Friday, July 17, 2015

Book Review - Carla Kelly's Marrying the Captain

Marrying the Captain by Carla Kelly
Published by: Harlequin Historical
Publication Date: December 1st, 2008
Format: Kindle, 288 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

"One of these things is not like the others; one of these things just doesn’t belong…. 

A Regency romance in a list of 1920s and 30s novels? It may look out of place, but there’s a reason, I promise. Bizarrely enough, this Carla Kelly novel is where The Other Daughter began. Way back in spring 2013, as I was great with child and finishing up revisions on That Summer and vaguely contemplating beginning The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, I took a break by reading a novel my friend Vicki had just sent me. It wasn’t meant to have anything to do with my own work. It was just for fun. But the book happened to be about the illegitimate daughter of a viscount, living in poverty with her grandmother, who discovered, rather belatedly, that she had sisters.

I couldn’t stop my mind churning over it. How would it feel to learn, out of the blue, that you were the daughter of a viscount? How would that affect your idea of who you were? What would it be to be, by blood, the highest of the high, but, by birth, the lowest of the low? And how would it feel to suddenly learn that you had siblings? What if the viscount wasn’t evil? What if it wasn’t the Regency, but the 1920s? What if….

The next day, I sent an email to my editor, telling her I knew what I was going to write next. And here we are!" - Lauren Willig

Nana and her grandmother are just scrapping by running an inn in Portsmouth. Not located directly on the water, they rarely have guests and it's even more rare that they have full stomachs. Nana could have had a comfortable life, she was educated at a private academy in Bath by her father. But little did she know that this education of his by-blow was so that he could sell her off to the highest bidder when she was of age. He doesn't know why she would choose a life of penury instead of being a well placed mistress. But Lord Ratliffe is still curious about his illegitimate Nana. Perhaps she just might be desperate enough now that it's been a few years to agree to his original terms and as an added bonus help with his debts. To judge the lay of the land he asks one of the Captains in the Royal Navy who reports to him, Captain Oliver Worthy, to stay at Nana's inn while he's in Portsmouth waiting for his ship to be overhauled. He agrees and Captain Worthy's arrival heralds a new dawn and new prosperity for the inn. It also signals a change in Captain Worthy, the one man vowed never to marry least he brings sorrow to someone he loves. It is a harsh life at sea, and during a time of war it is even more dangerous. He falls hard for Nana and she for him. But will their love be thwarted by Napoleon, by Lord Ratliffe, or by the vicissitudes of fate? Only time will tell.    

I'm not a straight up romance girl. This has happened, more likely then not, by being around two women my entire life, my mother and paternal grandmother, who loved mysteries and if they veered even a little into romance they would deride the book till the end of days. NEVER get my mother started on J.D. Robb, aka Nora Roberts. Therefore I've never delved into romance, I've skated around the edges with historical fiction, but this was my first foray into a book published by that behemoth of the romance genre, Harlequin. And it is not what I expected. At All. It wasn't bodice ripping and corsets being flung to the floor. I mean, yes, it had sex, but nothing that racy. It was escapism in the extreme with everything being seen through this rose tinted haze where even poverty wasn't that onerous. Marrying the Captain was all about wish fulfillment and fantasy and this was just something I couldn't take. This unreality that jarred me so much went beyond saccharine. Everyone was just so dang good and earnest and unrealistic that there was no way I was buying any of it. I am not the kind of person who can read a book that is so completely fantastical, even fantasy has to have that harsh underlying of reality to make a connection with me. Really, a unicorn wandering the streets of Plymouth would have been more realistic then half of what happens in this book. By the end of the book my teeth hurt from this sugarcoated story and unless someone tells me this book is an aberration in the romance genre I don't think I'll be picking up a Harlequin book in the near or distant future.

Oddly enough, despite my dislike of the ludicrous plot, that wasn't what annoyed me the most. Let's talk about names. Names are important. Very important. To a fairy a name could be your or their undoing. To a reader, a bad name can be the game changer between a good book and a laughable book. This, this isn't a good book, which I think I've already established. Therefore we are left with a laughable book. Why is it so laughable? Well, perhaps because the heroine's name is Nana. Um, yeah. So, you're writing a romance book and you think, what's a good name? Nana should NEVER be on this list. NEVER. And it REALLY shouldn't be used when that heroine lives with her grandmother. Because, really, it sounds like there's two grandmother's in the house, or inn in this case. Plus, Nana screamed out in passion? Laughable. Maybe Kelly was trying to be atypical, but if this was the case, it's not working. Or maybe she was trying to go for a name that conveyed the heroine's personality, Nana is short for nursery maid, and Nana nurses Oliver back to health... OK, I'm stretching credulity, I can't even buy that and I just wrote it. I think Kelly is the Australian version of "nana" to use this name in her book. So you don't have to look it up, that means crazy. Plus, Nana's full name, Nana Massey... don't impugn the name of the greatest Miss Marple ever played by Anna Massey! Just don't.

To continue with the naming of characters I want to talk about seeing my last name in print. My last name is Lefebvre. Rarely do I see it used in books spelled the EXACT same way as I spell it. Needless to say, I know a lot about the history of my last name and it's very obvious that Kelly does not. In fact, I'd say she's completely ignorant about the name Lefebvre and that she did absolutely no research whatsoever and yes, this is me calling her out! Just because she wanted to make a link to the less important French general Lefebvre-Desnouettes doesn't mean she can then do no research on the name Lefebvre! In fact, I think it means she must do research, or at least the basics. The first big ugh moment was when the painter Henri Lefebvre told Nana how to say his name. "Le...feb...vre...Ah, yes. You purse your lips as though you were going to kiss some lucky gentleman." NO! No no and no! Firstly, the "B" is ALWAYS SILENT! ALWAYS! Even said with a French accent it is silent. Either it is Americanized and said "le...fave" or it's said as it is in it's country of origin, which is "le...fev...rah." Do you see a freakin' "B"? Because I sure as hell do not. And when you say it this way are you pursing your lips? NO! I dare anyone who reads this to try to say "Fave" or "Rah" while seductively pursing your lips. It can't be done. Especially on the "Rah" which is more a war cry then anything else. If I had liked or bought into anything previous to this incident in the book I would have been alienated instantly by the authors ignorance, which actually goes even further if you can imagine it. She states that Lefebvre must be a very uncommon name in France and therefore Henri and the French general must be related. While yes, most Lefebvres are related, the name Lefebvre is basically Smith. Would you call Smith an uncommon name? Nope.

Now I just want to rant about something in this rather ranty review that has always bothered me and is a plot point in this book, and that's women's hair. Why is long hair in woman so important? In The Gift of the Magi the cutting off of her long luscious tresses is something akin to a crime and is seen as the final marker of how desperate she is. Even Jo in Little Women has her hair wept over. Seriously, it's just hair people! IT GROWS BACK! It doesn't contain a magical life force! In fact, I like my hair short. Long hair is annoying and oh so very very heavy. When my hair is long it literally weighs around six pounds. Six pounds pulling on my head. Why would anyone want this? Is this more male bullshit that they like long hair? Because then it's just another standard of beauty that I just can't get behind. You know who needed my hair more then me? That kid with Cancer who I donated my hair to. Plus it's hot in summer and gets in the way if you want less altruistic reasons. Also, I want to make a bigger point beyond women being defined by their hair and that historically short hair was coming into vogue at the time this book is set. Therefore Nana's short hair wouldn't have been all that tragic. In fact it would have been chic. Instead we get everyone talking about it's loss and that very creepy scene where Oliver goes to the wigmakers and fondles her cut locks. Women shouldn't be defined by hair and they definitely should avoid men who fondle their hair when it's no longer attached to their scalp. This isn't romantic, this is pathological. This is serial killer in the making. This is creepy.

Finally, let's talk about sex. Sex is quite common in books nowadays. So it makes it easier to judge a good sex scene from a bad one. Nana and Oliver's wedding night should be romantic, tender, sweet, it should, going with the rest of this book's saccharine sweetness, instead it's perfunctory and all about male fulfillment. I'm sorry, say what? There's only one deduction that can be taken away from this and that if this book is female wish fulfilment incarnate then all women want to do is satisfy their men and their needs don't matter. Um, again, a resounding no. Is this book secretly written by a man? Because the sex scene sure doesn't come across as written by a woman with a woman's needs. One of the reasons for years I think I shied away from Harlequin books was this idea that all it would be is sex. For me books need many layers and sex is just one of them. But apparently I had nothing to be worried about. If this is the standard of love making, well, I can get racier stuff in fiction... and far more satisfying if that's what you're looking for. Marrying the Captain though is just one big tangled mess of dissatisfaction. Disgruntled reader and reviewer here, please send quality reading material STAT!


Newer Post Older Post Home