One Good Turn has been a long awaited book for those of us who greatly admire Carla Kelly so, first of all, a simple and heartfelt thank you to the author for this book - one I thought she might never write.
It's been interesting to read the comments about it. I won't go into the plot because it has been well summed up elsewhere. I would, however, like to make a few brief comments about other matters.
First of all, yes, as a "reader from Europe" says, there are a few inaccuracies and "Americanisms" in this book. This is something I myself am often critical of as an American living in England for it really annoys me when authors make what appear to me as very obvious blunders. However, I have to say I didn't see the errors here as particularly significant as when Edith Layton has made similar. Kelly, like Layton, creates characters who are so strong and believable that you just don't care because they shine through any mistakes.
This is a book about growing up, in essence. We met Benedict Nesbitt, Duke of Knare, in Libby's London Merchant. Again, this was a book which has a flaw in research but which Kelly magnificently owned up to in the recent reissue. In LLM, Nez did not get his lady; she instead gave herself to a man who had fully matured, was comfortable in his own skin and knew where he was going. In LLM, and at the beginning of OGT, Nez was still looking for a life path.
The reader who said that the historical setting seemed unreal perhaps is not familiar with the history of the Peninsular War. Those who are will know that Badajoz was a turning point in the struggle against Napoleon. By 1812, the British troops were hardened from a long and hard campaign, the seige of the city was grim and losses on the allied side incredibly high. I have been to Badajoz and Cuidad Rodrigo (site of another difficult seige) and have seen the places the British Army fought. Descriptions I have read of the fight before the glacis are horrible; layers of still warm bodies as others climbed over them to get ladders to the walls and bastions. It was, as Wellington himself admitted, unforgiveable what the troops on entering the city did but it does not compare with some of the things the French did. And, Kelly describes it and the feelings it left in some of those involved so well. I have read memoires from survivors and she has truly let us have an informed look at the whole event. So, hats off for this; she has done a wonderful job.
Nez grows up in this book. He looks at his relationships with his fellow Army officers and his troops, with his father, mother and sister, his former love, Libby and her wonderful husband Dr Tony Cook. What he does is learn to accept the past knowing that he cannot change it and then to look forward by giving love and support to another victim of the past, Liria and her little son Juan. The relationship between Nez and his wonderful butler, Luster, is very well drawn; rather like the wonderful servants in Gayle Wilson's historical books. Who can help but fall in love with Nez, a man who finally learns his self worth and is capable of offering so much.
All in all, this is a wonderful, superior read. When I compare it with some of the other regency fiction around, it truly transcends some of it. Carla Kelly creates high tension, adult relationships, strong characterisations and draws settings which for the most part are believable and accurate. I love the way she often tells her stories from the male perspective, letting us share their thoughts and emotions. Please, please, Carla Kelly, keep writing. Please, please, please.