REVIEW: Regency Royal Navy Christmas by Carla Kelly
Even the squared away, efficient Royal Navy must surrender to the joys and misadventures of a Regency Christmas. Four stories shine a light on Christmas during the Napoleonic Wars on land and sea –
In Boxing the Compass, a homesick frigate captain shepherding a convict convoy to Australia wants nothing more than to hold his infant daughter in faraway England. Perhaps he can enlist a prickly pair of convicts with a new baby to help him.
Wait Here for the Present, finds a spinster, chafing with boredom, helping a motherless lad get to Plymouth for Christmas with his surgeon-father. She can help, but love is the farthest thing from her mind.
In Slip #5, Captain McCulloch’s ship HMS Trident must spend a month in dry dock in Devonport. What better time to catch up on his reading? His plans are complicated by a bad cold, a good widow and her children, shy lovers, and dilemmas it seems only he can solve. Whatever happened to peace and quiet?
As a special bonus, The Christmas Angle introduces readers of the acclaimed St. Brendan Series to that unlikely genius, Sailing Master Able Six. Readers are requested and required to come aboard for a Royal Navy holiday.
NOTE – The first three stories are new and never published before. The Christmas Angle was published in “A Country Christmas.”
The four stories here are sweet if standard Kelly treacle tales of fine, humble people falling in love or in the case of one, longing for his love. Since there is almost no conflict between the heroes and heroines, most of what conflict is there is due to wartime conditions and their triumph over those.
BOXING THE COMPASS – We start with a kind and moral Captain, determined to do right and see that someone has all the justice he can provide. He knows he can’t fix everything about the couple who fall under his authority but on board ship, at least while there, he can do what he can. A bit saucy in terms of his relationship with his beloved wife but his thoughts go to her often and it’s obvious the two love each other deeply. I’m not sure if a 19th century British Naval Captain would be this democratic with his crew but his actions still fit the profile of him that has been created. The story is more of him missing being a father and missing his wife than a romance. B
WAIT HERE FOR THE PRESENT – Same hero but this time he’s a Naval Surgeon and she’s the 32 year old spinster who becomes entangled with his family in the act of trying to get his young son down to see him in Plymouth only to arrive while the wounded are being brought back by the Navy from Coruna. Another sweet and gentle story about two kind people unexpectedly meeting and quickly falling in love while under great stress. Both also finally face up to their past griefs and the mix of emotions this entails. The end got a bit syrupy sweet but after the scenes of death and dying in the Naval Hospital, I didn’t mind too much. I did like the strong heroine who learns a bit about what she wants out of life and ends up going for it. B-
Yes and I caught the name call out for the hero of “The Surgeon’s Lady.”
SLIP NUMBER FIVE – So a third version of this perfect Naval hero and this one another captain who brings his wounded and battered frigate back to Plymouth to be repaired and refitted so he can get back to battling the damn Frenchies. To his astonishment, a widow is helping the shipwright assigned to fix the Trident. He becomes much more intimately acquainted with her after collapsing from fever and being hauled back to her father-in-law’s house to recuperate. A whip fast courtship ensues during which she realizes that she has found and can love another man (her thoughts on her deceased husband were lovely) while he sees that he’s finally found a woman he wants to come home to and children to whom he can be a father. My wish would have been a way for the heroine to continue working in the dockyards repairing ships but the ending is probably closer to the times. B
THE CHRISTMAS ANGLE – First published in “A Country Christmas” this introduces us to Sailing Master Able Six the Scottish workhouse orphan with the incredible ability to remember anything he’s read or seen. There are times when I found this remarkable ability to be totally unbelievable. On half pay and thrown a month long job during the Treaty of Amiens teaching math to two young boys, Able immediately realizes that the lovely young woman he meets at the vicarage is the one for him. She could be his “minder” as his Captain (who is one of the few men to know Able’s abilities) told him he needed. Alas, Meridee is almost as poor as Able with no dowry. How can these two who are from different social stations as well ever devise a way to support themselves and gain the approval of her family? It’s a Kelly novella – of course they’ll figure it out. And teach the (a bit snooty) vicar that there are no unworthy poor – just people with no money who do have dreams and aspirations. B-