Weekend O’ Random Lists: The Carla Kelly Backlist Binge

I expanded it from a day to weekend because I am Having Ideas.

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Marrying the Royal Marine by Carla KellyWhy I Am A Carla Kelly Fangirl:

1. The historical worldbuilding. Total immersion book trance, every single time. No one does military romance better than Carla Kelly, and from what I can tell, her accuracy is nearly flawless.

2. The joining of equals. The heroines always have — or find — their agency, and their heroes are quietly heroic in the best possible way.

3. The mix of drama, high comedy, adventure, angst (and more). Nearly every heroine is a direly impoverished (see below) orphan or widow, and nearly all the heroes are stoic military men, but the width and depth of CK’s storytelling is truly impressive.

The must-reads:

Channel Fleet Series
(Marrying the Captain, Surgeon’s Lady, Marrying the Royal Marine)
My first and truest loves. Connected, but each is unique in story, tone and romance. On my DIK list. A+ for all three. (Harlequin Historical, 2008-2010)

The Wedding Journey
A marriage of convenience between an army surgeon and a dying officer’s daughter who’s threatened by a lecherous major. If you liked Marrying the Royal Marine or Balogh’s Beyond the Sunrise, you will love this one. (Signet, 2002)

With This RingWith This Ring by Carla Kelly
Plain Jane debutante volunteers to nurse wounded soldiers and finds herself in a fake engagement to a lordly major. It’s a glorious road-trip comedy with a lengthy rest stop at a friendly village where the heroine opens a barbershop (no really). (Signet, 1997)

The Lady’s Companion
A penniless companion and her employer’s cranky bailiff. Quietly funny and achingly romantic, with a great side story about the lonely aging dowager who schemes to bring them together. Added to my “Best Beta Heroes” list. (Signet, 1996)

Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind
A poor relation caring for her orphaned nephew slowly learns to appreciate the mill owner who lives nearby. A slow-building romance (on her side) and Deep Dark Secrets (on both sides) make this a really compelling and memorable read. (Signet, 1998)

Summer Campaign
A wallflower engaged to a pompous vicar risks her betrothal by going to a country estate to care for the ailing mother of a handsome major. In case the blurb didn’t make it clear, the heroine is on the one on campaign, not the officer. (Signet, 1989)

Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career
A bluestocking writes her brother’s literature papers and falls for a scholar-who’s-secretly-a-lord. All those five-star reviews are spot-on. Read it. Trust me. (Signet, 1992)

After you’ve read those, read these:

Miss Chartley’s Guided Tour
An impoverished gentlewoman is Going for Governess when she rescues a runaway who turns out to be the nephew of the man who jilted her eight years earlier. Add this to your “Second Chance Romance” pile. (Signet, 1989)

Miss Billings Treads the Boards by Carla KellyMiss Billings Treads the Boards
An impoverished orphan joins up with a traveling theatre group and clobbers a marquess on the head. The dopey title doesn’t do the story justice — it’s a bit on the “yeah, right” side of farce, but a the secondary cast makes this a great read. (Signet, 1993)

Libby’s London Merchant
A mysterious chocolate salesman disrupts a calm country manor. The heroine isn’t one of Kelly’s best, but the hardworking, lovelorn and schlumpy(!) doctor is another new Best Beta Hero. (Signet, 1991)

Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand
An impoverished vicar’s widow escapes lecherous brother-in-law by moving into a derelict cottage owned by a scandalous lord. I originally had this as a must-read, but after I read a few more, I found others I liked better. (Signet, 1994)

The Admiral’s Penniless Bride
A marriage of convenience of a newly retired naval officer and an impoverished widow with a Deep Dark Secret. Strong on the farce (they move into a former den of inquity) but with a lovely sub-plot featuring their Jewish banker neighbors. (Harlequin, 2010)

Kind of…meh:

Mrs. McVinnie's London Season by Carla KellyMrs. McVinnie’s London Season
A bored widow (not impoverished this time) is summoned to Town as a companion for the ward of a cranky naval captain. Worth a read, but not a favorite. (Signet, 1990)

Reforming Lord Ragsdale
A waif vows to protect and reform the rake who saved her. Again with a title and blurb that don’t reflect the story – this is much darker and more substantial then the fluffy description makes it out to be. (Signet, 1995)

One Good Turn
The hero, a carryover from Libby’s London Merchant, is a duke on a mission of self-reform who hires a Spanish refugee single mother as his housekeeper. This an odd sequel, in that the first book was very light-hearted and the followup is Angst-O-Rama – definitely not what I was expecting. Really good, but probably won’t read it again. (Signet, 2001)

The duds:

Miss Whittier Makes a List by Carla Kelly

Miss Whittier Makes a List
A young American shipwreck survivor and the British naval captain who rescues her. It was the usual CK book trance, but only a one-time read – the heroine was an annoying ingénue and the hero was kind of blah. If you’re looking for a great age-gap romance, read Marrying the Royal Marine. (Signet, 1994)

Beau Crusoe
A widowed botanical artist and a famous naturalist who has a (really really BIG) Deep Dark Secret. This one is…kind of…weird. You’ll have to read it yourself because I can’t explain it without major spoilers. (Harlequin, 2007)

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4 thoughts on “Weekend O’ Random Lists: The Carla Kelly Backlist Binge

  1. I haven’t read as much Carla Kelly as you, but I have read the Channel Fleet, all but the last one, which I’m hoarding … for when I’ll NEED it. Because.

    I love SUMMER CAMPAIGN too, of your must-reads and reviewed it extensively. I also loved MARIAN’S CHRISTMAS WISH and the collection of Christmas stories in CHRISTMAS COLLECTION. There are four of them, the one about the choir is particularly wonderful. I agree that BEAU CRUSOE is one of the strangest romances I’ve ever read. I love your lists, btw.

    • Kelly says:

      I adore Marian’s Christmas Wish too – I didn’t include any of her holiday stories here (love them all) and her newer inspies (languishing in the TBR because Book Anxiety). I’m scheduling another binge….

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