Desert Isle Keeper
Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand
It’s no secret that I consider Carla Kelly to be The Greatest Regency Writer in the World. I gave a copy of Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand to my sister, Anne who is the Pickiest Reader in the World. She was enthralled. I was pleased with her good taste, otherwise I would have been forced to call her out had she had not liked it.
Roxanna Drew is a widow. Her husband, Anthony was a minister and their marriage had been one of deep love and devotion. Anthony had died after a long and painful illness leaving Roxanna bereft. After a period of mourning, Roxanna’s brother-in-law, who controls a portion of her money, proposes that she and her two daughters move in with him and his wife and that she become his mistress. Roxanna is revolted.
Roxanna and her daughters move into a dilapidated old house that she arranges to rent for only 10 pounds a year. It’s all she can afford and not have to be under her brother-in-law’s control. The house belongs to Fletcher Rand, Lord Winn, who comes riding up one night and is surprised to find the place inhabited.
Fletch is charmed by Roxanna and her daughters and goes out of his way to make things more comfortable for them. She and the children soon become very fond of Fletch and he of them. Then just before Christmas, Roxanna’s brother-in-law tries to take her children from her, claiming they are living in a dangerously run-down dwelling. Fletch offers a marriage of convenience and Roxanna agrees. But when Fletch’s sisters and their families come for Christmas, he and Roxanna have to share a bed and their marriage arrangement becomes complicated by love and misunderstanding.
Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand treats the grieving of a woman for her husband, and children for their father in a very real and sympathetic way. We see Anthony Drew so vividly through their memories that he becomes almost palpable. He was a kind and dedicated man with a good sense of humor. He liked to make love after breakfast – he said it helped the digestion.
Carla Kelly has a knack for developing well rounded female characters and Roxanna Drew is one of my favorites. She is beautiful outside and in – a good mother and a loving woman. She and Anthony had had a very passionate marriage and she misses the touch of a man so much that she resorts to long, strenuous walks in order to tire herself out. When Roxanna and Fletch are forced to share a bed, she practically jumps his bones and finally admits she enjoys making love and has not been able to since Anthony had been so sick for so long.
Fletcher Rand is, like many of Carla Kelly’s male characters, a former military man. He was a quietly heroic soldier and while he was off fighting for King and Country, his wife was cuckolding him with a multitude of lovers. Fletch divorced her, and Society blames him for not looking the other way. He is very lonely, having been cut by Society, so he buries himself in hard work and prays for a good honest woman. Roxanna Drew and her daughters bring life back for him.
Unlike many children in romance novels, Felicity and Helen Drew are realistic children. They have real roles in the book and are not just there to be cute. We see their father through their eyes and their grief for him, especially Helen’s, who remembers him well. Their growing fondness for Fletch is real and touching.
Carla Kelly won a well-deserved RITA award for Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand. I have lent this book to several people as well as my picky sister and they have all loved it. When you read this book you will fall in love with the story and the characters and remember them for a long time.