Desert Isle Keeper
Reforming Lord Ragsdale
Lord Ragsdale is an intelligent and witty man who is bored. He squanders his talents on careless amusements, and surrounds himself with people who have not one half of his insight and wit. His accounts are a mess. His estate is neglected. This fascinating man has no one with whom to hold a worthwhile conversation or share his hilarious and insightful jokes. Saddest of all – he cannot speak of his grief over his father’s death.
But Lord Ragsdale takes this reality in stride. Rather than trying to remedy his plight, he spends a good deal of time talking to the wittiest and most intelligent person he knows, namely himself. Luckily, as readers of the book, we get to eavesdrop, but it makes his own life quite dreary.
If this were a typical Regency Romance, Lord Ragsdale would soon meet a feisty and irresistible female member of the ton, with whom he would form a passionate attachment. But this book has a different, refreshing perspective which, I believe is utterly American. When Lord Ragsdale meets his intellectual match it is in the person of a servant, Emma Costello.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: spunky Irish maid, too tantalizingly sexy to ignore, innocent but tempting – spends a lot of time “trembling under his lustful gaze.” Often says things like “unhand me sir.” Well, not exactly.
Emma Costello is a woman of education, beauty, strength, and uncommon good sense. She also happens to be an Irish indentured servant. One night Lord Ragsdale saves Emma from a horrific fate and winds up with her indenture papers. To pay the debt of gratitude, Emma decides to reform Lord Ragsdale, getting him to agree, one drunken night, that if she reforms him she will have compensated him for the money he lost that night.
And what does she have to do? Pay off the silly mistress, stop the drinking, organize the bills, and make Lord Ragsdale into a suitable husband for one Miss Clarissa Partridge. Emma Costello does all of these things, and far more creatively than one would expect. She befriends the silly mistress, Fae Moulle, and finds a way for her to earn a respectable living. But, to Emma’s surprise, reforming this man entails becoming his friend and hearing him speak movingly of his father and the terrible misfortune that has poisoned his life. For Lord Ragsdale it means fall quietly and deeply in love with this totally unsuitable woman.
Reforming Lord Ragsdale begins on a hilarious and playful note but there is nothing funny about Lord Ragsdale’s grievous history in Ireland, which shapes many aspects of his character. Emma Costello, it turns out has a secret tragedy of her own, one that has formed her stoic personality. Through most of the book Emma does not trust Lord Ragsdale enough to reveal her problem to him. We observe her strength of character as she walks for miles to and from Newgate Prison trying to solve it on her own. We celebrate the growth of Lord Ragsdale’s character as he becomes less selfish and he worries about his new and dear friend.
There is no sex in Reforming Lord Ragsdale, just kisses. I didn’t miss it. Lord Ragsdale loves women and loves to look at women, Emma in particular, and his thoughts are original, funny and arousing.
Just about every sentence in this book sparkles. The characters are obviously modeled on real people, and the descriptions follow suit. If you are just a bit tired of heroes “purring,” standing with “warm bodies of flexing steel,” heroes who find that their lust is “raised to new heights” and who emit “volcanic heat.” Lord Ragsdale, with his frank appreciation for the female form, and his rapier wit will make a nice change.
I enjoy all of Carla Kelly’s books but this is my favorite. Lord Ragsdale is a man I would like to spend an evening with, even if he didn’t love me! Not every writer could write such a book because to develop a character like Lord Ragsdale you need to have that gentle wit yourself. How lucky we are that Carla Kelly can translate this talent into such memorable books.