Excellent, typically wonderful Carla Kelly. Real, true-to-life characters with depth and real problems. Carla Kelly's books are better than your average Regencies because although they conform to the genre requirements, they are not predictable.
A different take on Regency novels as it doesn't take place in the atmosphere of balls and Bath and London. They are quite nice and I liked that the author didn't go for the obvious ending in Libby's story.
I enjoyed both of these Regencies.
Miss Chartley's Guided Tour was fabulous! I enjoyed Libby's London Merchant, but the second story was riveting. This is a great author and I recommend this book!
These two wonderful novels are engrossing for different reasons. Absolutely no one I know would consider me to be a "watering pot" and yet I wept during the course of each story. They are profoundly moving; Libby must choose between two men and Omega and Matthew experience 8 years of grief through the machinations of another.
LIBBY'S LONDON MERCHANT
Libby Ames lives with her mother and brother; they help their mother work as housekeeper to their uncle and his daughter, Lydia. Although the cousins are best friends, Libby is penniless while Lydia is a wealthy heiress. Part of the reason Libby is poor is that her maternal grandfather was a shopkeeper (gasp).
Instead of being burdened by her situation, Libby is a very happy person. She believes that some day she will find a man who can overlook her unfortunate situation and love her for herself.
Libby seems to be the only one who does not realize that the bumbling Dr. Anthony Cook is in love with her. When a carriage overturns near her home, the London chocolate merchant driving the gig is hurt and taken to the Ames house for treatment and care. Libby is immediately attracted to this handsome stranger and the feeling is mutual.
The chocolate merchant is actually Benedict Nesbitt, the Duke of Knaresborough. Through a strange set of circumstances, he has agreed to go to the Ames house and take a look over the Ames beauty that his best friend is supposed to marry. Nesbitt is supposed to report back to his friend; the 'engagement' is of long standing between parents. By the time Nesbitt realizes his mistake with the cousins, he is in love with Libby. But there is a huge-fly-in-the-ointment and Nesbitt and Libby must face the problem.
I must say that I really did not know which man Libby would eventually choose until near the end. Ms. Kelly is to be congratulated for a tour-de-force performance; she muddied the waters between the 3 young people until the end. Most authors hint broadly as to the outcome; instead the tension in the story was almost more than I could bear. Wonderful!
MISS CHARTLEY'S GUIDED TOUR
The Prologue begins with a disjointed story of a confused and deeply distressed man rushing to his wedding. Very late to the ceremony, he runs forward until he sees how upset the bride and guests are. Gasping with despair, he scurries away from the church. It will be some time before the reader understands the significance of this scene.
Omega Chartley, after being jilted at the altar is struck with additional tragedy. Omega's father loses his fortune and dies. Everything must be sold to satisfy the creditors. Thus, Omega becomes a teacher of English in a school for girls.
Taking a small vacation on the way to a new teaching assignment, Omega comes upon a lad (James Clevenden), who is running from one uncle to get to another uncle. He has been routinely beaten by the first uncle, who has hired the Bow Street Runners to find his nephew and bring him back.
There's quite an adventure aiding James to get to the unknown uncle and safe haven. When they arrive, Omega is shocked to find that the unknown uncle is her former fiancee' Matthew Berring. James and Omega are further upset to find that Matthew refuses to take responsibility for his nephew.
As Matthew's story is wrung from him, Omega is staggered by the horrible reasons behind James' ill treatment and Matthew's abandonment of her. It is a dark and somber tale; Matthew underestimates Omega's capacity for understanding.
This story took a long time to get Matthew and Omega together -- and to deal with the mistakes Matthew made 8 years before. By the time the awful situation is aired, the plot moves quickly to its resolution.
As so many other times, Ms. Kelly weaves emotional stories while avoiding balls, Almack's Assembly Rooms and the ton. These are sincere individuals coping with difficulties that test one's mettle. With two delightful and thought-provoking stories in one book, this is a bargain. Get a copy; you will enjoy it too.
NOTE: There is a second part to LIBBY'S LONDON MERCHANT -- One Good Turn (2001)