Monday, April 09, 2007

Beau Crusoe by Carla Kelly

PAGES: 304
SETTING: Historical - Regency era
TYPE: Straight romance

REASON FOR READING: Carla Kelly is an amazing author. She used to write Signet Regency romances and I have slowly been collecting them all over the years. When Signet discontinued their line of regencies, I felt some panic about the fate of Ms. Kelly. But I was thrilled to learn that Harlequin Historicals has picked up this wonderful author.


Stranded alone on a desert island, he had lived to tell the tale. A triumphant return to the ton saw James Trevenen hailed as Beau Crusoe—a gentleman of spirit, verve and action. But only he knew the true cost of his survival! Scandalous!

Susannah Park had been shunned by Society. She lived content with her calm existence—until Beau Crusoe determinedly cut up her peace! The beautiful widow wanted to help him heal the wounds of the past—but what secrets was this glorious man hiding?

I finished this book a while ago but was having a hard time writing this review because of the gruesome subject matter. So I decided to skip that part since there are lots of message boards and forums that describe it so most of you already know what I'm talking about.

Considering the subject matter and knowing how wimpy and squeamish I am, you'd think I wouldn't enjoy this book. But I enjoyed it very much. Kelly is a gem and her writing, especially the dialogue is exquisite. Not a wasted phrase or word in sight. Her humor is poignant, touching and extremely funny at times and her characters are unique. Kelly balances the dark and light subject matters amazingly well, something most authors would find impossible to do.

James Trevenen (aka Beau Crusoe) is a very tortured and damaged man trying to adjust to life as best he can after being stranded alone on a desert island for the past 5 years. The isolation would drive most men insane but James kept his sanity by studying and documenting the habits of the little crabs that live on the island. When he returns to England after being rescued, his treatise if published and the Royal Society wants to award his the prestigious Copley medal. But James is literally haunted by what happened after the shipwreck and fears he is going insane. Today we would call his condition post traumatic stress.

Susannah is also suffering isolation in a different way. After her elopement seven years ago and the death of her husband from cholera shortly after, she returns home and is shunned by society, her family and friends. She appears at first to be one of those shy innocuous characters that are trying to be invisible. Susannah was a bit bland but a likeable character. She earns what little money she has by painting floral specimens for the Royal Society. Her godfather hatches a brilliant plan to ease her situation with James as his reluctant accomplice.

There are some shockingly bawdy scenes relating to James' behavior immediately after he is rescued but they were completely realistic and understandable. The sensuality between the H/H was subtle at most but still excellently done.

In a 1998 interview at AAR Ms. Kelly stated that she does not consider any character to be secondary to her. And that is certainly true here. Each character is three dimensional and has a purpose to the plot and is never wallpaper filler. She also wanted to know if readers would read her in another genre. Dear Ms Kelly: I'll buy and read ANYTHING you write. Please just keep writing. Yours truly....etc.

MISCELLANEOUS: Not CK's best (I have given 5 other books a grade of A or A+) but still very good.



Rosie said...

Got this one in my TBR but new releases keep pushing it down the pile. I hope to get to it this month. I've been looking for some of her other books here locally without success. Guess I'll have to breakdown and look for them on line. Any recs for an older title I should get first?

ReneeW said...

Rosie: My favorites by CK are Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand and Reforming Lord Ragsdale. Very hard to find but if you can find them online for a reasonable price, go for it.

Jennie said...

I felt the exact same way about this book--it was disturbing (I am a very squeamish type too). But it was well-written and James was a fantastic character.

Rosie--I second the vote for Mrs. Drew. It's my favorite CK so far.

Rosario said...

I bought this one, but I haven't received it yet. Don't know if I'll read it straight away, though. I've long had Mrs. Drew in my TBR as my ultimate rainy day / slump-buster book, and I'm thinking maybe I'll put this one in that slot instead and finally READ Mrs. Drew!

I read the spoilers about the squeamish thing, and I hope forwarned is forearmed in this. Plus, after reading tons of acounts of the story of the Andes survivors (the ones that inspired the movie Alive; they're Uruguayan, and so it's always been a huge story here), I don't expect to be that bothered by it.

ReneeW said...

Jennie: Yes, James was wonderful, wasn't he? I saw someone over at AAR describe CK characters as "extraordinary ordinary" characters. So true.

Rosario: Yes, please, you must read Mrs. Drew ASAP. I would love to see what you think. Many people, besides me, have said that this is their favorite. I saw that movie 'Alive' and it was chillingly memorable especially considering it was based on a true story. I didn't realize they were Uruguayan. You will definitely have no problem with BC then. I'd love to hear your opinion on that one too. :)

Stacy~ said...

I've never read anything by Carla Kelly, but I love discovering new authors, and this one sounds intriguing, though I don't know about the squeamish factor. I've seen "Alive", so I have a good idea about what you're talking about. But if I'm prepared, it won't be so shocking to me.

ReneeW said...

Stacy: You must try at least one CK to see if she works for you. Fabulous author. Try one of the two I mentioned above or if they are too hard to find, see if you can find one of these:

With This Ring
One Good Turn
Libby's London Merchant

I gave them A's too.

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