My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
Another Carla Kelly book I picked up cause I was intrigued by the blurb. I generally don’t read reviews of her books before reading, where in most cases I wanna check the reviews first before picking up a book. Marriage of Mercy was no different. I like to enjoy Ms. Kelly’s books as it is, then decide whether I liked it or not.
Marriage of Mercy is another sweet story between a baker and an American prisoner of war. Even though for the first 60% the book was rather ho hum, the story picked up after that and the twist at the end pretty much had me there. I was wondering what the hell was happening, cause I didn’t expect any of that!
Grace or as everyone calls her, Gracie, has fallen far. From a Baronet’s daughter to a baker, not a good thing for someone whose father was once considered a peer of the realm, even if a penniless peer. Grace’s father didn’t like to bother with finances and never cared to manage however small a fortune he had, hence, when he passed away, he left his only child under a huge debt and no one to help her out of that. Her mother passed on long ago, so Grace finds herself without any money, any help, and pretty much out of her mansion only with the clothes on her back when the mansion, and everything else were sold out to clear the debt. But she isn’t the type to whine and cry. Gracie knew early on that she doesn’t have a shining future because of what a spendthrift her father was. And she hated it! She tried to make him understand and work with her so they can save some for the future, HER future. But Henry Curtis was baffled as to why she’d even bother to think of money, or earning money TBH, when they’re peers of the realm! And working to earn is so crass a thought! *eyeroll*
Hence Grace has been mentally preparing for a long time for the inevitable to happen. At least that’s what I thought. That day, 10yrs. ago, when she finally found herself without a penny, Grace decided she will work to earn her pay and the best people that came to mind were the town bakers Mr. and Mrs. Wilson. Two kindly people who had owed her money yet didn’t turn her away ever from their doorstep. Unsurprisingly, they took her in when she reached out. They also had daughters and they knew of Grace’s situation well. And I definitely didn’t think they took her in just because she offered to work off the money they owed.
Even though Grace had never worked a day in her life before that, she trained well and now is the best asset to Mr. Wilson’s bakery. Even though these days, the peers, who she once thought were her friends, don’t bother to acknowledge her, Grace had been content with her life. It was monotonous but she liked the security of it. Her Quimby Crèmes, named after their little town, is the best thing out there. She knew people loved all their baked goods, but it was her Crèmes that brought a Marquess to the doorstep of the bakery. An old and grouchy man who was tamed by Quimby Crèmes; so much so, when he died, he included Grace in his will! And it shocked the hell out of Grace. She’s to have 30 pounds a year... but there are conditions. It seems the Marquess, who never married, has had enough fun, fathering an illegitimate son somewhere in America where he served when he was in the army. He knows his son Daniel was alive and doing well as the captain of a ship. But recently, amidst the war with America, the British troops have been raiding the seas, bringing in the prisoners of war and keeping them in the dark, dank and miserable Dartmoor prison. The Marquees knew that Daniel is also stuck in that hell-hole and he’d worked to gain Daniel’s release under parole for a year.
Now Daniel’s to be brought to Quimby. He’s going to live in the empty Dower House and to be taken care of until he’s hale and hearty once again. And Only Grace will do for that job. She must be there to take care of him for that year before he could be released and can leave for America....... and if possible, marry him if their pairing seems amenable. Nothing could’ve prepared our strong and hardworking heroine more than this odd little will! But she did care for the old grouch so Grace decides to honor his wishes. Those 30 pounds would be the cherry on top, for someday, she wishes to buy the bakery from the Wilsons when they aren’t able to run it any longer. If only the new Marquess, who is as mean as well as a pinchpenny, would let her ‘work’ in peace on this new venture of hers! He’s already aired his disgust with this part of the will. :/
But things don’t go as planned when she and Mr. Selway, the Marquess’s lawyer, reach Dartmoor. In that miserable and unholy place, Grace learns that there’s a side of the humanity she’d rather not have witnessed. But it was the terms of the will that she must be there when Daniel is released. Sadly, when Daniel Duncan dies before she could even do anything, Grace must make a hasty decision to take someone else with her. You’d say she was thinking of her 30 pounds, but there were other variables at work here. First of all, Daniel, with his last breathe pleads her to choose from one of his men and give him a chance to live. Grace would, of course, honor his wish as she was honoring his father’s. Then, for some reason, she looks at another inmate and simply feels he must be the one. It was one of those things you just know... Daniel’s men agreed and helped her accomplish the switch. Rob Inman was filthy, hungry and ill but he had a better chance of survival than the rest of the crew of the ship. And, unbeknownst to Grace, he was about to turn her monotonous life upside down.
Somehow, Grace gets away with it. Even Mr. Selway didn’t notice in the middle of all that chaos, where all the inmates looked exactly the same as Rob. Grace requests Rob to keep it shut, to not divulge his real identity if he’s to live another year. Or have clean bed, food and other amenities Rob only dreamed of for the past year. After all was settled, Grace takes on the monumental task to bring her Prisoner back to health pretty much all by herself. It was apparent that many Quimby Crèmes would be necessary for this process! :D There was Emery, the old gardener who told her he was turned off by the new master so he’d like to be around and help. Grace was only happy to have him around.
In the following chapters, we witness how things unfold between Grace and Rob, which includes an attraction that was palpable since the beginning. They start off as good friends, but it didn’t take long for something else to blossom. Grace was SO sure she would live out her life as a spinster, already being 28, that this came as a dream come true for her. She did want to marry and have her own family. Rob is of the same age, and when he’s not moody or broody, he’s as charming as they come. In a few weeks of his arrival, he had already won over the residents of Quimby, including the Wilsons, with his wit and easy smile, his kindness, not to mention, with his recipe of doughnuts! The hated Prisoner of War was now a celebrated man. Being with him each day, Grace wasn’t surprised at all, for she knew he was also winning her over.
Rob loved to be with Grace, to laugh and banter with her, giving her hope that this may lead to somewhere. It also gave Rob a hope of a better life. And though the new Marquess was being a PITA to them both by trying to bring in danger (Rob was to be shot at sight if he went far from the Dower House without Grace, that was the term of the release), things soon start becoming more intimate. Grace soon gives into the passion, knowing Rob and she, if God willing, will have a future in Nantucket where he owns a house, which has been left vacant ever since his first wife died. Rob is not dirt poor either; he’s made a nice fortune from his days on the ship. So all they have to do is to go to America as soon as it was possible for them.
Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned once again. Fickle fate steps in to ruin Grace and Rob’s one chance at happiness when the mean Marquess again brings trouble to their doorstep, and Rob is forced to run for his life in the dead of the night. Grace is thrown out of the Dower House too. But she had a place with the Wilsons still. And she had not a clue about what to do. Mr. Selway, the kindly lawyer, has not been seen ever since he bought Rob back. Though he’s been sending them money, Grace couldn’t even locate him when she tried earlier one day. Now what will she do? How can she help Rob? Save him from being carted to Dartmoor once again? And she couldn’t bear if anything ever happens to him. She could see the horror in Rob’s eyes at every mention of that place. Grace would rather die with him!
But then things start unraveling for Grace with help coming from the most unexpected of places. There were some totally startling twists and turns in the story that elevated it from an ‘okay’ read to something very intriguing. I was thinking WOW, I didn’t see that coming! So thank YOU Ms. Kelly for making me love this story even more!
Now, I did read some of the reviews of this story after I was finished. Sadly, many aren’t that positive. Some seemed like those reviewers didn’t bother finishing the book. Some mentioned this read a lot like another of Ms. Kelly’s earlier works (which I will check out to compare if better than this one)... but there was one particular review that caught my attention. Someone rated the book 1 star because it had sex scenes; because she’s used to clean Carla Kelly books. Uh, first of all, the sex scenes were very, VERY tame. Mostly faded-to-black type, very little details to speak of. And it only showed the reviewer’s ignorance about an author’s work she ‘claimed to love’. Ms. Kelly writes for multiple publishers so whether a story would be clean or not depends on who she’s writing for. Marriage of Mercy was published from Harlequin so I knew to expect some amount of intimacy between the characters. When someone pointed this fact out to her, this reviewer didn’t bother to amend the rating or even make a note on her review. I understand it may have come to her as a surprise but to rate it 1 star for something so stupid (definitely not the author’s fault and she didn’t say she hated the story) is just........ *SMH* I don’t even know what to say. I don’t usually rant or bother with low ratings for a book or for a favorite author, preferring to do my own review, but this struck me as extremely unfair.
In conclusion, I give Marriage of Mercy 4 stars because of that last bit of crazy drama that soooooo got me! I really wished there were a few more chapters of Rob and Grace, especially in Nantucket. Definitely would’ve loved that. :)