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Every now and then I read a romance novel that makes me realise the extent to which I've settled, so that I will accept a competently written novel with relatively few flaws and raise it to the status of an exceptional novel. Carla Kelly's "Beau Crusoe" hit this realisation home once again. I'm not saying I won't make this mistake again and again, in the months to come, but for now I'm basking in the satisfaction of having read a romance novel that satisfied on EVERY LEVEL -- a good story, brilliantly fleshed out with characters that were engaging and that made me care and a romance subplot that just had me rooting for the couple from beginning to end.
A beautiful and sweet natured young widow, Susannah Park has spent the last few years of her life living quietly with her young son, Noah, at her parents' home. The trouble is that Susannah had eloped with the man she loved to India, where tragically, her young husband died, leaving Susanna all alone (but for Noah), penniless and with a tarnished reputation. Another sad result of her elopement is her estrangement from her elder sister, Loisa, who holds Susannah responsible for her lack of marriage offers. Susannah's life is far from ideal, but she soldiers on, maintaining a cheerful demeanor and taking comfort and joy from Noah and her godparents, who live in the neighbouring estate. Little does Susannah realise however how much her life is about to change with the arrival of James Trevenen. The first mate of the Orion, which sank six years ago, Trevenen was the only man to survive and lived for 5 years on a deserted island, where, in order to keep his sanity, he spent his time observing the crabs on the island. Now, back in England, Trevenen is about to be presented a medal by the Royal Society for his work.Read more ›
Like many other readers, I've been waiting for Carla Kelly's newest full-length novel, Beau Crusoe, since I finished The Wedding Journey in 2002 , already almost five years ago (!). It's been too long.
Stranded alone on a desert island, he had lived to tell the tale. A triumphant return to the ton saw James Trevanen 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?
From this back cover blurb, I was expecting a little lighter Kelly reading experience than what I got. Yes, the blurb says, "Shipwrecked!" but it also says, "triumphant return." And while triumphant return is technically accurate, as James is being awarded a prestigious medal for his scientific observations about a certain type of fiddler crab found on his island, James himself is hardly triumphant. More like hanging on to his sanity by his fingertips. He was alone on that island for five years. All alone fighting starvation and memories of a bitter survival process. This guy has BAGGAGE.
By contrast, the blurb makes Susannah sound a bit more of a pariah than she actually is. No, she isn't received into society due to her youthful indiscretion of eloping with a man far her social inferior, but she doesn't actually care much about that. She's basically at peace with her life as an artist living with a young son, she only wishes her family - and especially her sister, Loisa - could forgive her.Read more ›
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I am writing this review, not just because this book moved me to do so, but also to respond an earlier review.
I too love Carla Kelly's books...she is an automatic buy and will continue to be one...her books are definitely "keepers" in my library and are well worn from repeated readings. This book is no exception. Although, I do admit to some trepidation when I realized what the "secret" troubling James was. It's easy to discern fairly early in the book what is "haunting" James and I was not sure how this would play in a romance. But, once again, Ms. Kelly takes a subject that's hard to even think about and imbues it with grace and compassion. Her celebration of life and humanity, with all its challenges and triumphs, shortcomings and virtues, darkness and light, is once again seen here in Beau Crusoe. The main characters, James and Susannah, are instantly likable and fun to watch as their relationship develops. They both are quiet, humorous, and self-effacing with a strength they don't seem to recognize until they see it in each other. There is laughter with the tears as they find in themselves the strength they thought was missing. They have each met and mastered seemly insurmountable obstacles, but it is together that they become whole.
The love scenes in Beau Crusoe are more mature than her previous books with a little more description, but are warm, tender, and tasteful. Her books have always taken a healthy position when it comes to the physical side of love...this is just a little "healthier"...and I for one loved it!
Where I disagree with an earlier review of this book is in the handling of the scenes between James and Lady Audley (the adulterous nymphomaniac). I don't see their interactions as trashy or wasted space in this story.Read more ›
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