24 June 2010

Reading Romance: Marrying the Royal Marine, by Carla Kelly

Whew! Just finished a whirlwind read of Carla Kelly's lastest romance set during the Napoleonic Wars. Stayed up until 3AM to finish it and then reread snippets the next day.

Marrying the Royal Marine is definitely my favorite of Kelly's last three character-linked Harlequin books. It is set on board a Navy ship and in war-torn Portugal during the Peninsular conflict and it has all the grit and guts I've grown to expect from Kelly. She doesn't gloss over either the dangers or the horrors of war and I found myself shocked by one scene, in particular, which is quite graphic (albeit factual, unfortunately). So be prepared for some unpleasantness...

...which only serves to make the romance that much sweeter. Our hero is Lt. Colonel Hugh Junot, of the Royal Marines, a man of "mature" years who is stalwart, unflappable, and completely swoon-worthy. His lady love-to-be is Polly Brandon, the plain, earnest and practical natural child of an English nobleman.

Polly is en route to Portugal to be helpful, though she doesn't quite know how. She believes herself to be the ugly duckling when compared to her two sisters and she is burdened with spectacles. As well as a nasty bout of seasickness, which is what initially brings her and the colonel together.

At thirty-seven, the colonel believes himself unsuitable for nineteen-year-old Polly. She, however, is oblivious to the age difference. Although I know some readers have problems with romances like this, I don't. They're historically accurate and, to my mind, Polly probably wouldn't have survived their adventures had the colonel been younger and callower.

The plot revolves around the capture of Polly and the colonel by French troops and their subsequent attempt to reach French lines. Relying on each other and through a series of challenges, they fall in love. And their journey is tough, dangerous, and none too pretty. I realize that's not much of a plot description, but the story is in the emotional impact of their experiences, rather than in the events per se. You just have to read it.

The colonel has become one of my all-time favorite romance heros. And Marrying the Royal Marine is destined for my keeper shelf.

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