Ashley's Reviews > The Wedding Journey: Signet Regency Romance

The Wedding Journey by Carla Kelly
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really liked it
bookshelves: bookboyfriends
Recommended to Ashley by: Basically Melissa chooses my books for me these days lol

How rare to come across a hero who is as fundamentally selfless and kind-hearted as Jesse Randall, the hero of this novel. Jesse is a British field surgeon who has been serving in Spain during the Napoleonic wars. He has known the heroine, Nell Mason, since she was a little girl and he still a young trainee. She is the daughter of a captain whose family has been a laughingstock for years due to the captain's gambling, drinking, and inability to support the family he drags along with him from post to post. Nell has had the running of her family for quite some time, though she is still quite young herself. Jesse's boss, the Chief of the field hospital, has for a decade allowed Nell to assist at the hospital to help support her family.

Jesse is a quiet, bookish young man who has loved Nell for years. At the start of the story, Nell's father is bullied into giving her to a cruel major in order to settle his gambling debts and buy a coffin for Nell's dead mother. Nell and her rag tag crew of friends pull together to stop this plan. They scrounge up enough money to pay off the gambling debts and Jesse marries Nell to put a full stop to her father and the major's machinations. And that marriage of convenience is the root of the trouble that follows, as the major she was to marry abandons the field hospital in retaliation, dying patients and all, in the middle of a retreat from an onslaught of French troops...

This was basically a road trip novel, and what a good one it was! It was 40% romance and 60% a story about how the odd, intimate, and intense conditions of war allow people to bond and create makeshift families. The major secondary characters in this book are fully realized and pop off the page just as much as the lovely hero and heroine do. This book has some evil characters, and Major Bones, the big villain, is a total cookie cutter baddie. Luckily, he's only the guy who sets the story in motion and really does not have much of a physical presence in the book. It's the good, decent heroes who get to shine:

Jesse - a mannerly, shy, and focused doctor
Nell - a wise, earnest young lady who has basically been beaten down so much she considers herself "a woman of breathtaking insignificance" :(
The Chief - a kind but snarky old man who considers the heroine the daughter he never had
Harper - a cut-purse turned soldier who saves everyone's ass over and over again
Leger - a Frenchman whose wife and daughters were killed by the guillotine in The Terror

I don't know what I was expecting: a fun little romp about a ragtag group of misfits trying to outrun the French army and make it to Portugal? Fluffy romance a la The Lure of the Moonflower, which was also about a hero and heroine trekking through Portugal and Spain during the Napoleonic wars? Boy was I wrong! This was quite a serious little novel; and yet, even though the good people in this story saw and suffered so many awful things, it still left me feeling quite uplifted. How refreshing to read about people who wade their way through cruelty, indignity, and lots of mud and make it to the other side with their integrity, spirit, and hope intact.

The hero and heroine in this saw each other clearly from the first and recognized what a good, worthwhile person the other was, even if they couldn't see themselves quite so clearly. We don't even get a real romantic moment until maybe 70% into the story, when (view spoiler). Folks who want a fullblown romance might be underwhelmed by this story, however. Just a warning.

I have some gripes. The internal dialogue was weird to me. Maybe it was the formatting? I prefer to have it italicized. And I got so damn annoyed by how much the hero invoked Hippocrates. I liked how good he was, but I hated how every time he mentioned the Hippocratic oath some boy scout line was sure to tumble out of his mouth next. The ending was also quite rushed.

Overall a quiet, lovely lovely book. A solid 4 star read.

I've had a really great reading streak lately and encountered some great new books. Let's hope it continues...and that I'll be less wordy in my next review.
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Reading Progress

January 4, 2016 – Shelved (Kindle Edition)
January 4, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read (Kindle Edition)
January 7, 2016 – Started Reading
January 7, 2016 – Shelved
January 8, 2016 – Shelved as: bookboyfriends
January 8, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Melissa I loved this book a lot. Just reading your review made me feel choked up, thinking about the characters and remembering what they went through.

All Jesse's internal conversations with Hippocrates got to me after a while, too. It happened way too often and was a little irritating. I finally told myself it was the quirky wartime coping mechanism of a shy man who didn't have enough people to confide in, and he'd stop doing it once he was away from the war and had Nell to talk to. That made me feel less annoyed by it. ;)

Nell considering herself "a woman of breathtaking insignificance" is so sad, but she doesn't think it in any self-pitying way, she's just that humbled by the circumstances of her life that she accepts it as just the way it is.

"It would be heaven, I think," she said. "I could probably lounge in bed until seven in the morning, couldn't I?"

When he didn't answer, she looked at him, then wondered why he appeared so solemn. "Oh dear. Perhaps only until six and a half, then," she suggested. "But I would like roast goose at Christmas, if we could."

"Done, madam," he replied. His voice still sounded strange, but he hugged her even tighter, and she did not think he was angry with her for asking.

That little exchange killed me! Her hopes for life are so small, and yet even those little things seem like asking for too much to her. Jesse's reaction is so subtle and touching, too. You know it breaks his heart that she should feel this way, and he can't wait to take her home and give her the comfort and security she's never had in life.

The book is full of graceful, quiet, character-illuminating moments like that. As grim and awful as some of he things that happen in it are, it really is a very uplifting and heartwarming story. I loved it and know I'll want to read it again. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, too! Especially since I'm your personal shopper these days, when it comes to books, lol.

message 2: by Ashley (new) - added it

Ashley I'm so glad you mentioned that scene! I'd highlighted it too, because I found it so beautiful how even the smallest things had the ability to make Jesse and Nell hopeful and happy. I loved the bit that I think may have come just after this, where he imagines reaching into his family's bank vault and pulling out a piece of jewelry for her to wear, imagines what her reaction would be to that.

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