takes place in Spain. The hero is Captain Jesse Randall, a surgeon attached to Wellington’s army. The army is preparing to retreat to Torres Vedras, which means chaos for all concerned.

Randall’s secretly in love with the daughter of the profligate drunk Captain Mason. Captain Mason owes Major Bones a large sum of money, and the Major is willing ot forgive the debt… if Mason will hand over his daughter.

That’s just the setup.

I’m already on page 95 and there’s been a wedding, a birth, a robbery, a murder and some really nasty behavior on the part of the British toward some Spanish villagers.

Not light reading in the usual Regency sense, but Kelly always manages to do a great third person limited narration that puts you right into the characters’ heads (and she doesn’t break POV until there’s a definite break in the story).

Plus, there’s a Private Harper, a thieving malingerer who turns out to be more than expected, and well, you *know* I’m picturing Sharpe’s Harper, right? *g*



Huh. I don’t seem to have posted about finishing it, at least, not that I can find. I wish I had it here, because I would totally reread it today.



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