With This Ringby Carla Kelly
It's perfectly clear that a beautiful woman courts scandal when she becomes involved with a deplorable, penniless officer. But when he shockingly proposes marriage, can she accept him for better or for worse, or does she risk losing the man who has ultimately captured her heart?
With This Ring
1997, Regency Romance
Since Mary Balogh is no longer going to write traditional regency novels, Carla Kelly is now the regency author whose books I am going to prowl the stores for. Whenever I hear anyone sat that romance novels are nothing but tripe, I feel like giving them a copy of With This Ring and saying, "Read this, then we'll talk".
I can best describe With This Ring as an off-kilter regency variation of the Cinderella story. The Cinderella character is Lydia Perkins, the eldest daughter of a baronet. Her nemeses are her incredibly beautiful, incredibly stupid, incredibly spoiled-rotten selfish younger sister Kitty and their mother who indulges all of Kitty's pouts and tantrums and treats Lydia like a lady's maid. Their father hides in the library and avoids all conflict.
The kind of shabby prince is Major Samuel Reed, Lord Laren. He is an Earl but prefers to be known as Major Reed, not Lord Laren. Sam has suffered a shoulder wound, but hasn't had adequate treatment because he just can't bear the pain. He is staying with his wounded soldiers in an old church that's been turned into a hospital and meets Lydia and Kitty when they go there. It seems that all the fashionable fops think it great sport to come in and look at the wounded soldiers, but God forbid they touch them! Tender hearted Lydia pitches in and helps, to the horror of Kitty.
When the Perkins are attending a large banquet, Lydia exposes the horrible conditions the wounded soldiers are living in, and fickle Society turns on the Perkins family. Since this utterly ruins Kitty's chances for a fashionable marriage, Lydia's mother beats her in the face and turns her out of the house. When Lydia goes to the church to get her bonnet, Sam finds out what happened and comes to her rescue by proposing marriage. It seems that Sam has been writing to his family telling them all about his wonderful bride. Sam needs a wife and Lydia needs a home. They marry and begin the long trip to Sam's home.
On their journey, they are attacked by robbers, Sam is wounded again and they lose all their money. In this section, Carla Kelly introduces some of her delightful supporting characters. I fell in love with the surgeon, Mr. Wilburn, who treated Sam's wounds. A more kindhearted man I have yet to meet. Mr. and Mrs. Innis who own the inn where Sam and Lydia stay, are much better to Lydia than her own family. When Lydia desperately needs money, she cuts off and sells her hair. When the Innis's find out, Mrs. Innis and her daughter do the same. Let's see Kitty and Lady Perkins do that! During Sam's illness and convalescence, Lydia discovers that she is not the stupid, unlovely drudge that her mother and Kitty think she is, but a capable, attractive woman. Cinderella ends up not only rescuing the prince, but she falls in love with him too.
I didn't find one thing wrong with this book. It has two totally lovable main characters in Sam and Lydia, and a wonderful group of supporting characters. As for the villains, not very many of us have met truly evil people, but we have met people like Kitty and Lady Perkins; spoiled, petulant, and bone-deep selfish. The story never drags and is never rushed, and I, who normally do not like regencies that much, was utterly enchanted with it.
-- Ellen Micheletti, All About Romance
"Kelly has the rare ability to create realistic yet sympathetic characters that linger in the mind.
One of the most respected Regency writers."
Read an Excerpt
She was about to leave. Her courage was draining away as fast as the blood from that poor unfortunate soldier eight rows over. She decided to try one more time. "Major, I …."
"I heard you. It just takes me a moment to turn around. Don't leave, please."
She came closer. Taking great care of himself, the officer shifted his whole body on the cot, rather than just his head. "Well, miss?" he asked, his words clipped, his lips tight.
She thought for a moment that she had angered him, and then she realized that he was in pain. It showed in the tightness around his mouth and the way he squinted at her, even though the room was fairly well lit. Oh, dear, she thought as she slowly untied her bonnet and set it aside. I do not know which of you is worse off.
She took a deep breath, which was a mistake in that foul room, and gestured toward the surgeon. "He said I was to relieve you here, so you could go lie down."
The officer said nothing, but she knew he was regarding her intently, measuring her. Oh, this is nothing new, she thought, with a sudden burst of confidence. People have been measuring me all my life. "The surgeon said that I could probably hold his hand as well as you can. Sir. Or Lord Laren, or whatever you choose. You are supposed to lie down now."
Again a long pause. "Make me," he said at last.
Lydia sighed. "You are going to be difficult," she observed, more to herself than to him.
"I usually am. Make me."
If I even stop to think about this, I will never act, she thought. So I will not think about it. "Very well, sir. Since you are so stubborn," she said as she sat on his lap, took the soldier's hand from his, and held it in her own.
She did not know what to expect, but she did not anticipate the laughter that rose up from the nearby cots. "Got you, Major!" one of the men said. "She's out-thought you, sir!" said another with an arm missing, who sat up to watch.
"Oh, very well," the major said, and he did not try to hide the amusement in his voice. "Lads, such an opportunity, but I will remember that I am an officer and a gentleman." The men laughed again as the major patted her hip. When she rose up in indignation, he moved out from under her. "Very well, madam, since you are so persistent." She blushed as he sniffed her hair close to her ear, his breath warm on her cheek. "And, by God, you smell better than my stinking soldiers. Sit, madam, by all means. Hold his hand tight. And then when he's dead, you can hold mine."
Meet the Author
A well-known veteran of the romance writing field, Carla Kelly is the author of thirty-one novels and three non-fiction works, as well as numerous short stories and articles for various publications. She is the recipient of two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America for Best Regency of the Year; two Spur Awards from Western Writers of America; two Whitney Awards, 2011 and 2012; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times. Carla's interest in historical fiction is a result of her lifelong study of history. She has a BA in Latin American History from Brigham Young University and an MA in Indian Wars History from University of Louisiana-Monroe. She's held a variety of jobs, including public relations work for major hospitals and hospices, feature writer and columnist for a North Dakota daily newspaper, and ranger in the National Park Service (her favorite job) at Fort Laramie National Historic Site and Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site. She has worked for the North Dakota Historical Society as a contract researcher. Interest in the Napoleonic Wars at sea led to a recent series of novels about the British Channel Fleet during that conflict. Of late, Carla has written two novels set in southeast Wyoming in 1910 that focus on her Mormon background and her interest in ranching.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Love this book,read it about seven times! Characters are great.
I thought halfway through this book, laughing yet again, that I couldn't remember the last time I enjoyed a book this much! Yet it also took an in depth view of medical treatment and care of the soldiers during and after the Napoleonic wars (abysmal!) and had characters that really expended themselves out of love for each other. I also really enjoyed Picton, who I have seen mentioned in many books but have never before encountered as a character. There were some sex scenes in the later part of the book, but the characters were married and the description wasn't very graphic nor was it erotic. PG-13 I would have preferred less but can tolerate that amount.