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REVIEW: Marrying the Royal Marine by Carla Kelly

Dear Ms. Kelly,

At last, at last the final book in the Brandon Sisters series. Eldest sister Nan found love with a naval Captain, middle sister Laura married a naval doctor and now it’s youngest – by quite a few years – sister Polly’s turn. But instead of the Navy, the Royal Marines provide our hero this time.

No one is quite sure how Polly Brandon managed to gain passage aboard a naval vessel to Portugal during time of war but one brief conversation with her shows Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Philippe Junot why the midshipmen who had been gathered around her were smitten. She’s not conventionally pretty and wears those wire rim spectacles but once she turns her attention on a man, it’s fixed on him. Plus she’s pluck to the bone and filled with a giving spirit.

Laura Brittles makes it clear that she disapproves of such an older man even thinking of courting her young sister yet her husband Philemon gives him hope with tales of how perseverance won Oliver Worthy and himself their Brandon brides. When a trip inland to help women abused by the French invaders turns into a matter of survival, Hugh and Polly discover that age doesn’t matter when love finally finds you.

This must be one of the most interesting ways to get to know another character – mop up duty after mal de mer – that I’ve ever read. It moves Hugh and Polly smartly past the “nice to meet you” stage and begins to show us the backbone and character of these two people. I must say though that the ‘giving of their water’ by the other Marines is a touch kitschy – plus would they have been allowed to? Give up their total daily supply?

Hugh only has a short bit of conflict about Polly’s illegitimacy but perhaps his older age accounts for that plus the severe stress they were under. That kind of sharpens your perspective on things. Plus Polly, even if illegitimate, is the daughter of Lord Ratliffe, an official “hero.” I like that “Brandon,” as Hugh calls her, never seems to notice the age difference and doesn’t discount herself due to her own age. It’s funny that Laura Brittles disapproves but that adds a touch of realism.

The chemistry between these two is marvelous. They can talk about almost anything, can laugh together, can face death together and still think of the other before themselves. I enjoy the fact that Hugh loves his career – as seen through his stories he tells Polly about India, Canada and Ceylon. Touch of realism – part two: Hugh readily admits to being a man of the world – has used seaport ladies and sees one in Lisbon. I do love how he sees the beauty in Brandon which she refuses to see herself. He sees *her* – inside and out – and loves everything he sees.

Polly Brandon grows as a person. She’s more willing to believe that she is worthy of Hugh and of someone kind falling in love with her. She also realizes that she has much to offer the wounded women who have ended up at Sacred Name convent and does more than her share to keep Hugh and herself alive during their captivity ordeal.

Though this may sound strange, I like that Polly is mad and questions why she and Hugh were put into this predicament. I think someone would have to almost be a saint not to in those circumstances. Hugh agonizes over what he’s forced to do but from what he already knows and what they saw of the priest, it was a blessing for him to be able to do it. And if Laura Brittles ever learns the whole story of what happened, she ought to give thanks for Hugh’s experience because it’s probably his age and wisdom which saves Brandon from rape. “Adventures are never as fun as bad novels make them out to be, Polly.”

When you kick in the realism of war you don’t stint. There’s no way to pussy foot around the issue without trivializing what really did happen. The way you’ve built Polly, I can see how she’d attract a military man – she’s calm, competent, grasps the details of what danger they could be in and faces that danger head on. When the moment of greatest danger comes – during guerrilleros’ attack of French, she reacts naturally for someone who’s never been under fire – she first saves Hugh and then terror hits her.

James Rothschild – even though I’ve seen him and the gold shipments used in other fiction before, namely one of the Richard Sharpe novels, it’s still fun to see it here.

And there’s sex! and more sex in this series. Yes, you can write great sex scenes. Usually “just one night of love” excuses for sex induce eye rolling from me but in this case, with death looming each day, it makes sense and fits perfectly. I totally agree with Hugh’s comic statement “Can you fathom our potential, if we ever get anything to eat?”

Hugh admires her spirit, her intelligence and resourcefulness and Polly cheerfully admits that they will probably disagree on things and squabble at times. “I have a brain; so do you.” But these two have seen each other at their best and at their worst. Have been tried and tested in the flames yet come out stronger for it. I certainly enjoyed the trip and hope to see you back again with further historical adventures soon. A-


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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.


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    Jun 29, 2010 @ 11:34:13

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  2. Janine
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 11:57:17

    Great review. This book sounds really good, and I’m looking forward to reading it. How did you feel about the age difference? Did it bother you?

  3. Jayne
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 12:06:58

    It didn’t bother me a bit. These two just fit together so well. But it’s not as if the difference isn’t there. However I think the way Polly was written, as a young woman who’s lived in an orphanage then a boarding school her whole life, helps her to be able to roll with the punches and be flexible.

  4. Dana
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 12:19:11

    I started reading this, but I was baffled by the thought of Polly traveling totally alone, with not a single female attendant/maid/companion. It bugged me so much, that I couldn’t finish the book. But maybe I should try again, I usually love Carla Kelly’s books and this review is making me want to give it another chance.

  5. Jayne
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 12:28:47

    @Dana: Normally something like that would bug me too but in this case it didn’t. I think since Polly was traveling on a Navy ship during time of war, it wouldn’t have been easy to get a companion approved to go with her. Perhaps you can just skip to her arriving in Portugal?

  6. Aislinn Macnamara
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 12:48:11

    She also played a little fast and loose with her name to get on that ship. She got herself a pass under the name Brandon Polly, so to the brass it looked as if a man were travelling. A companion might have aroused more suspicion in that case.

  7. Joy
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 13:47:03

    Is Polly of the proper social class to require a maid/chaperone? Ratliffe’s daughters seem to be in a kind of nebulous situation vis a vis social class.

  8. John
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 13:59:56

    Great review, Jayne. :) I’ve always wondered how the Harlequin Historical line worked, and it seems like there’s some really good stuff in it. I also really enjoyed the quote about eating. LOL. I’m glad I wasn’t drinking anything when I read it.

  9. Bianca
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 14:59:11

    Great review, Jayne! :) I remember picking this up on a whim and loving it, for all of the same reasons as you.

  10. Sandra
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 15:01:58

    I truly enjoyed this book. No other author makes me tear up more than Carla Kelly. I initially had problems with the age difference. Mostly because Polly is so very young. Polly’s hitching a ride to a navel hospital on a navel boat didn’t jump out out at me as a show stopper. I thought that wives sometimes rode on British navel ships and that Polly’s brother-in-laws (a navel Captain and surgeon) had pulled some strings to get her where they wanted her to go. I so identified with the sea sickness story at the begining that I guess I didn’t care too much how we got there.

  11. Jane
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 15:07:51

    Imagine what they could do if they ate! LOL. I love that line. I’m going to have to read this in my “spare time”

  12. MD
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 16:00:14

    Oops – the Amazon link is broken for me, coming back with “404 page not found”. Anyone else sees that, or it’s just me?

  13. Sandra
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 16:07:32

    @MD: Amazon seems to be practically DOA as a whole right now. I don’t know what’s up. I imagine there are a lot of system admins and programmers getting yelled at to fix it!

  14. MD
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 16:57:07

    @Sandra – thanks, that explains it. I will just be glad that I am not one of those tech support/sysadmin people at the moment ;-)

  15. Susan/DC
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 17:17:43

    I usually hate big age differences with a passion, but for Carla Kelly I make an exception (I just imagine each of them a bit older/younger, so there’s no longer a 20 year age difference but something smaller; it takes mental energy but her books are worth it).

    Everything wonderful that others have said about this book is true. The humor, the realistic portrayal of war, the absolute emotional truth are qualities all too rarely found in Romance or any other genre. She manages to make the perpetrators of even the most horrific acts all too human. Her heros are extremely heroic even though they are outwardly the opposite of the stereotypical alpha, and her heroines are their match. Fangirl doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about her books.

  16. Deb Kinnard
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 18:30:50

    Thanks for the intriguing review. This normally wouldn’t be part of my TBAcquired list but it’s made it, now.

    And thank heavens for a cover that doesn’t show headless people! I hope the industry is done with that fad by now.

  17. Sunita
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 18:33:59

    I am a huge Carla Kelly fangirl, but I didn’t love this trilogy as much as some previous books of hers. Of course, that just means they’re in the B range rather than the usual A range. But I found the three illegitimate sisters angle problematic on many levels as the plot device. And I also found the books really grim in long stretches, especially this one and the previous one.

    I’m glad I read them, but it took me a while to read each one, and I don’t think I’ll be going back to them anytime soon. In many ways that’s a compliment to Ms. Kelly, because her books feel so realistic.

    ETA: I didn’t find the age difference off-putting. She did a good job of showing how and why they were attracted to each other. To the extent I was skeptical, it wasn’t about their ages.

  18. Jayne
    Jun 30, 2010 @ 05:30:58

    @Deb Kinnard: I’ve never been a fan of the headless people covers either. I’d say “give us some head” but it might be taken the wrong way. ;)

  19. Jayne
    Jun 30, 2010 @ 05:33:54

    @Sunita: I wish more had been done with the illegitimate angle as well. It seems to me that it played the largest role in the first book and much less so in the next two.

    I also believe that the slightly higher grade I gave this book is partly due to the time lag between books 2 and 3. There is a wonderful sameness to a lot of Kelly’s characters and the way she presents their PsOV but at the same time, too much of that sameness too close together dulls the impact for me.

  20. Carla Kelly
    Jun 30, 2010 @ 08:06:11

    Dear Jayne,
    Thanks for the lovely review. My editor pointed it out to me, or I might have missed it. Glad I didn’t!

    Regarding the age difference: I am, first of all, a historian (of the Indian Wars, but hey). Age differences of that size were the norm, and I wanted to make this story historically acurate. For some reason, I also wanted Polly to win the lottery, regarding a handsome man with some dignity and prestige.

    I have always been impressed with James Rothschild. He was more than fun, and about Polly’s age, in actual fact.

    Only regret? Too bad Harlequin artist didn’t want to add the spectacles.

    Carla Kelly

  21. Jennifer Armintrout
    Jun 30, 2010 @ 09:38:24

    I’m super excited, because I love books with older man/younger woman pairings. I might never have found this book (just not my preferred time period for historicals) if not for this review, so thanks!

  22. Sandra
    Jul 01, 2010 @ 12:17:13

    @Carla Kelly:
    Dear Carla Kelly,

    Do you have a web site or blog? I’ve looked for one and haven’t been able to fine anything. I wanted to find somewhere to send email so I could gush about how much I love your books and find out about what you’re planning to write next. I know a blog or website would be extra work and expense that you probably don’t want or need. Hopefully you’ll at least see this note.

    A devoted fan.


  23. Carla Kelly
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 11:23:11

    Sandra, I don’t have a website yet, but I’m working on it. Give me a month.

  24. Jayne
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 03:26:50

    @Carla Kelly: Ooooh, fabulous. Can’t wait to see it.

  25. Wayne Jordan
    Jul 06, 2010 @ 08:41:35

    I’ve read every book that Ms. Kelly has written and enjoyed this one as much as each of the others on my keeper shelf. This trilogy has been a great addition to the Ms. Kelly’s excellent body of work.

    Finally, a website. I’ve been hoping for one for years. Thanks, Ms. Kelly!

  26. Sandra
    Jul 08, 2010 @ 13:50:15

    This is great news. Thanks for creating the web site and thanks for responding.


  27. Margot Green
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 01:15:36

    Dear Carla, I don’t know why I haven’t discovered your wonderful books before I ordered ‘Marrying the Royal Marine’ from Amazon.I was very interested by the synopsis because I adore reading Regencies based around the Peninsular War and The Battle of Waterloo.I was totally smitten by your writing. The love between the H. and H’n [and the tasteful but sexy loves scenes] were very real. They were a great pair of characters and there were no feminine ‘ditzy dame’misunderstandings from the heroine either; she did as she was told by Hugh except for that one time when he was was unaware that he was about to be shot from behind and she saved him–go that girl!Congratulations for writing such a compelling love story–and I have ordered your next book and two out of print ones from Amazon. I wish I could find your web site, Carla. Anyway, Christmas Cheer from Sunny Australia!

  28. Jayne
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 04:37:04

    @Margot Green: Margot, you’ve picked one of my favorite author’s books to fall in love with.

    I just googled to see if Mrs. Kelly’s website is up yet but can’t find anything either.

  29. Dana S
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 06:06:19

    I can’t find a website either, but I did find her blog.

  30. Jayne
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 07:32:39

    @Dana S: Thanks for the link. Looks as if she just got started with it in November.

  31. rem
    Apr 06, 2011 @ 10:35:08

    I just started reading Carla’s and already in love with her books. Love her Mrs. Drew, Admiral’s Bride.

    Their love is Sweet & Kind.

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