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3.4 out of 5 stars5
3.4 out of 5 stars

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on 22 July 2014

In order to write my review, I will include major spoilers so don't read it if you hate SPOILERS.

First, please note that Ms. Kelly is one of my favorite authors and I purchase all her books as soon as they come out on Kindle and plan to continue doing so. My issue is not with her writing but has more to do with the type of books I enjoy reading. In my experience, often Ms. Kelly's books contain gritty circumstances or happenings that do stir up unpleasant thoughts and feelings in the reader - at least - this reader. I can handle it - life is not always pleasant. However, when the unpleasant happenings relate to the hero's character, I can't help but think, this probably wasn't the book for me.

In Miss Chartley's Guided Tour, Miss Omega Chartley was left at the altar by her fiance, Matthew Bering, without any explanation and she never sees or hears from him again. Eight years have passed, her father is now dead, her financial circumstances have drastically changed and she is now having to support herself by teaching. Although trying to make the best of her life, she still wonders about Matthew - she loved him eight years ago and she still loves him.

While on her way to a new teaching situation, she has plans to have a short holiday but things change rapidly when she runs across a young boy, Jamie, who has run away from his abusive uncle and is trying to make his way to another uncle's home - Viscount of Byford. He is being chased by a Bow Street Runner and after a couple of run-ins with the Runner, Omega decides to forget her little vacation in order to help Jamie find his way to his uncle.

Omega and Jamie have some neat adventures on their way to Byford including meeting some great people - a war veteran named Hugh and his ward, Angela. Eventually they make their way to Byford to the Viscount's home. Much to Omega's surprise, the Viscount just happens to be Matthew Bering who inherited the title a few years back. At this point, the story becomes a little silly while everyone becomes acquainted - I won't spend time on this part.

Now to cut to the chase of why I disliked the story. Although Matthew treats Omega and her new found friends very well, he refuses to explain why he left her at the altar. Finally, he does explain and the story is very dark. On the night before he was to marry Omega, some of his friends planned a bachelor party that included his last "lay" with a very young 14 year old prostitute. They were all drunk, etc., but he did attempt to have sex with the girl, wasn't able to and she made fun of him. He slapped her so hard, her mouth bled and then he passes out at some point. When he wakes up the next morning, he is in bed with a very bloody dead girl. The uncle Jamie was running away from was present at the party and basically told Matthew to get out of Dodge and he would deal with the blood, the body, etc. Of course, it doesn't take the reader very long to realize - oh wow! - Jamie's abusive uncle probably had a hand in the dastardly deed.

Matthew doesn't remember anything except the fact that he wasn't able to perform and he did hit the prostitute. However, he is so distraught believing he has actually murdered a young girl, he can't find it in his heart to marry Omega nor ever tell her what he has done. To add to his problem(s), he has been impotent since the night he woke up to find the murdered girl in his bed.

Now, we all know that everything gets worked out in these stories and the H/h have their HEA. But - and this is a big BUT for me - the fact that the hero was going to have sex with a 14 year old prostitute - drunk or not - on the eve before his wedding and hit her so hard her mouth bled takes away from the story SO MUCH that I would NEVER have read it had I known he was capable of that. If this kind of darkness in your hero doesn't bother you - then you will probably enjoy the story.
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on 8 September 2014
I stated out loving this book, but then the author'as real hero appeared. I really feel the wrong man got the girl with this one and that the resourceful, chivalorous Hugh should have received Omega's affections. He may have only one hand, but he was more man than Matthew. Perhaps he was relegated to side kick because he's not rich or titled?
I like the heroine and the children. The only thing I have against Omega is that she's too daft to see Hughs better than Matthew and also how unlikely her reaction to Matthew's confession is. She is almost unfazed by it! No real woman, one with even a smidgeon of sense would miss the underlying truth behind Matthew's dreadful confession. No man in love would have behaved as he did.
Spoiler alert, Matthew is clearly contrite, as he confesses he may have murdered a 14 year old prostitute, he speaks cynically also of his willingness to have sex with her the night before his wedding and then how he brutally struck her when she laughed at him, as his inebriated state made him unable to perform. He talks as if he hates the man he was and it appears that his self loathing has hit his potency, he confesses to Omega that since that night he is impotent. He admits he has tested this with prostitutes sufficiently to judge his condition unalterable. Quite why he feels the need to pursue further exploitation of women to prove he's got a problem is beyond me, I should think not having the occasional nightly or morning events common to most men would be sign enough, without risking him indulging in the violence to women, he fears he may be prone to.
If I was her I'd pity him, be far more shocked by his confession and have no desire to reignite a relationship I would be grateful to have sidestepped. Men in love don't sleep with prostitutes the night before their wedding. What a lovely wedding gift to hus bride; the pox or the clap.
His confession doesn't necessarily mean he's a murderer, but it is a convincing argument against his actually being in love with her and his being willing to sleep with such a young prostitute and brutally slapping her is really nasty too.
Also, he didn't even try to anonymously help the heroinrpe when he heard she fell on hard times. A man who loved her, would have bent over backwards to help, but he doesn't even try to.
Grankly, I don't believe for one minute that this self absorbed, rather foolish and cowardly man who wallowed for 8 years in his own pity pit, cared much for her at all. He's unpleasant and creepy. No sensible woman and Omega is portrayed as sensible would believe he loved her, ever.
Added to the above, the whole we are married, but not really, story line is just silly. By this point in the story I was beginning to dislike Omega almost as much as Matthew.
It's not one of the author's better books and Matthew, rather like Ms Kelly's Beau Crusoe is one of the weakest and least appealing heroes I have ever found in literature. Omega ending up with him isn't a HEA it's a stupid mistake.
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on 7 November 2014
I actually agree with some of the things written by those giving this only two stars, but felt that their final assessment was too harsh. As usual, Carla Kelly's writing style is wonderful, but, as she often seems to do, she has based the story around a situation which leaves one with a very bad taste; she seems to have a slightly dark and twisted interest with really nasty things. The one handed Hugh Owen is special, but I think he will find his own happiness elsewhere and I felt quite happy that Omega Chartley ended up back with the man she had always loved. It is a strength of Carla Kelly's that she can write so many engaging characters into her stories and create a very real world for them to inhabit.
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on 25 September 2013
I love Carla Kelly's Regency Romances. She is a wonderful storyteller. There is sometimes a slight blip when her knowledge of British fauna and flora falls short (use of American birds or flowers that wouldn't have appeared in England) but other than that a really good tale.
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on 8 May 2014
I love the gutsy ladies that Carla Kelly portrays. She is the best story teller I've known! Very enjoyable book.
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