The Wedding Journey is another lovely and highly recommendable Carla Kelly Regency romance about genuinely kind and likable people falling in love against the backdrop of war. I really enjoyed it at the same time as I realised that I have read too many of her novels too close together. All of Kelly’s best elements can be found here, as well as her one
besetting sin minor shortcoming.
Profoundly shy, Doctor Jesse Randall has loved Nell Mason for years. She and her family have followed the drum at the behest of her gormless father and working in the hospital tent is Nell’s contribution to their income. In debt to a moustache-twirling bastard of a villain, Nell’s father plans to offer her up in payment for gambling debts once Nell’s mother – and the protection she affords – is gone. When his long-suffering wife dies, Jesse steps in to marry Nell and prevent her sacrifice on the altar of matrimony, or at least offer a significantly better altar. It is a bittersweet gesture for him given his feelings. The moustache-twirling bastard “accidentally” leaves the medical personnel behind when his troop retreats, so newly wedded and even more recently abandoned, Jesse, Nell, and their small band of misfits make their way through rural Spain back to safety behind British lines. Along the way, they encounter rapscallions, batty aristocrats, and villagers just trying to survive living on an ever-shifting battle front. The moustache-twirling bastard has left damage in his wake that creates even more challenges for the group. Jesse and Nell find time, along with the urgent clarifying reality of their situation, to come together as a couple and in appreciation of each other.
There are two problems with The Wedding Journey. The first is mine as I feel like I have read versions of this book by Kelly already: A nice soldier is thrown together with an unassuming young woman and the two must make their way to a new location. There is nothing wrong with this trope. Nothing. Kelly writes gratifyingly sincere prose without being overly sweet and adds enough danger and harrowing detail to bring everything together well. It’s a great formula and I am not complaining. That would be like saying, “Lisa Kleypas, could you please do something about all those deliciously sardonic men?”, or “Julia Quinn, could you ease up on the wit?”. Carla Kelly writes a specific kind of romance and she does so beautifully. I just need to stash her books lower on my To Be Read pile.
The second problem with The Wedding Journey, and let me just pause to replace “problem” with “quibble”, is that Carla Kelly might be too nice. She has a tendency to wrap things up very neatly.
“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.”
Yes, thank you, Mr. Wilde, I am aware of that, but while I have no objection to moustache-twirling bastards receiving comeuppance, the redemption of others and some deus ex machina Kelly indulges in were over the line. She creates such a convincing and honest world for her characters that it actually works against the story when things are neatly resolved at the end of the book.
Oh, one last thing: I would have liked just a few more pages of epilogue with the characters once they were safe and sound, mostly because I liked them so much that I wanted to have time with them enjoying domestic bliss.