Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29781-8
Historical Romance, 2014
I have deliberately left some books by Carla Kelly aside in my pile of unread books, which is why I haven’t reviewed them at this point in time. No, it’s not because I have outgrown the author. It’s that I’ve reached a point where I am starting to find too many similarities among her characters and plots. It’s been a while, though, so when The Wedding Ring Quest arrived at my doorstep, I thought perhaps it’s been long enough and it’s okay to get back onboard, so to speak.
It turns out that maybe I should have waited a while longer. In this story, the hero is Captain Ross Rennie, a widower who is finally coming back home after so long at sea, fighting the war against Napoleon Bonaparte. It does seem like this guy is like every other recent hero from this author, doesn’t it? He had a Portuguese wife who was killed while he was at sea, leaving him with a son. For a while, I thought Ronnie was a hero from another book, as I recall reading a book where the hero found love in an exotic port of call. I thought wrong – it was Spain, not Portugal, and his name was Thomas – but it is so easy to get confused because the two guys are basically the same guy at the core.
That’s my issue with this story. It has a cute premise, but I feel like I’ve read everything before.
Mary Rennie is a spinster as well as orphan. Even when her parents were alive, they were never rich. Now that they have passed on, she is completely without funds and is dependent on the charity and goodwill of relatives who are willing to take her in. To her, an exciting journey would be a trip to London or Brighton, which could be at another planet where she was concerned. When her cousin misplaces her fiancé’s wedding ring – it was tossed into one of the Christmas cakes the family sends out every year, and don’t ask – she finds herself on a road trip to track down the cakes and retrieve the ring. It’s an adventure to look forward to, especially when she bumps into Ross, a distant cousin from another branch of the family.
Carla Kelly writes a unique kind of characters: good people, really good “salt of the earth” type of people that are, at the same time, complex folks with realistic insecurities to tamper their virtuous shine. As cynical as I can be at times, I can’t resist succumbing to the author playing my emotions like a virtuoso each time these characters show up. However, the whole thing is like eating at a fabulous Michelin-starred restaurant every day. After a while, the magic doesn’t seem to be there anymore.
The premise is really cute, and I can really relate to the heroine here. But with Ross being that guy and Mary being that woman, I feel like I’ve read this story many times before. Even so, I am quite taken aback at Ronnie’s abrupt outburst at Mary very close to the end of the story. It’s their first significant blow-up, and it leaves me with some disquieting feelings about those two. Ronnie for a long is fixated about an ideal kind of woman, and he builds Mary up to be that woman in his mind. I can only wonder whether Mary is going to spend a long time after the happy ending trying to live up to these high expectations.
Anyway, this is a good and solid story, I feel, provided that the reader isn’t feeling a little bored by the sameness of the author’s books. I think the author and me need a little more time apart, but don’t worry, I intend to catch up with her again when the time is right.