With This Ring, by Carla Kelly: A Beleagered Gentlewoman Agrees to a Marriage of Convenience

with_this_ringWith This Ring ($15.95, 306 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-951-0), a regency romance by Carla Kelly,  features a gentlewoman who escapes society’s censure after an embarrassing display of plain-speaking by marrying a man she barely knows–a wounded earl who must present his family with a wife in order to secure his inheritance.

“The story never drags and is never rushed, and I, who normally do not like regencies that much, was utterly enchanted with it,” wrote Ellen Micheletti in All About Romance when With This Ring was first published in 1997. She gave the book an “A” rating.

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“Time has not dulled the appeal of this charming Regency romance. The pacing moves along, the plot has many unexpected twists and turns, and Lydia’s transformation along the journey is a pleasure to behold…. Recommended.” Read more….

—Historical Novel Society

Carla Kelly is the recipient of two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America for Best Regency of the Year; two Spur Awards from Western Writers of America; two Whitney Awards, 2011 and 2012; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times. Kelly’s Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand reprint was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the top 5 romances in 2012.

Other Camel Press reprints of Carla Kelly regencies include Miss Whittier Makes a List, Miss Chartley’s Guided Tour, Miss Billings Treads the Boards, Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind, and Mrs. McVinnie’s London Season. Reprints of two Christmas novellas were released in November under the title Season’s Regency Greetings. Camel has also published Books 1 and 2 of Carla’s all-new Spanish Brand series, The Double Cross and Marco and the Devil’s Bargain. These stories feature life, love, and danger on America’s southwest border in the 1780s. Book 3 will appear in the fall of 2015.

Carla Kelly is particularly celebrated for her regency romances. The Romance Reader has called her “the Grandmistress of the [Regency] genre.” According to Romantic Times, “Carla Kelly’s Regency Romances are always superb and a timeless delight.” Library Journal wrote, “one of the most respected Regency writers.”

The year is 1814, and Lydia Perkins is in London for the Season. Sadly, the Perkins don’t care if Lydia makes a suitable match. All her mother’s hopes lie in the beautiful but vapid Kitty, and Lydia is expected to answer her every whim. In an effort to mix with the ton, the sisters find themselves at St. Barnabas Church, gawking at the soldiers wounded at the Battle of Toulouse, the final battle that sent Napoleon into exile at Elba. Kitty faints prettily and is revived by a pair of admiring dandies, but Lydia is drawn to the suffering of the men.

Among them is Major Sam Reed, grievously wounded himself, but in fact an earl: Lord Laren of Laren Hall, Northumberland. Major Reed could be recovering in comfort, but instead he chooses to stand by his men. Despite her parents’ objections, Lydia returns to nurse the soldiers. As she learns the joy of being useful, she and Major Reed become friends. Finally he makes a curious proposal: Would she marry him, be his wife in name only, and travel with him to Northumberland? During the war, he invented a wife to appease his rich aunt. If he doesn’t produce “Delightful Saunders” in the flesh, he stands to lose his fortune.

Can Lydia leave her indifferent family and embark on her first real adventure? She discovers that not every adventure is a pleasant one, as she falls in love with a man who might see her as merely a means to an end.

Says Kelly, “Confession: I never write Regencies for the lords and ladies, but for the Napoleonic Wars. Lasting a generation, this world war changed the face of Europe forever. And if I can describe how an otherwise brave man coped, gussy it up with a romance, maybe my readers will never suspect my guilty secret.”

A well-known veteran of the romance writing field, Carla Kelly is the author of thirty-one novels and four non-fiction works, as well as numerous short stories and articles for various publications. Carla’s interest in historical fiction is a byproduct of her lifelong study of history. She has a BA in Latin American History from Brigham Young University and an MA in Indian Wars History from University of Louisiana-Monroe. Click here to find Carla online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

She was about to leave. Her courage was draining away as fast as the blood from that poor unfortunate soldier eight rows over. She decided to try one more time. “Major, I ….”

“I heard you. It just takes me a moment to turn around. Don’t leave, please.”

She came closer. Taking great care of himself, the officer shifted his whole body on the cot, rather than just his head. “Well, miss?” he asked, his words clipped, his lips tight.

She thought for a moment that she had angered him, and then she realized that he was in pain. It showed in the tightness around his mouth and the way he squinted at her, even though the room was fairly well lit. Oh, dear, she thought as she slowly untied her bonnet and set it aside. I do not know which of you is worse off.

She took a deep breath, which was a mistake in that foul room, and gestured toward the surgeon. “He said I was to relieve you here, so you could go lie down.”

The officer said nothing, but she knew he was regarding her intently, measuring her. Oh, this is nothing new, she thought, with a sudden burst of confidence. People have been measuring me all my life. “The surgeon said that I could probably hold his hand as well as you can. Sir. Or Lord Laren, or whatever you choose. You are supposed to lie down now.”

Again a long pause. “Make me,” he said at last.

Lydia sighed. “You are going to be difficult,” she observed, more to herself than to him.

“I usually am. Make me.”

If I even stop to think about this, I will never act, she thought. So I will not think about it. “Very well, sir. Since you are so stubborn,” she said as she sat on his lap, took the soldier’s hand from his, and held it in her own.

She did not know what to expect, but she did not anticipate the laughter that rose up from the nearby cots. “Got you, Major!” one of the men said. “She’s out-thought you, sir!” said another with an arm missing, who sat up to watch.

“Oh, very well,” the major said, and he did not try to hide the amusement in his voice. “Lads, such an opportunity, but I will remember that I am an officer and a gentleman.” The men laughed again as the major patted her hip. When she rose up in indignation, he moved out from under her. “Very well, madam, since you are so persistent.” She blushed as he sniffed her hair close to her ear, his breath warm on her cheek. “And, by God, you smell better than my stinking soldiers. Sit, madam, by all means. Hold his hand tight. And then when he’s dead, you can hold mine.”

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