My list of unread novels from Carla Kelly’s Regency romance catalog is ever dwindling. I have as much faith that I will get to all of them eventually as Kelly herself does in the innate goodness of people. Beau Crusoe, like Libby’s London Merchant, goes in a different direction from many romances and it was pleasing to read something a little bit different and from such a skilled and experienced author.
From Amazon: Stranded alone on a desert island, he had lived to tell the tale. A triumphant return to the ton saw James Trevenen hailed as Beau Crusoe—a gentleman of spirit, verve and action. But only he knew the true cost of his survival! Susannah Park had been shunned by Society. She lived content with her calm existence—until Beau Crusoe determinedly cut up her peace! The beautiful widow wanted to help him heal the wounds of the past—but what secrets was this glorious man hiding?
After years living alone and tracking the local fauna to keep himself sane, James is back in civilization, (Regency England) and an unwilling national celebrity. He is understandably traumatized by his experiences, moreso than the reader learns initially, and in possession of a few eccentricities as a result. When asked to present a paper on his island’s crabs to a zoological society, James needs a place to stay and lands at the house of an odd, isolated family. One of the daughters of the house, a widow with a young son, works as an illustrator for a friend of the family and the man who is James’ host, if not his hotelier. He gives James a To Do list:
- Get rid of the toucans living in the front hall of Susannah’s family home
- Do something about Susannah’s awful sister
- Marry Susannah
Accomplishing all three tasks, the first by simply leaving the front door open, James forms a bond with Susannah and her young son. Desperately lonely and intermittently haunted, James’s embrace of an instant family feels logical as does Susannah’s longing for adventure and making good her chance for escape. Her decision to marry for love created a family scandal that no one, particularly her sister, will let her live down.
Beau Crusoe suffers from a bit of saviour syndrome, though James himself doesn’t, and everyone must be very glad he’s there to put everything to rights. Because Kelly is such a good writer and I was reading this off-kilter romance with absorption, it wasn’t really a problem, just something I noticed. The overall tone of the novel might be from what people are accustomed to, but with Kelly’s usual sincerity and lovely prose style, I simply appreciated what she was doing and that it succeeded so well.