Desert Isle Keeper Review

Marrying the Captain

Carla Kelly
2009, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Harl Historical #928, $5.99, 288 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373295286

Grade: A-
Sensuality: Warm

Carla Kelly can do no wrong! Itís a rare treat to read a novel with the perfect blend of wit, charm, humility and intelligence. I could be referring to anything on Kellyís backlist as they all fit the bill. But I am charged with reviewing Marrying the Captain. A sweeter job cannot be found.

Like most of Carla Kellyís heroines, Nana Massie is down on her luck. The illegitimate daughter of a viscount, Nana ran away from her prim finishing school when she found out the plans her father had for her future. These past five years, Nana has lived with her grandmother in Plymouth helping run a none-too prosperous inn. The Mulberry Inn, far off the beaten path, has no lodgers and barely enough food to feed themselves. Nana resorts to visiting the more established merchants in town for charity. A surprise visit from a naval captain throws the Innís four inhabitants into an uproar, but this captain not only offers up money for his own meals, but for those of the entire house.

Captain Oliver Worthy is landlocked for a few weeks while his ship is repaired. While visiting his superiors in London, Oliver is asked a favor by Nanaís father. Not only a viscount, but a high-ranking naval officer to boot, Lord Ratcliffe feigns fatherly concern and wants Oliver to check up on his daughter to see how she fares. Oliver is hesitant - his trunks are already at his usual lodging - but when Ratcliffe pulls out the miniature of Nana, he is utterly captivated. He must see this vision in person so he agrees to the scheme, thinking it an innocuous task.

Now Oliver is in quite the predicament. As a life-long seaman, he vowed long ago that he would never open himself up to a loving relationship. He has seen too many widows made because of the war and the sea. But one look at Nana Massie and he is done for. Nana is equally as smitten with the kind, handsome Captain. She nurses him through a putrid throat, they share meals together, and he ingratiates himself into her small familyís life. Through these circumstances they fall even more in love.

From the title Iím sure you can guess where this is all leading, but itís not an easy road. Even with two people who fall in love quickly and for all the right reasons, they have some obstacles. Because of her father and the harsh treatment Nana received at the finishing school, her illegitimate status leaves her insecure and feelings unworthy. Oliver is still fighting his solemn vow not to marry and the approaching departure of his ship to join the blockade. The country is also in the midst of a war, and even the most common English folks must be wary of potential spies.

I like to think of Carla Kellyís heroines as friends. They do become quite close to the soul as their story unfolds before you. It isnít hard to imagine a quaint sitting room with a few damaged, but restored ladies from previous books sitting about having a cup of tea. Roxana Drew and Jane Milton sitting down to a quiet conversation all the while Omega Chartly and Emma Costello are flying into the boughs about something or other. Nana Massie fits in with this bunch perfectly. I see Nana enjoying a spot of tea with the more serene Roxie and Miss Milton, but her eyes would drift to Omega and Emma more than once. Nana likes to think of herself as quiet and serene, yet there is an inner feistiness about her.

As for Captain Oliver WorthyÖ Truly, can Ms. Kelly write a bad hero? He is everything one would want in a man and then some. He is depicted as a stern man not known for his sense of humor, but Nana Massie brings out the best in him from the start. His demeanor softens, he smiles and even laughs occasionally. He is a true gentleman, but also a true man, succumbing to some naughty thoughts about the sweet Miss Massie. Some truly funny remarks ensued because of his traitorous mind.

The small, practically indecipherable minus next to the A up above is due to the secondary characters. Donít get me wrong; Gran, Pete the old sailor and many others are delightful characters, butÖ Itís the problem that happens with spoiled children. They get used to a certain standard and wonít accept any less. Iím used to an above average supporting cast from Carla Kelly and that just didnít happen here.

Except for the less than stellar (only slightly!) secondary characters, I couldnít find a darn thing wrong with this enchanting tale of two people who never thought to find anyone special only to run smack into each other. Carla Kelly is on what I call my ďgrocery list.Ē This means, along with a select few others, I would read every word she writes - including her grocery list. Marrying the Captain is far from a grocery list. Itís one of her best love stories.

-- Lisa Gardineer

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