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Reforming Lord Ragsdale

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  2,198 Ratings  ·  262 Reviews
The Rake's Progress

Emma Costello owed a debt of honor to one of the most dishonorable lords in the realm. The infamous Lord Ragsdale was as rich as sin, as sinful as he was rich, and as heartless as he was handsome. But he had saved Emma from a fate worse than death when he stopped a lecherous brute from buying her as an indentured servant.

It was Emma's turn now to save L
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 1st 1995 by Signet
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Lord Carew's Bride by Mary BaloghReforming Lord Ragsdale by Carla KellyThe Temporary Wife by Mary BaloghMrs. Drew Plays Her Hand by Carla KellyThe Rake by Mary Jo Putney
Traditional Regency
2nd out of 491 books — 232 voters
A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa DareNot Quite a Husband by Sherry ThomasA Lady Awakened by Cecilia GrantYours Until Dawn by Teresa MedeirosScandal by Carolyn Jewel
Best Character Driven Historical Romance
6th out of 102 books — 43 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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I think this may be the best Regency romance I've ever read. CARLA KELLY CAN WRITE. She creates these characters that live and breathe, complex characters with flaws and heart that you can't help but cheer for. I've never read a Regency romance quite like this one. There are serious themes of redemption, prejudice, and forgiveness mixed with wit and romance. The blend is intoxicating--a novel that made me laugh, made me cry, made me swoon, and, importantly, made me think and reevaluate myself. H ...more
Lady Wesley
Mar 30, 2015 Lady Wesley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All lovers of historical romance
This review may also be found at Romantic Historical Reviews, a blog created especially for lovers of historical romance. Follow us at for reviews, give-aways, interesting insights, and historical tidbits.

Five ++++ stars!

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of romance novels that have brought me to tears. To that list I must add Reforming Lord Ragsdale.

John Staples, Marquess of Ragsdale, is an unrepentant rake. Not the handsome, charming, am
Four solid stars for this gritty but tender historical. I have been reading (and/or re-visiting) Carla Kelly's novels this week. Reforming Lord Ragsdale is a digital re-issue of a 1995 Signet Regency. I liked it, but not as much as The Lady's Companion. (That's my favorite by CK, so far).

IMO, this talented author tackles too many somber themes at once: alcoholism, racism, indentured servanthood, and the injustices of a biased penal system. She vividly describes the slime and the smells of Newgat
Kathy ~ Bookworm Nation
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. To be honest, when it first started I didn’t think I would. Lord Ragsdale starts off as your typical drunken rake. I knew from the title that the story was going to be about his supposed reformation, but I wasn’t sure how that would be pulled off. Somehow it happens though and along with Emma I actually found myself liking him. Emma really does bring a believable change in him and it was refreshing to read a Regency where I actually ended up liking ...more
Miranda Davis
Jan 14, 2013 Miranda Davis rated it it was amazing
I've come late to Ms. Kelly and heard about her by reading reviews of my favorite truffle hound reviewers. Her best, by far, is Reforming Lord Ragsdale. Crystalline, deftly portrayed characters with histories that are based on history and its tragic human consequences. A good man learns to forgive himself and let himself love; a good woman learns to trust one who by all rights she should despise. The plot ticks right along and there isn't a stupid ploy anywhere. I liked both characters though th ...more
Mary B.
Need I say more? This was my first read by Carla Kelly. She was an author that was suggested to me many times by my many GR friends, and I can definitely see why. The woman can write!

The hero, John Staples, Lord Ragsdale, is a Marquess. The second son who never expected to become the heir, John is a bit of a nonconformist as far as Marquesses go. When we meet him, he is a slacker. He is indolent, frivolous, and completely ignorant of the real world and real problems. He sails through his privil
Sep 05, 2015 Jacqueline rated it liked it
Shelves: regency
I guess I just didn't see what everyone else saw in this book. It was nice but not stellar. A nice sweet regency but nothing too out of the ordinary. Both of the characters were likable, especially the hero. It was totally clean which worked in this case. The feel for the times was just okay. Nothing glaringly anachronistic but nothing real in depth and physical descriptions of people and places were light on detail. I've liked other books by this author better. Very middle of the road for me. H ...more
Jun 21, 2016 Dina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 1/2 stars
Feb 04, 2016 Tishke rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

I didn't realize I have read this book last year until I found it on my Kindle library at 99%. I started re-reading it and I immediately remembered the first 1/3 of the story. It still remains the most powerful part of story. I could vividly imagine the scene that happened in the inn on the way to Oxford. I could picture Emma with the resign look on her face. The middle part of the story became more of a typical your everyday regency. The last part made me to be on the fence and I under
Seema Khan
Apr 24, 2016 Seema Khan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first Carla Kelly book and definitely not the last!

I enjoyed reading this one for its sarcastic humour and some very good dialogues. At some places the intensity was nice while at some I really found unexpected actions on part of the protagonists, I believed them to be misjudged or misplaced or rather unsuited to the time and period of the tale and thus making them senseless.

Historic detailing was nice and the chemistry between the protagonists was actually endearing.

What I liked most about
4.5 stars
Reforming Lord Ragsdale was a very enjoyable read and I highly recommend it. The writing style reminded me of something in between Georgette Heyer and Anne Gracie. This is a clean read but it's a great story with excellent dialogue and character development. I never missed the spice. John and Emma were a very unusual couple. I really liked Emma, she had a great spirit, was very smart and resilient. She had secrets and scars too. John or Lord Ragsdale was a mess and needed to be reformed
Okay, I almost didn't finish reading this one. The VERY first chapter starts out with Lord Ragsdale(hero) at his mistress's house. I HATE the "mistress" talk in regency romances. HATE it. Anyway, it wasn't descriptive but definitely let you know he enjoyed going there. I was annoyed to say the least and worried about whether the story was going to be clean..not to mention I was disliking the "main character" immensely. I got on goodreads and read reviews on the book again though and decided to g ...more
Katrina Passick Lumsden
This is a really sweet, funny, well-written romance. I loved John to distraction, and Emma, even though I found her to be a bit cold at times, was refreshing in a heroine as she was neither simpering nor overbearing. She was intelligent and warm (when drawn out of her shell) and just the kind of no-nonsense wake up call that John needed. The two of them strike up such a warm, unlikely friendship that the reader can't help but feel the tension and hope they both stop being idiots and realize they ...more
Mar 01, 2015 Nefise rated it it was amazing
It was refreshing and delightful read. I recommend everybody who loves to read HR.
Jan 29, 2016 Elaine rated it it was ok
So I gave this book another try right away and while I finished it this time, I'm not impressed with it. The story started off well enough and then it started to drag. While the friendship developed, I just couldn't buy into a romance since there wasn't anything there for the majority of the book. And I was bored with the story way before it ended. I also did not like Lord Ragsdale. I know he was meant to be a rascal, scoundrel etc. etc. and though he had his moments over all I did not like the ...more
Laura (Kyahgirl)
4.5/5; 5 stars; A

Carla Kelly has a gift for taking real historical events and crafting them into the foundation of her stories and the characters that those stories are about. I really enjoyed the premise of this book; a man who has allowed himself to become a dissolute wastrel as some sort of punishment for his sins during the war is dragged by the ear back on to a steady course by an indentured servant who thinks he is absolutely worthless in the beginning. As in so many of her books, Carla Ke
Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)
Bouncing between three and four stars! Maybe like a 3.67234! I really enjoyed this book! It was a good read and kept me entertained! That being said somewhere along the way the spark or magic of this book was lost to me! I don't know where it went! I just wasn't feeling any depth to the characters and the love story felt not genuine at all!
Apr 08, 2015 Megan rated it it was amazing
I loved the mix of wit and seriousness. I loved all the internalizations and all the thinking the protagonists do in this one--it's definitely not mental lusting but a fairly thorough account of how the characters change how they see themselves, how they relate to others. I loved how aggressive they are with their kindnesses (and it was kind of ridiculous at times, just how much they engaged in that).

I read this after Julie Anne Long's article about fallen women at Heroes and Heartbreakers, so I
Oct 17, 2010 Cecilia rated it liked it
Definitely one of the darkest Carla Kelly books I've ever read. I'm not sure I'm totally sold on the optimistic outcome, but I didn't find it artificial or unconvincing either. I think I would have liked this more as a longer book, with more development.
Jennifer (FFT Reviews)
4 Stars

I read this book for the 2016 TBR Challenge -- August -- Kicking It Old School. The challenge is hosted by Wendy the Super Librarian.

Carla Kelly is an author whose style is very distinctive and I enjoy reading her. Reforming Lord Ragsdale is one of those books that has been recommended to me many times. I adore enemies to lovers romances and the idea of an Irish indentured servant who is "rescued" by a former soldier who despises the Irish seemed like a story that I had to try. I bought i
Emilia Barnes
Did not finish this book. It reads as though Carla Kelly had taken her friends and family together and encouraged them each to write a sentence, one after another. It just makes no sense, and I mean, from sentence to sentence, not even from plot point to plot point.

The set up is so bizarre and impossible, that I don't even know where to start pointing out its inconsistencies. I don't understand anybody in this book: from the hero who keeps a mistress he dislikes and who obeys an Irish servant w
Feb 10, 2014 Corduroy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Corduroy by: kathleen*
My goodness. This is quite a book.

I've only recently discovered Carla Kelly's works (I started with The Lady's Companion, which is also pretty wonderful) and each one I've read so far has been startlingly great.

In this book, the Heroine, Emma, is an indentured Irish servant who, as her backstory slowly reveals, is an upper-class woman brought very low through tragic circumstance. Emma is a great character, like a lot of Kelly's female leads. She's so real, so funny, so strong and tough and vul
Felicia J.
I expected to enjoy Reforming Lord Ragsdale after reading so many rave reviews of Carla Kelly's books. But all the glowing recommendations didn't prepare me for how I'd feel about this novel. I didn't just enjoy it. I adored it.

The back-cover description makes this book sound like yet another cliched "reforming rake" story, but Carla Kelly seems incapable of writing in a cliched manner. Lord Ragsdale, English lord, and Emma Costello, Irish servant, became so real to me. Their conversations, reac
Aug 15, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a change it is for me to seek a mainstream author but for once I wanted something tried and true... and from all the reviews, I gathered Reforming Lord Ragsdale was one of Carla Kelly's most-loved books.

It certainly didn't disappoint. This is one solid, thoroughly enjoyable book. Reforming Lord Ragsdale is the journey of John Staples who from grief, boredom and disillusionment lives the life of a lazy, drunkard rake. With the help of practical Emma, he rekindles his zest for life and re-le
Ana T.
Jan 10, 2009 Ana T. rated it really liked it
The Rake's Progress

Emma Costello owed a debt of honor to one of the most dishonorable lords in the realm. The infamous Lord Ragsdale was as rich as sin, as sinful as he was rich, and as heartless as he was handsome. But he had saved Emma from a fate worse than death when he stopped a lecherous brute from buying her as an indentured servant.

It was Emma's turn now to save Lord Ragsdale from his wicked ways. She had to find a way to stop his drinking, his gaming, his wild revelry. She had to make h
Trissa White
Jan 26, 2014 Trissa White rated it really liked it
Clean regency romance. I didn't expect to like it because of the mistress and Lord Ragsdale's shady character. I prefer my fictional men to be honorable and good to the core. I was completely surprised at how much I did like him and learned that he really was a good man. There was a very very sad story attached to the heroine and because I know nothing of the actual history I wonder how much of it was based on truth. Their friendship developed over 80% of the book and romance did not show itself ...more
Stella Riley
Jun 02, 2013 Stella Riley rated it it was amazing
My thanks to Carla Kelly for saving my sanity on the day when The Black Madonna was stuck in a loop on Amazon and my stress level was going through the roof.
Reforming Lord Ragsdale is a beautifully-crafted example of a slowly developing relationship and both lead characters are very well-drawn. The inherent kindness in Lord Ragsdale makes him a loveable and extremely attractive hero. As for the sequence where he lies in bed getting completely legless and then wakes up to the inevitable consequen

What a beautifully crafted book! The story is original, the characters are wonderfully drawn, and the emotions are so real. I really don't know what else to say. It's now out as an ebook and I strongly recommend it to anyone who likes historicals, regencies, Carla Kelly, or anyone who simply loves a well-written book.
I know. I usually rate romance stories with 3 stars or less. Just a couple of romantic novels have received 4 stars (from me).

And this book is not that good.

How is it possible that I found it worth 4 stars? Well, Emma's fault. And John's. Or maybe a combination of both. I LOVED them and how they interacted. Despite the story being a bit unrealistic and Emma's obsession (view spoiler), the chemistry and the charming dialogues conquered me. The ending is a bi
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Although Carla Kelly is well known among her readers as a writer of Regency romance, her main interest (and first writing success) is Western American fiction—more specifically, writing about America's Indian Wars. Although she had sold some of her work before, it was not until Carla began work in the National P
More about Carla Kelly...

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“Oh, well, she decided as her eyes began to close, it is better to love foolishly than to hate bitterly. I hope I am wiser than I was and more kind.” 6 likes
“Oh, dear, she thought, this is probably more democracy than an Englishman can stand.” 0 likes
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