Marrying the Captain (Channel Fleet #1)
By: Carla Kelly
Publisher: Harlequin Historical
Nana Massie, the only granddaughter of a poor but respectable Plymouth innkeeper, has every reason to distrust the naval men upon which her and her beloved Gran's livelihood depend. The illegitimate daughter of a lieutenant, now a lord of the Admiralty, she fled the education her father provided when he revealed his true plans for her future -- selling her as mistress to the highest bidder to cover his debts. She's resigned herself to a life of struggle and poverty, sure that no one could ever overlook her less-than-honorable antecedents. But when Captain Oliver Worthy, sick and exhausted, arrives at the Mulberry Inn, in spite of herself Nana begins to dream of a future unencumbered by the stain of her parentage.
Post Captain Oliver Worthy's ship limped into Plymouth, badly in need of repairs. Delivering the latest intelligence on Bonaparte's movements to the Admiralty, he receives a startling commission from his superior, Lord Ratliffe -- to stay at the Mulberry in Plymouth while his ship is in dry docks, and report on his daughter's movements. While Ratliffe is ostensibly concerned, Oliver is wary, even more so as he becomes acquainted with the lovely Nana. With his return to war looming, Oliver becomes increasingly concerned about protecting Nana from her father's schemes, and hatches one of his own -- can the man who swore to never marry take the risk of claiming a bride?
Oh people, this book. It's not that it was bad, exactly...more terminally boring. The period of the Napoleonic Wars and its impact on the personal and professional lives of naval men and their families is one rife with possibilities of conflict, tension, and genuine drama. And this coming from a woman who loved the Horatio Hornblower television series! Sadly, the possibilities of the time period are never fully realized on the page. Kelly flirts with adding a dash of spying intrigue to the plotline involving the historical Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes receiving British military secrets from Nana's father, but an possible intrigue feels so half-baked, too little, too late, by the time it appears in the storyline to raise the stakes for Nana and Oliver's future.
I could overlook a sluggish plotline if I had been able to become invested in the characters. While Nana and Oliver are perfectly nice people, and share some perfectly nice moments, I never felt any spark, any investment in their relationship. This was greatly hampered by the heroine's name -- I cannot take a grown woman who calls herself "Nana" seriously, especially when she's described as being practically a waif, with child-like eyes. :P She has a perfectly good name - Eleanor - why not use it, and let me imagine Oliver falling in love with an ADULT? So we have the child-like Nana making eyes at the war-weary Oliver. And all they do is think about how a relationship could never, ever work between them...for PAGES and PAGES. I'm all for a little angst, but not at the expense of relational development. I need sparkling dialogue and sharp characterizations -- not endless, depressing introspection. And I'm all for a man who is in touch with his emotions, but the amount of crying going on between Oliver and Nana is a bit overwhelming. :P
Despite my issues with this story, there is a sweetness to Oliver and Nana's romance, and as always it is refreshing to read a story where the parties involved consummate the relationship after marriage (however, it's worth noting that the wedding night squicked me out beyond belief...terribly, awkwardly written, blech...). Kelly clearly has a passion for this time period; however, the manner in which it translates to the page left me rather apathetic. There IS a sweetness to the romance, and some solid history for those interested in this time period. Kelly seems like a pretty popular author, and I've heard great things about the third installment in this series -- while I may try it someday, at this point I'm in no hurry. About the book:
Ever since her father tried to sell her as a
mistress to the highest bidder, Eleanor Massie has chosen to live in
poverty. Her world changes overnight when Captain Oliver Worthy shows up
at her struggling inn. Despite herself, Nana is drawn to her handsome
Oliver planned to stay in Plymouth only long enough to
report back to Lord Ratliffe--about Nana. But he soon senses that Lord
Ratliffe is up to something, and Oliver will do anything to keep this
courageous, beautiful woman safe--even marry her!