Book review: Carla Kelly dishes out another charming romance in 'Reforming Lord Ragsdale'

By Alicia Cunningham

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, March 29 2014 1:00 p.m. MDT

"REFORMING LORD RAGSDALE," by Carla Kelly, Cedar Fort, $8.99, 279 pages (f)

A wealthy, handsome rogue who hides his inner perfection behind a mask formed from years of pain. A beautiful, vulnerable woman who sees behind the mask and is able to bring out the inner perfection with her love. A suspenseful ending where the vulnerable woman is saved and the rogue reformed, and throughout the process, the realization of a love that can no longer be denied despite overwhelming complications.

These are some of the ingredients for a successful Regency-era romance, and Utah author Carla Kelly masterfully mixes the tale together so it's easy to dig in again and again.

"Reforming Lord Ragsdale" is the tale of Lord Ragsdale and the Irish servant girl Emma Costello. Though Lord Ragsdale is rude, selfish and wasting his life, not to mention his wealth, he is able to see the beauty, intellect and courage behind Emma's servant role.

Lord Ragsdale's suspicions are correct: Emma was not always a servant girl. She still suffers from the pain of betrayal and loss, and she realizes that serving Lord Ragsdale well will allow her to find answers that have haunted her for more than five years. Her story is heartbreaking and adds a historical depth to "Reforming Lord Ragsdale."

The story is told in both Lord Ragsdale's and Emma's voices, allowing an inside view of the thoughts of each main character, depending on the chapter. Kelly, however, loses the voice of Lord Ragsdale cousin, Robert Claridge. At the beginning of the book, he is rude, selfish and criminally unkind. He reappears at the end of the book and is kind and magnanimous. The change is too extreme and confusing.

"Reforming Lord Ragsdale" is a clean novel with no swearing, no detailed or excessive violence and nothing beyond kissing in the romance. Kelly lives in Wellington, Utah.

Alicia Cunningham is a graduate of Brigham Young University and George Mason School of Law. A mother of four, she teaches American government and intellectual property law at Neumont University. She blogs at bloggingonbooks.wordpress.com.

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