Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: "The Wedding Journey" by Carla Kelly

The Wedding Journey (Signet Regency Romance)The Wedding Journey by Carla Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 1/2 stars

This was my first book by Carla Kelly and now I'm wondering why I've waited so long to give her a try. I have to thank my dear GR friend Danielle for bringing this book to my attention. :)

Captain Jesse Cameron Randall, assistant surgeon of Marching Hospital Number Eight, has been in love with Elinore "Nell" Mason for years, but the battlefields of the Napoleonic Wars are no place to woo. Plus, he's just too shy to act on his feelings. Fortunately, fate decides to get these two together and plays its hand...

Due to her father's irresponsability and her mother's weakness, Nell has been taking care of her family since the tender age of ten. She's no stranger to the hardships of war, but things get worse when her mother finally dies after a long-suffering illness, her father proves himself to be unreliable once again and Major Bones (ugh, what a despicable man!) sets his sleazy, lustful eyes on her. Nell could have been fairly safe against Major Bones if it wasn't for the upcoming retreat. Thanks to Nell's father, most of his fellow officers wouldn't care about his family under ordinary circumstances, but during a retreat, they would be concerned only about themselves and their own families, so Nell would be completely left on her own and an easy prey for Major Bones.

In order to protect Nell against Major Bones' clutches, Jesse marries her right before the retreat. Obviously, the heinous Major isn't one to accept defeat easily and, taking advantage of his position, manages to trick all the English Army Units into leaving Jesse's medical unit (and some sick patients) behind during the retreat. And that's how Jesse and Nell's wedding journey begins... Will they be able to escape the approaching French Army and reach the Portuguese border safely? Will Jesse agree to an anullment and let Nell go once they're there? Will she want to leave then?

This was one of the best Trad Regency novels I've ever read. I loved Jesse, the ultimate beta hero. He was painfully shy, kind-hearted, protective, average-looking and quite unique. When I learned that this story took place during the Napoleonic Wars, I expected to find a chest-thumping, know-it-all, bigger-than-life alpha hero. Boy, was I wrong! Jesse was nothing like that and while I love an alpha hero, I couldn't help falling hard for him. I think that the fact that most of the story was told from his POV helped me to really connect with him, as I got to see how much he loved Nell, cared for everyone else and struggled with his feelings.

As for Nell, I liked her and she was perfect for Jesse, but I'm not sure I got to know her very well. She was as good-hearted as him, calm, efficient and, thankfully, not bound to hysterics. Not that I'd blame her if she was, considering what she went through on her "honeymoon", LOL. It was easy to believe she fell in love with him - hey, I did! - but something was missing. I can't quite put my finger on it, though.

All the secondary characters were well-drawn, adding more depth to the story. Captain Mason (Nell's father), Major Bones (the master villain), Major Sheffield (the chief surgeon), Harper, Wilkie, Leger, the Spanish peasants they met along the journey... All of them had individual personalities and lives, and it was interesting to see how the war affected each of them. Some sad and heartbreaking moments there, that's all I'm going to say.

All in all, this was a very good read, with remarkable characters and a story with the right amount of romance, action, suspense and drama. This wasn't a light read, as Ms. Kelly didn't skirt around the dreadful consequences of war. That doesn't mean that this was a heavy read either, because somehow these people found a way to lighten the mood now and then. Not in a silly and inconsequential fashion, but in a heartwarming way.

I really enjoyed Ms. Kelly's writing style and I'm definitely going to track her backlist, even though I don't see myself reading her books back to back. Why? Because I need some smut every once in a while and a steady diet of Trad Regency novels would make me very antsy, LOL.

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