Dear Mrs. Kelly,
I see a book by you and I’m like Pavlov’s dogs – minus the barking. And the book then automatically goes on my list of “this will be read soon, if not sooner.” And though each one might not always climb the heights of my best reads for that year, you seldom fail to entertain me or move me.
Sally Sophie Paul is literally hanging on by her last threadbare thread. Widowed five years ago when false accusations against her husband drove him to suicide, she’s eked out a living as a ladies companion until, having spent her penultimate coin traveling to Plymouth, she finds her new job eliminated by the death of the elderly client.
Retired Admiral Sir Charles Bright is desperate when he notices the quiet woman in the corner of the Drake. His years of reading his crew and the idiots at the Admiralty have taught him to be a good judge of character and this woman obviously needs his help as much as he needs hers. Unbidden and unwanted, his two older sisters have decided to take on his marriage as a project – whether he wants to get spliced or not – and the woman to whom he proposed in a marriage of convenience hasn’t shown up. So perhaps this young woman will do.
At first, an incredulous Sally declines the Admiral’s proposal but when there are no jobs to be had and the workhouse looms, she finally agrees. And what starts out as a business arrangement swiftly becomes much more. Each feels amazed that it appears love will bloom where neither expected it but just as they’re accepting their good fortune, a secret Sophie has kept threatens not only their marriage but also Charles reputation.
One thing I must comment on, and I know that this isn’t your fault, is the cover. Charles suffered an injury early in his Naval career which is featured throughout the story yet it’s not pictured correctly. If the cover had been flipped, then yeah it’s fine but usually Harlequin is better about stuff like this. Okay, that’s out of the way.
Charles and Sophie are such dear people, such caring people, such responsible people that it’s a delight to watch them find each other and do good, both in their own household and in the neighborhood. They save orphans from abuse, they rescue people from the workhouse and former sailors from begging on the streets. They visit those who were never visited and bring closure to one who grieved over a lost son for years. They’re practically perfect. And just a touch unbelievable in their perfection.
But then Charles does get to throw a wonderful, thunderous rage when Sophie’s secret comes to light. And based on what he knows at the time, I can totally understand his reaction. However, literally overnight, he Sees the Light, totally believes Sophie’s version of events and contritely tries to regroup and attempt a do-over. Bully for Sophie that she sticks to her guns and follows what she told him she’d do in her letter. Until Charles finally gets his act together and they reconcile. But I guess that’s why it’s called unconditional love – you forgive and forget without question.
You do throw a slight change into the book by having what can be considered “an insider” end up being the villain of the piece. And it is nice to see an older hero and (somewhat older) heroine be featured. I also liked the fact that there is no magical justice meted out for the wrong of five years ago. Life sucks sometimes and here is an example.
But oh my, the crying in this book. If someone isn’t tearing up, crying, or sobbing then they’re sobbing in someone’s arms. I lost count. It got to the point where I was waiting for the blubbering to commence. If the whole household ever gets weepy at the same time, there won’t be enough handkerchiefs in the entire county of Devonshire to mop up the tears. Somehow, I just don’t see a bookful of English – and one French – characters getting this publicly emotional, to this extent, in 1816.
So though I enjoyed how amazing Charles and Sophie are and how much they come to love each other and can see them happily sitting out on their terrace watching the sea, I do have some issues with the book. I liked it, it is what I’ve come to – more or less – expect from you but it has a “same old” feel to it. Long time fans will no doubt lap it up as quickly as I did but they shouldn’t look for anything truly new or different in the tone or style. B-