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REVIEW: Marrying the Captain by Carla Kelly

Dear Mrs. Kelly,

marrying-the-captain-2I admit right off the bat that I’m a Kellyphile from way back. Once I got back into reading romance years ago, friends of mine praised your trad Regency books and after the first one I read (“Reforming Lord Ragsdale”), I had to have them all. It’s a lot easier, and cheaper, to be able to buy them new. So imagine my delight to learn that you have not just one but TWO new releases this year. Nirvana….bliss…Snoopy happy dance….

Eleanor “Nana” Massie is a hardworking young woman. She really has no choice since the small inn in Plymouth owned by her Gran is her only home in the world. But it’s tucked back from the waterfront, far from foot traffic and the ships of the Royal Navy and times are hard. There’s little leisure traveling by civilians and the blockade being kept up by the warships means they’re not in port except for dire emergencies.

And it’s only such an emergency – actually an idiot fellow captain who accidentally ran his ship into the stern of HMS Tireless – that brings Captain Oliver Worthy back to port. While in London at the Admiralty House, he is asked something strange. Viscount Ratliffe, to whom Oliver reports, asks if Oliver will stay at certain inn and check on Ratliffe’s wayward, natural daughter then send him a report. Oliver’s never liked the man – there’s just something about him – but he agrees and heads towards Plymouth.

When he arrives, two things are apparent to him. One, he’s desperately ill with the throat and ear infections common to deep water sailors and two Nana Massie is the loveliest young woman he’s seen in ages. If he has to stay in port while his ship is being repaired, he couldn’t have landed at a better place. Pete, an old sailor who works there, can mix up a foul concoction that seems to be helping Oliver’s infection, Nana is a delight to be around but Gran takes the time, more than once, to warn him that she’s told Nana all about men of the Royal Navy.

For it was a young lieutenant who got Gran’s daughter in a bad way and she’s determined not to see Nana head down the same path. Oliver is initially fine with this as he’s long sworn never to marry and risk his wife becoming a widow. Sea life, even in peacetime, is rough and when England is at war, the risks are monumental. During his enforced stay while his ship is repaired, the feeling that made Oliver wary of Ratliffe’s request begins to bother Oliver even more. He knows Ratliffe is up to something but is it against Nana or England? Or both?

This is a charming, low key book about two wonderful people falling in love. I would agree with Mrs. Giggles that Oliver Worthy is an upright guy, doing a hard job and not asking for huzzahs or recognition for it. It’s a job, he does it and that’s the end of it. Given what he knows about the current situation in Spain, his impatience to get back to it drives him day and night. Nana Massie is the type of woman who sees a need and then quietly takes care of it. She’s no drama queen or prima donna demanding special handling. If anything, these two are sometimes almost too self effacing but in modern terms, they’d both be the “go to” type of person sought out when the boss needed something difficult done yesterday.

The details of life on a ship in the Navy add a lot to the ‘feel’ of the book. I’ve always thought that your stories about military men were among the best that you’ve written. These are iron men in wooden ships who tirelessly work day after week after month under horrible conditions to do what they’re ordered to do. I was rather surprised about the shore leave aspect. I guess Oliver’s men really do love him as a commander and source of riches. I vaguely recall reading that men in the Navy usually had a better life than the Army grunts. Regular food, crappy as it was, the chance of prize money and better odds at surviving.

Gran seemed more of a marshmallow for someone who’d been raised in Plymouth and had to work all her life. She did have A Talk with Oliver about Nana but I just expected her to act a little tougher instead of blubbering on about the dried up old governess who never took dinner with them.

I enjoyed the kind of earthy humor and ease with day to day life that we see. Nana starts out a bit shy in their marriage bed but quickly warms up and insists on getting her full share. You don’t veer away from the fact of chamber pots, nausea inducing hackney travel or clothes washed in sea water. While a full bore presentation of historical life would probably not be pleasant to read, these little touches make the story feel more real and less “dress up.” But I have to wonder – would Nana have heard of Scheherazade?

The spy aspect of the plot was hinted at for a lot of the book. It made me think of the age old dilemma of what to do with people living in your country who originated in the country of your enemy. Unfortunately, it’s something we still haven’t totally resolved. Though I was glad that the spying took a back-seat to the main action of the relationship between Oliver and Nana, I did laugh at the justice meted out to the spies. Oliver shows a delicious dark streak here and willingness to fight to protect those he loves.

As I said earlier, Oliver and Nana are basically good, decent people. But have they no faults? No maddening habits? No knuckle cracking or leaving wet towels tossed on the floor, even?

Mrs. Giggles also brings up a good point that much ado seemed to be made about Nana’s bastardy but in reality, she appears to suffer very little for it. The people of Plymouth obviously adored her, it didn’t seem to affect the custom of the inn, and Oliver brushed it off with little thought.

But for all my nitpicking, this book is classic Carla Kelly. We see into the thoughts of Nana and Oliver almost to a first person POV. I think this helps your readers watch Oliver and Nana fall for each other. There’re no “out of the blue” declarations of love here. No “why is this character suddenly acting like that” moments to contend with. And for me, this is wonderful.

Readers new to your work will be happy to know that you have a substantial backlist for them to search for – even if the search could prove a bit expensive. Long time fans can look forward to the kind of story they’ve come to love. And I plan on buying a copy of the book, even after Harlequin provided me with a reading copy for free. And I think that says it all. B+

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or ebook format.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

33 Comments

  1. Heather Massey
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 18:47:58

    Just popping in to say I *love* the hero’s uniform!

  2. MYJ
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 22:18:27

    I loved this book and look forward to the next. An A- read for me and I didn’t want it to end!

  3. WandaSue
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 22:39:03

    I LOVE Carla Kelly’s books, and this one was no exception. The quiet integrity shown by both Captain Worthy and Nana, and the nuanced writing that reveals their hearts as they become friends, then become attracted, then realize they have fallen in love is, IMO, exquisite in its intelligence and subtly.

    I give it an A.

  4. Stephanie
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 23:38:10

    Carla Kelly excels at writing stories in which two good, decent people fall in love and get together, without either descending into obnoxious or TSTL behavior. My personal favorites are probably “Marian’s Christmas Wish” and “Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand.” This looks like a promising book, but I do wish the heroine had a different nickname. “Eleanor” is a fine name, but “Nana” does not work for me at all as a diminutive! I keep getting images of a white-haired grandmother or, worse, the canine nursemaid in “Peter Pan”–not something I want to envision when reading a historical romance!

  5. RenéeW
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 02:37:22

    I’m a huge Carla Kelly fan and was so pleased to find your review. Every one of her books have been keepers for me. This one definitely sounds like classic Carla Kelly. Her characters are always wonderful – yes, good and decent, as you say – even in the most difficult and sometimes horrific circumstances. And added to that is her subtle touches of humor which are absolute perfection. Kelly is the best regency romance writer ever IMO. My favorites are Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand and Reforming Lord Ragsdale. This one sounds like another must-read for me and I look forward to getting my hands on it.

  6. Jayne
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 04:46:36

    but I do wish the heroine had a different nickname. “Eleanor” is a fine name, but “Nana” does not work for me at all as a diminutive! I keep getting images of a white-haired grandmother or, worse, the canine nursemaid in “Peter Pan”-not something I want to envision when reading a historical romance!

    Stephanie I had the same problem. For the first two chapters of the book, I kept thinking “Nana” was the grandmother. I finally got it into my head that Gran was the grandmother and Nana the heroine. But I totally agree that I wish she’d had a different nickname. Ellie, Nora, Ella, Lea, anything.

  7. Brenna
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 07:41:12

    I like this book. It is one of Carla Kelly’s heartwarming and charming love story. I got this in ebook format in December and it was just the right book to read. It is not as dark as some of the others, though I also like it when she writes those grittier and darker books like The Wedding Journey, etc.. I thought the names were a bit funny and when the hero signed his letter O. Worthy, I thought it was a joke at first. Though I have to say, he is worthy indeed of Nana. I’m glad that there is another book coming out. I read somewhere that her daughter posted in a discussion forum and said that the next book is even better.

  8. meanne
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 09:08:18

    Thank you for your wonderful review.

    I too am a Kelly fan and Mrs Drew Plays Her Hand continues to be one of my all time favorites — one that I reread every year ( sometimes twice a year! )

    I was thrilled to get my hands on the ebook Marrying The Captain recently and found it charming, subtle and oh so enjoyable. Much more enjoyable than Beau Crusoe I have to say.. And now you say there’s another book to look forward this year? Oh bliss!!

  9. Jayne
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 09:15:37

    “Mrs. Drew” is wonderful. “Summer Campaign” is also one of my favs as are “Mrs McVinnie,” “Miss Whittier” (both great military hero books), “Libby,” “One Good Turn,” and “With this Ring.” I think you can see I love her military heroes. Her collection of American Western stories “Here’s to the Ladies” is also divine.

    I still have about 5 of her older books TBR. I guess you could say I’m saving them for emergencies.

  10. Jayne
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 09:16:27

    I believe the other new book this year will be out in mid summer. ::frenzied happy dancing::

  11. Michelle
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 10:05:05

    Count me as another huge Carla Kelly fan. I haven’t read the review yet since I haven’t read MTC yet. I plan to buy it at lunch today.

    I’ve also spent big bucks getting her whole back list and have read it all a few times. The most expensive one for me was Summer Campaign, but it was certainly worth it. My favorites are Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand and Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career and Reforming Lord Ragsdale, but I find something new to admire in each novel every time I reread them. Her short Christmas stories/novellas are amazing as well. I do sometimes wonder if Kelly has more of a democratic American sensibility to her stories than an English (aristocratic) one, but she certainly consistently delivers a great, unique story with well-developed main characters (not always for her secondary characters). That said, her stuff is amazing.

  12. Jayne
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 11:13:18

    I do sometimes wonder if Kelly has more of a democratic American sensibility to her stories than an English (aristocratic) one

    Michelle, I’ve heard similar comments about her writing for years and happen to agree with them. She certainly has far fewer titled characters than most Regency authors. Which is why I’ve wondered why she doesn’t write (or isn’t allowed to write) American set historicals.

  13. Dear Author Recommends January 2009. | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 12:12:52

    [...] When he arrives, two things are apparent to him. One, he’s desperately ill with the throat and ear infections common to deep water sailors and two Nana Massie is the loveliest young woman he’s seen in ages. If he has to stay in port while his ship is being repaired, he couldn’t have landed at a better place. Pete, an old sailor who works there, can mix up a foul concoction that seems to be helping Oliver’s infection, Nana is a delight to be around but Gran takes the time, more than once, to warn him that she’s told Nana all about men of the Royal Navy. Read more of the review from Jayne here. [...]

  14. Michelle
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 14:51:28

    Jayne, Thanks! I also think her titled characters can be a bit more democratic than the typical titled gentleman of his time – but I’m a product of a 20th/21st century democracy, so I have no problem with the underlying assumptions.

    I’ve read Kelly comment on other online sites that she’s not “allowed” to write American set historicals or other, (more obscure) European-set historicals because regencies are more marketable. I’m really looking forward to diving into MTC.

  15. Gemma
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 14:08:24

    I came home from work on Christmas eve and just happened to discover that there was a new Carla Kelly out. I subscribe to Mills & Boon historicals so I will no doubt receive Marrying The Captain in my book parcel in a few months time, but I couldn’t wait for that! I bought the ebook and devoured it. What a lovely and unexpected present.

    I had a look for Carla Kelly online to send her a thank-you note/fan letter [which isn't something I ever really do] but didn’t find anything. Anyone know the best way to send fan mail via Harlequin?

  16. jmc
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 14:18:44

    @Gemma: I believe Ms. Kelly posted an email address in a thread at AAR when her last book was out — if you emailed her, she would forward the epilogue that had been edited out of Beau Crusoe. I’m not sure if the message board or thread was archived, but it might be worth checking.

  17. Carla Kelly
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 19:41:53

    Thanks so much for your lovely comments about MTC. I knew some would find “Nana” an offputting name, but it seemed right. In fact, I “borrowed” it – with her permission, of course – from a young reader from Ohio who lives in S. Korea.

    Confession time: One reason I seldom go in for the aristos is that not even England ever produced that many dukes and earls, and darned if I can ever remember how to do those names properly.

    As for writing westerns, don’t give up. When I get caught up in a year, I’ll finish one I’ve started that’s set in SE Wyoming, where I used to live.

    Thanks again for your comments. I hope I’m not upsetting some website protocol by “saying what’s on my mind,” but I wanted to respond. If I am, I apologize.

    Carla Kelly

    P.S. “The Surgeon’s Lady” comes out in June. I’m writing the third sister’s story now, and she’s involved with a Royal Marine.

  18. Jayne
    Jan 09, 2009 @ 06:51:22

    Confession time: One reason I seldom go in for the aristos is that not even England ever produced that many dukes and earls, and darned if I can ever remember how to do those names properly.

    Which is actually fine with me since a plethora of Dukes is a pet peeve of mine!

    As for writing westerns, don't give up. When I get caught up in a year, I'll finish one I've started that's set in SE Wyoming, where I used to live.

    I’m so happy to hear this. And I can’t wait to read it.

    Thanks again for your comments. I hope I'm not upsetting some website protocol by “saying what's on my mind,” but I wanted to respond. If I am, I apologize.

    Your welcome and we welcome any authors who want to comment. Some don’t feel comfortable doing so and some love it.

    Carla Kelly

    P.S. “The Surgeon's Lady” comes out in June. I'm writing the third sister's story now, and she's involved with a Royal Marine.

    OMG. Now I”m even happier! Three new books from you… I’m really happy dancing now.

  19. Rachel C
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 05:48:47

    Does anyone know if the Beau Crusoe epilog is still available? I’ve tried emailing the address given in AAR and at RT, but it bounces back. Is there a current email address to try, or has it been posted anywhere? I’d loooove to know what happens next!

  20. Jayne
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 06:57:18

    Rachel, I just tried to email it to you. Did it work?

  21. Rachel C
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 00:19:53

    Hi Jayne. No, I’m afraid it didn’t work – would you be able to try once more? Thanks,
    Rachel

  22. Jayne
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 06:34:51

    Rachel, email me at Jayne @ dearauthor.com. Maybe I used the wrong email to send it to you.

  23. Molly
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 11:22:53

    Would you be able to email the Beau Crusoe epilog to me? I tried also and couldn’t get anywhere. I thought I was totally out of luck until I ran into this site! Thanks.

  24. Jayne
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 17:43:43

    Molly, I just sent it to you. Let me know if it doesn’t get there.

  25. Barbara
    May 08, 2009 @ 16:46:36

    Would anyone be able to mail me the epilogue to Beau Crusoe. I crave Carla Kelly books.

  26. Lynne
    May 28, 2009 @ 12:10:57

    I’m so excited to see new books available from Carla Kelly! I’m a huge fan of her Regency novels and would love to see “Miss Whittier Makes a List” made into a movie! Wish her older books were available in reprint too – like “Reforming Lord Ragsdale”.

  27. REIVEW: The Surgeon’s Lady by Carla Kelly | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Jun 09, 2009 @ 15:00:54

    [...] Surgeon’s Lady” picks up where “Marrying the Captain” left off. It’s a few months later and Nana Worthy has reached out to her two half [...]

  28. Geri
    Jun 22, 2009 @ 18:45:47

    I would also like to ask Jayne to e-mail the epilogue to Beau Crusoe to me. Thanks.

  29. maria
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 21:37:05

    Hello,
    I was delighted to have stumbled across your website. I was equally pleased to read that a third book is forthcoming. Wonderful. Would you kindly send me the link to the webiste containg the epilogue to Beau Crusoe?
    Appreciatively,
    Maria

  30. Joyce Yee
    Sep 05, 2010 @ 16:28:48

    Hi Jayne,

    I too am wondering if that epilogue to Carla Kelly’s book “Marrying the Captain” is still available to readers who request it. I have read that book, and the succeeding other two in the trilogy, and enjoyed them very much.

    Sincerely,
    Joyce

  31. Jayne
    Sep 05, 2010 @ 18:08:03

    @Joyce Yee: I didn’t know that there is an epilogue for this book. If there is, I don’t have it.

    I do have the epilogue to an earlier book “Beau Crusoe” which is not part of this series. Is that the one you mean?

  32. Julia
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 07:50:28

    @Jayne:
    >>I do have the epilogue to an earlier book “Beau Crusoe” which is not part of this series.

    Will it be possible for you to mail to me the epilogue? I’ve just read Beau Crusoe and it is one of the Ms. Kelly finest.

    Thanks a lot,
    Julia

  33. Jayne
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 08:03:26

    @Julia: I just sent it to you. Let me know if you didn’t get it.

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