Need I say more? This was my first read by Carla Kelly. She was an author that was suggested to me many times by my many GR friends, and I can definitely see why. The woman can write!
The hero, John Staples, Lord Ragsdale, is a Marquess. The second son who never expected to become the heir, John is a bit of a nonconformist as far as Marquesses go. When we meet him, he is a slacker. He is indolent, frivolous, and completely ignorant of the real world and real problems. He sails through his priviledged life, wiling away the hours with his mistress, his club, drinking, and spending his overwhelming wealth on whatever absurdities will amuse him at that particular moment. But John has a heart. Although hidden below his superficial facade, it his kind heart and sense of morality that cause him to come into possession of an indentured servant, Irishwoman Emma Costello. To make matters worse, because of some incidents from his past, John also hates the Irish.
Emma is a level-headed young woman who has known a lot of hardship and strife. When she comes into Lord Ragsdale's employ, she quickly realizes that his life is a complete mess. She sets about to correct that situation - to 'reform' Lord Ragsdale - and help him reach his full potential. Emma sees his potential, even though John cannot.
What I loved most about this story was how much time was spent showing
the reader the building relationship between the two characters. There was no need for any leaps of faith or stretching realty. The build-up was slow, but necessarily so. By the time I got to the fourth quarter of the book, I just wanted to see them together. It seemed so natural and perfect.
Part of what makes this novel so special is Carla Kelly's incredible talent for getting into the heads of her characters. Truly, I think the reason why this relationship seemed so natural is because the reader was with the characters at every cognitive step forward. It was adorable how John took such pleasure in making Emma happy, even when he was not consciously aware of why
he wanted to see her so happy. The reader could easily see the building love and respect even when the characters were still unaware.
This book is totally clean. And while I normally prefer to have a little heat in my romance, it made complete sense for it to be absent from this story.