Harlequin Historical, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-29692-7
Historical Romance, 2012
This month, the TBR Challenge theme is a book that I bought due to the hype surrounding the book. Well, I couldn’t find any unread book around my place that fits this description, so I decided to just pull out one book randomly to read. Well, I suppose I can argue that Carla Kelly’s Marriage of Mercy had some good reviews, so I guess it has some degree of hype around it. Anyway, since this is my website and my rules, you just have to nod along and agree with me about this. If you object, you call the hotline 1800-LIKE-WHATEVER to lodge a formal complaint.
Anyway, I’ve said this before, and it bears repeating: I do like Carla Kelly’s formula, but I have to space out her books or else the similarities would become very noticeable to a degree that can affect my enjoyment of those books. Marriage of Mercy is no different – it is, in many ways, another recognizable book by this author, but it is an enjoyable book all the same because it has been about a year since I last read a book by this author. I deliberately let those books of hers that I have yet to read to sit around my house for this reason – I suspect I’d enjoy this book less if I read it a few months after the book that came before it.
Marriage of Mercy may sound like a morbid title, but it’s an almost accurate one for this book. Almost, that is, as the marriage part comes a long time after the mercy.
Left penniless after her father’s death, Grace Curtis sold off everything that can be sold, and then approaches the local bakery to ask for a job. If they let her stay at the shop – she’s homeless after selling off her house – she would work to pay off the debts her family owed the baker and his wife, and if they wish to, they can then continue to hire her to help with the shop. This is what happens, and over the next few years, Grace has become a fixture at the Wilsons’ bakery. Curmudgeonly and rude Lord Thomson becomes a big fan of her Cremes (not dirty, please) and the two strike up an unusual friendship. Therefore, it’s probably not that much of a surprise that, when Lord Thomson dies, she learns that he has left her a house and an annual stipend of thirty pounds. But this inheritance comes with a condition: she must retrieve Lord Thomson’s illegitimate son from the prison of Dartmoor – Captain Daniel Duncan is a prisoner of war – and care for him until he can get back on his feet.
Thinking that this is an assignment that will last, at most, a few months, Grace agrees to it despite her reservations. The money will allow her to save up and buy the bakery from the Wilsons after the dear couple retire, after all. Alas, she arrives too late. Malnutrition and infection have left Daniel at the brink of death, and before he expires, he tells Grace to pick any one of his cell mate so that the fellow can take his identity and live the life that Daniel will never be able to enjoy. Grace picks the one that looks particularly ill – sailing master Robert Inman – and brings her back home. Will anything good come out of this masquerade?
Because this is a book by Carla Kelly, the main characters are such sweet, noble, and kind people who, at the same time, feel real and down to earth instead of being Mary Sue types. Carla Kelly is one of the very few authors who could write a simple scene that can move me to tears – and these aren’t even sad scenes, mind you, just simple scenes of everyday life – due to the poetry of the narrative or the beautiful emotional undercurrents of those scenes. Marriage of Mercy is no different – there are some simple yet unforgettable scenes of Grace and Robert just talking or even remaining silent while enjoying one another’s company, and I love this. I feel this.
The last third or so of the book shifts and shines a stronger spotlight on external matters. I can see why this has to be done, as the author needs to wrap up some unanswered questions, but I find these things boring and dry compared to our main characters just connecting, living, being. While the resolution after a particularly tangled conundrum with regards to dead Duncan’s true parentage is necessary to give Robert and Grace a possible happily ever after, and oh my, the destination is definitely worth it, the journey is pretty uninteresting compared to the emotional aspects of the story.
Still, much of Marriage of Mercy is a beautiful kind of catharsis, so a few boring spots here and there aren’t an issue. This one is full of feels – sweet at times, heartbreaking at other moments – just the kind of romance story to make me smile and sigh, when I reach the last page and reluctantly close the book.