Ms. Kelly has long been a favorite historical romance writer of mine. I found her through a recommendation back when Signet was still publishing trad Regencies. Her books were a little unusual for trads in that most of the heroes and heroine were not titled, or if they were gentry they had often fallen on hard times. Ms. Kelly is now published in the Harlequin Historical line for “regular” romance, with inspirational romances published by what I believe is an LDS publisher.
The Wedding Ring Quest is the story of Mary Rennie, an orphan lady of spinster-ish age who has been sent off in pursuit of an heirloom ring that was tossed into the batter for Christmas fruitcakes by her feckless cousin to whom the ring was given. As she pursues the ring, she meets Captain Ross Rennie and his son, who are en route to Scotland for the holidays. Napoleon has recently been sent to Elba and Captain Rennie is ashore after long “employment” by the Corsican. After comparing family trees, it turns out that Mary and the captain are distant cousins. Intrigued by the idea of chasing a ring in a cake (and also perhaps looking for an excuse to avoid his sister’s post-war plans for him, they join in the pursuit, which takes them to York and beyond.
Mary as a character confused me. She has no significant dowry but is described as pretty. Her guardians aren’t oppressive but they also aren’t engaging or encouraging. She hasn’t been treated as a drudge but she also hasn’t been treated as an equal to their daughter. She’s unmarried…because? Because of a lack of men due to war? She was sympathetic is a sort of generic way, but I never really cared about her.
Captain Rennie was also sympathetic: a fish out of water in a way, now that he’s on land, suffering from grief and also maybe PTSD. His relationship with his son was lovely.
The pursuit of the ring ended (for me) rather predictably. The thing I had not predicted was the captain’s response, which came out of left field and was shocking. Unless you chalk it up to PTSD maybe? And a later bit in Scotland felt not very believable. The ultimate ending, while suitable in the sense of a fresh start for everyone, felt somewhat strained. (I’m being purposefully vague because I don’t want to spoil anyone.)
As an example of Ms. Kelly’s work, the text or prose is fine — she has a talent for painting word pictures without being verbose. But I never felt entirely engaged by the plot or the characters. Still, I was very pleased to actually read a book (any book!) from start to finish without feeling bored or setting it aside for long stretches.
B- from me.
On The Great Book Purge: PB Ryan’s Gilded Age Mystery series (Nell Sweeney) has been added to the “to go” pile. As has my copy of Alex Beecroft’s debut Age of Sail novel (which I loved when first published) and several old Mary Jo Putney and Jo Beverley historicals.