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?
THOUGHTS / OPINION:
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.