Title: Reforming Lord Ragsdale
Author: Carla Kelly
Published: 1995, Signet
Category: Regency Romance
Last week, JMC blogged that she'd gotten her copy of Carla Kelly's newest book, Beau Crusoe, shipped to her early from eHarlequin. I was very jealous and went to my Borders to see if they had it out yet. No luck. I was all mad until I realized that I still had three older Kellys in the TBR. Just sitting there waiting to be read. (I tell you, the greed. Why must I have the NEW, SHINY, NOW?! Good thing it's only about books or I'd be in trouble.)
Emma Costello's very respectable family was torn apart during an attempted Irish rebellion in 1803 and in the aftermath, she was shipped off to become an indentured servant. John Staples, Lord Ragsdale, ends up winning her indenture in a hand of cards. Ragsdale is your typical dissipated, nearly useless English aristocrat (this is Emma's opinion at first, anyway). Ten years ago he lost his father and one of his eyes in a military snafu, and since then he's been floating along aimlessly, drinking too much and not doing anything with his life. One night, in a drunken haze, he tells Emma that if she can reform him, he'll release her from her indenture. So Emma begins to sort out all his confused finances and to persuade him, or guilt him, into becoming more involved with his estate. She's surprisingly successful at the reformation--and suddenly she realizes that he is someone who might just be worthy of her friendship.
This is one of those love stories that start out with the protagonists disliking each other completely. Ragsdale has prejudices against the Irish, and Emma against the English. Ragsdale is pretty distgustingly useless, selfish, and, at times, cruel to Emma. I love romances where you see the couple go from dislike to love--the characters obviously must undergo a lot of change, which makes for an interesting story.
At first I thought that Ragsdale's reformation was too easy. Surely someone who was a rake for 10 years would be less willing to change. But we see from the very beginning that he is a kind man--his faults are really due to boredom, guilt over his father's death, and a snobby sense of entitlement. Emma's not afraid to call him on it when he acts like an ass, something no one has really done for him before. So his eyes are opened, and he gains a sense of purpose and confidence in himself.
All-in-all, one of my favorite Kellys so far. And btw, I was able to pick up a copy of Beau Crusoe last weekend. Woo hoo! I'm glad she has a new book out, it's been a few years since she's had a book published, I think.