One Good Turn
by Carla Kelly, regency (2001)
Signet, $4.99, ISBN 0-451-20482-4

The very existance of this book is a spoiler to the related book Libby's London Merchant. If I explain more, I will be a spoiler as well. So if you want to go read these two great books, I suggest you stop now and read Libby's London Merchant first. You can write hate mail to me later if you find Libby boring, but seriously, your enjoyment of Libby will be much better if you stop reading this review now.

I mean it. Stop.

One last warning.

That's it. I wash my hands off you. One Good Turn is the story of Libby's rejected suitor, the more typical drunk/hurt/psychologically wounded war hero archetype named Benedict Nesbitt, whom Libby rejects for that adorable country doctor of hers. Now, if your enjoyment of Libby is ruined, see, I told you. I TOLD YOU. Hah!

Today, Nez is minding his own sweet ways, still a rather self-absorbed twit but also now an eager-puppy-like dude willing to be more gentlemanly for the sake of being a gentleman. He's a new man now. Not that boring guy in Libby anymore. When his sister faces some domestic problems, petty ones caused by an outbreak of chicken pox but ones she cannot handle, Nez decides to take care of his niece for a little while. While minding his own sweet ways, he comes across your obligatory woman-in-trouble Liria Valencia, a foreigner who through Nez's charm will soon learn that there is no finer land in the world than Wonderful, Sensible England. (Until Ms Kelly writes an Irish/Scotland romance, I'm sure.) Liria soon mothers everybody when the chicken pox spreads, and Nez soon offers unemployed, underfinanced Liria a job as housekeeper.

Liria accepts. Of course, she has some secrets tied up to intrigue in dirty furriner lands that she and Nez must untangle and smash because she can become a true-blue permanent resident of Ye Lovely England, and Nez, your war hero, has some tortured mental baggages that Liria must kiss and make better too.

Mind you, Nez becomes the usual tortured-hero-who-behaves-badly-in-the-past-because-of-his-hurt in this story, but to Ms Kelly's credit, she has created a really irresistible hero in Nez. My, he really lays on the charm thick in this, his starring role. His wit is pretty sharp, and I, who find regency novels dry as breadcrust too often, am charmed. Liria is a more familiar heroine, whose baggages are not because of what she did, but because of who she was - you know, heroines that are virtuous and passive and gets hated by baddies because of who she is. Unlike the hero, who got hurt because he did some things.

Tiny pesky nitpickings, I'm sure, but when an author writes as fine as Carla Kelly, it's still disappointing that these tiny, pesky matters exist. Still, this author still remains the only regency author other than Mary Jo Putney whom I can read without falling over and snoring by page 50. (No, I can't finish a Mary Balogh regency till today - sorry.) When is she going to write a full-length historical? I want to read about guys like Nez doing the dirty in their finest birthday suit.

Yes, I'm so crude. Hmmph. Anyway, back to the book. It's great. Could use some love scenes though. Ahem, anyway, forget I said that. Moving on, people.

Rating: 88

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