A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

TBR Challenge: Miss Chartley’s Guided Tour by Carla Kelly

on December 16, 2015

The theme: A holiday romance. I… don’t have any, at least not in the print TBR. Just not much of a fan. (That thud you heard was Wendy fainting.) A Signet Regency is sort of Christmassy just by juxtaposition, right? Coincidentally, Miss Bates reviewed this one last year.

Why this one: I was feeling depressed over the news and thought a Kelly book would be heartwarming and comforting. I did not pick the right one.

I believe this is the third Kelly I’ve chosen for the TBR challenge, and it’s the first of them I’ve found disappointing. The plot is certainly compelling: Eight years previously, Omega Chartley was left at the altar by the man she loved. (You know this is old because there’s no separate book for her brother, Alpha.) She never knew why; we know only that it had something to do with him covered with blood and horror. When Omega finds her vacation from teaching taking a very odd, adventurous turn, their paths cross again.

There were a number of problems with this one. Although there are certainly instances of Kelly’s way with a carelessly wonderful phrase — “it’s amazing how rapidly one well-brought-up person can go to the dogs,” thinks Omega about herself — much of the prose is kind of spare and awkward, especially in the action scenes. It was also a weird blend of farcical and deadly serious, and it’s hard to say whether there are more implausibilities or plot holes.

And the hero is…  very challenging. Matthew did any number of awful things — as he tells Omega he has two things to confess, “One is terrible and the other no better,” and frankly, I think he was underestimating. It was through weakness and drink rather than overt cruelty, and he is genuinely remorseful, though not so much he doesn’t keep making nasty, unwarranted snipes against Omega when they’re reunited. And I do think he gets a decent, if somewhat understated redemption.

But he only appears halfway through the story, and the second half of the book focuses more on a suspense plot than on cementing the relationship between him and Omega, so it was hard for me to feel the happy ending was truly established. There are some very sweet scenes showing how much he missed her while they were apart, but I would have liked to see more of them learning each other’s new selves.

Although the story has very upsetting elements, it includes many goodhearted characters, including a brave and delightful little girl named Angela. If you’re a fan of precocious children in stories, you’ll adore this.

Addendum: A while after this, I read Kelly’s Season’s Regency Greetings, and that was just the sort of wholesome, cozy read the doctor ordered. (Dr. Cook, of course!) It’s two short Christmas stories about two misfit Regency heroines: one is a proper British governess who is also half Egyptian; the other is a titled heiress who’s just learned she’s actually the adopted illegitimate daughter of a seamstress. Her story is quite heartbreaking, since she’s not only lost her place in life but also the people she considered her parents. Both find amiable misfit men and fall swiftly and charmingly in love. There are sad and even awful elements of the stories, but the overall mood is uplifting.

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7 responses to “TBR Challenge: Miss Chartley’s Guided Tour by Carla Kelly

  1. Barb in Maryland says:

    Miss Chartley isn’t one of my favorite Kelly books,either. The whole murder/inheritance plot was just a tad over the top and, as you say, took pages away from the romance. I will also agree that young Angela stole the show. What a charmer!
    I’m glad you read some of Kelly’s Christmas stories afterwards. I binge read all of her Christmas stories during the holidays–keeping the tissues close at hand, of course.

  2. SuperWendy says:

    You are dead to me 😉

    I know, I have a sickness when it comes to Christmas reads – which is why I always make this a “holiday theme” – even though Christmas is what dominates publishing (truly I thought about reading a New Year’s themed anthology this month but….I can’t say no to Christmas).

  3. KeiraSoleore says:

    I didn’t like Miss Chartley either when I read it. The plot was a tad implausible as well as some of the characterization. I just didn’t warm up to them. Thought it was just me since the book comes across highly recommended.

  4. lynnaar says:

    This is one of the CK’s I haven’t read yet, though I think it’s lurking in the TBR. It definitely doesn’t sound cosy, but I might have to give it a whirl. If you’re looking for a cozy Christmas read, the book Caz and I read might be up your alley – The Holly and the Ivy by Elisabeth Fairchild. I got very deeply upset at the hero at one point, but otherwise a good read.

  5. Jen_FairyTales says:

    I am still very behind on Carla Kelly’s backlist and I probably won’t be jumping to try Miss Chartley’s Guided Tour anytime soon. But, I am definitely looking for Season’s Regency Greetings.

  6. […] is always a reread. But Kelly’s wholesomeness is usually comforting — though I have been burned before — and many of my most loved books are set in schools and […]

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