Here I am with a review of a novel published in 1997, but a good romance remains so and is always worth a look. eBooks are a boon to people looking for stories they would otherwise be unable to get their hands on. With This Ring was recommended by a friend and while it didn’t completely work for me, overall I have found all of Kelly’s Regency romances worth a read, if only for her faith in humanity and a writing style which makes the reader feel settled securely in the story’s time period.
This is the second Carla Kelly book I’ve read, the first being the truly lovely The Lady’s Companion, in which a financially beholden young woman decides to break with her family and Society to strike out on her own. I always enjoy a nice raised middle finger to snobs and convention, but then who doesn’t? After visiting a makeshift military hospital on a lark with her sister, Lydia Perkins goes back day after day to help the wounded as best she can. Lydia finds both a purpose and a kindred spirit in looking after Major Sam Reed’s men. When the Major proposes a marriage of convenience to satisfy a series of outrageous falsehoods about having a wife he has told in his letters home, Lydia is flattered but refuses until her awful mother belittles her for what Lydia decides will be the last time. Running away to quickly marry the still recuperating Sam, the two settle down to get their story straight before facing his familial inquisition.
Because she has been alternately overlooked and demoralized by her family, Lydia may be a good person, but she has no self-confidence. Sam decides, as the reader learns later, that she must learn believe in herself, so he engineers a situation for her to appreciate her own value. I wouldn’t have minded his “stand on your own” hokum, if he had not withheld crucial information which a. created an extremely stressful situation for Lydia, and b. things had not then gone almost perfectly for her. It was all too bibbity-bobbity-boo for me.
Like another Kelly book, The Admiral’s Penniless Bride, I enjoyed most of the novel and was disappointed by the ending. Kelly is one of those authors whose I books I would rather read even with a letdown than forgo altogether. I have worked my way through her highest rated books and will likely make my way through the rest of her Regency romance catalogue as well.
With This Ring did have one shocking element that I want to mention as its inclusion was baffling to me. Sam has told his family that he and his trumped-up wife have a child. To give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative (H/T WS Gilbert), they visit a foundling home and adopt/buy a random baby girl. They purchase an orphan to sell the lie. Granted she’ll have a better life as a result, but they BUY A BABY! I was all astonishment.