Beau Crusoe

The Grand Hotel

Miss Milton Speaks
Her Mind

One Good Turn

The Wedding Journey

With This Ring

Marrying the Captain
by Carla Kelly
(Harlequin Hist., $5.99, PG) ISBN 978-037329528-9
A new novel by Carla Kelly is always something to celebrate, and Marrying the Captain is no exception. Kellyís trademark non-aristocratic characters are people youíll get to know and savor, and her knack with dialogue will make readers feel as though theyíre sitting in the same room with them.

Eleanor ďNanaĒ Massie has spent the last seven years in the seaside town of Plymouth, helping her grandmother run a small inn. The Mulberry Inn has fallen on hard times; itís too far out of the town center to appeal to the sailors who put in at the port, and Nana is reduced to the charity of friends just to find enough for her grandmother and Pete, their aged helper, to eat.

Nana is the illegitimate daughter of an earl, and she was educated at a school for young ladies until the day she ran away at age fifteen and made her way back to Plymouth. When Captain Oliver Worthy shows up at the inn, looking for lodging, he is the first guest in six months. Oliver is unwell, and Nana nurses him back to health. This gives them time to get to know each another a bit.

Oliverís most recent contact in London turned out to be Nanaís father, who wants a report on Nana. Oliver agreed to stay at the Mulberry Inn and file a report, but once he meets Nana, all thoughts of her father fade away. Instead, the pretty young woman who tends to him so carefully instantly entrances Oliver, and soon he canít bear to tear himself away from her. Quite a switch for a career Navy officer who has vowed never to marry.

Nana is equally charmed by Oliver, but knows that heíll soon leave port. Unwilling to have her heart broken like her mother did, she resists her feelings, but ultimately is unable to turn away from Oliver. And when her nefarious father puts Nana in an unpalatable position, Oliver finds that marriage isnít nearly as off-limits as heíd believed.

Oliver and Nana are strong, memorable characters that easily carry the story. Nana is resilient and sunny, and itís easy to see why Oliver is instantly charmed by her. Nanís devotion to her low-born grandmother and to Pete are touching; this group is a family in every sense of the word. Oliver, who has lived the rather lonely life of a sailor for years, canít help but be drawn to their warmth and camaraderie.

Carla Kelly does a masterful job of conveying the longing between Oliver and Nana, especially in the early stages of their relationship when both are convinced thereís absolutely no future in it, but canít seem to turn away. Oliver is as honorable as they come; he refuses to seduce Nana (though he dreams about her frequently) because he knows he canít stay with her. Heíll steal your heart.

While the characterizations are superb, Ms. Kelly fumbles the plotting a bit in the last third of the book. Without giving anything away, Nana embarks on an adventure that I highly doubt the Royal Navy would have let her be any part of, no matter how well-regarded her husband is. It felt forced, and the book deserved better.

However, Marrying the Captain is well worth your time for the lovely characters and delectable romance. Carla Kelly is still one of the finest Regency authors to ever hit the bookshelves of your local store, and romance lovers owe it to themselves to keep her in business. Grab this one and enjoy!

--Cathy Sova

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