Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Libby's London Merchant - Carla Kelly


Beautiful Miss Elizabeth Ames, better known as Libby, knew little about the man who invaded her country manor. Only that he was Mr.Nesbitt Duke, a London Merchant who had had an accident on the road. Soon she knew even less. For it quickly became clear he was not who he claimed, and was not in her house by accident at all. But that was not the greatest mystery. For Libby found out she had no idea of the secret longings of her own heart--and no clue what to do when passionate love took her by shocking surprise . . .

I was quite surprised when I picked up this book. At first glance, it seemed to have many things I don’t particularly like romance, the first of which is a love triangle, but it the end Kelly convinced me again. I wasn’t as enthusiastic as with the previous one I read by her but it was a satisfying read, especially because the right man won in the end.

So, Kelly starts off with something that is not that original. Two drunken friends, one asks the other to go and check if the fiancée his father arranged for him is ugly as sin, we can almost see the friend falling for the girl, etc etc… but that’s not how Kelly tells it.

Instead of the fiancée, the friends find her cousin, a sensible and beautiful girl. He is injured in an accident and spends some time at her house being tended by her and the doctor. The doctor is a clumsy big man who is also in love with Libby but whose lack of social graces and general clumsiness make him the butt of jokes.

The friend (a duke in disguise pretending to be a merchant) and Libby proceed to fall in love but when he plans to offer Libby’s cousin tells him she has no dowry and is the daughter of an unequal marriage that lead to her father being disinherited. Unable to face social disgrace the duke pretends he had a less than honourable intentions, which leads to Libby refusing him. It’s a huge deception for her and the tragic part is that the duke is not that bad a person, he will eventually realize his mistake.

In the mean time Libby becomes closer to the doctor, she gets to know him better, to appreciate his qualities, not the less of which is how he treats her brother, a boy who is a bit slow but who Libby loves dearly. I was a bit worried because Kelly does make Libby a bit too undecided; in fact, she stays undecided about which suitor to favor almost till the end. However, considering this was not your standard regency romance and I like originality it worked very well that way.

When I think of the book as a whole, I realize many different subjects are brought into this plot. None of the characters is black and white, there’s mention of physical wounds and brain damage, the relationship of fathers and sons, the social rules and behavior of polite society and the contrast of those of the common people, alcoholism, she creates a very vivid world and that is very attractive. In the end, I closed the book with a deeply satisfied sigh but I realize that readers who prefer standard regency plots might not be as happy with this one.

Grade: 4.5/5

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