A big family, a reading addiction, and the occasional celebrity scandal are the ingredients of life that create one woman's opinion on just about everything.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

TBR Day: Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand




Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand by Carla Kelly. Originally published by Signet in December 1994. This publication is a Signet Regency double edition was released in July 2003.

At last I'm getting this review posted. While I had two drafts started for this book I decided to start over because it's been awhile since I read it. As you may recall this was supposed to be posted for last months TBR Day.

It's always a good sign when I pick up a book and have a warm feeling and a smile on my face. The cover art itself doesn't engender those feelings. It's almost always a residual memory of my reading experience. Such is the case with MRS. DREW PLAYS HER HAND.

The title of this book very aptly captures the essence of the story. Dealt a very cruel hand in life when her beloved husband dies after a lengthy illness, Roxanna Drew finds herself having to make difficult choices over and over again. Left alone with two young daughters and no support, Roxanna is going to have to rely on the financial support and shelter of her husband's titled brother.

I couldn't help but think of Sophie from William Styron's SOPHIE'S CHOICE. I was reminded while reading this book how choices we make 'in the now' can have a long lasting affect on our lives. We don't always know when we're choosing what the fall out will be. Most of us are just doing the best we can day by day...hoping. This is very much the case with Roxanna.

Trying to make the best decision for herself and her children after her husband dies isn't easy. Roxanna wonders if it is better to fall into the arms of her wealthy brother-in-law who wants to keep her safe under his roof and warm in his bed, or try to make a life for herself and children as a tenant in a ramshackle cottage on the land of Lord Fletcher Winn.

Lord Winn is a war hero who doesn't want to acknowledge what he's been through. He also can't stand most of his family and in desperation to get some distance and a break from them sets out on a tour of his holdings when he meets Mrs. Drew. He's intrigued and fascinated almost against his will.

These were such full bodied and interesting characters. Even though the story premise seems like such a familiar one, Ms. Kelly manages to make it interesting and fresh.

I really appreciated that Mrs. Drew did not throw aside the love she had for her dead husband just because she meets a man she is attracted to. Ms. Kelly made wonderful references to her husband's likeness in her children, the couple's love and closeness and even about Roxanna missing his physical presence in her life.

It was with mixed emotions to read about her attraction to Lord Winn when there is also an element of guilt and surprise about those feelings less than a year after her beloved husband's death. I felt compassion, sorrow and relief right along with her. As a reader we get to watch Roxanna recover from the long period of illness and the shadow of grief she's been living with.

This made the character so much more real to me. Roxanna's inner feelings and thoughts as she struggled with her worries about her children, her attraction to Winn, and her grief were so well done I felt I was experiencing them with a friend or family member.

It is no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I love a tortured hero. What made Winn so much more delicious is that his sorrow and sadness are hidden beneath a
blasé exterior. I loved this because even though we know what's going on in Winn's head Roxanna doesn't. Loved it. Did I mention that?

It is the courage of both Roxanna and Winn making the best of the cards and choices that life has dealt them that makes this such a good read.

It hasn't been easy finding Ms. Kelly's older books, but it certainly has been worth the effort. My grade is an 'A' for a full bodied, enjoyable read about people you can care about.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Lori said...

Oooh, this sounds so good! I never knwe she wrote historicals...

7:29 AM PDT  
Blogger Wendy said...

This 2-in-1 edition is buried in my TBR...somewhere.

I used to review with a bunch of Carla Kelly fans, and one of them adored this book. Said it was her very, very favorite.

8:32 AM PDT  
Blogger meljean brook said...

This is my favorite Carla Kelly -- I have this same edition, and I really enjoyed the second story, but it's this one that I pick up and re-read.

12:29 PM PDT  
Blogger Kristie (J) said...

LOL - I had this one in my hands and started reading it yesterday - but I was over halfway done the book I did do and thought I'd have a better chance of getting it read then starting from scratch with MSPHH. But I just might do it for August! I have a few of her books in the TBR pile - none of them read yet - and I hear such wonderful things about her.

2:46 PM PDT  
Blogger Rosie said...

Lori, I didn't know she wrote anything but historicals. I can say I've really enjoyed the two books I have read though.

Wendy, I found my 2-in-1 at a UBS clearance table and snatched it up. I've heard so many good things about MDPHH that I figured it couldn't NOT buy it even in a double volume just for the bargain value. You know how that goes...

Meljean, sometimes you don't know how to review a book that you like so much without either sounding like a used car salesman or an idiot. Sometimes all I want to say is, "This is a really good book. You should read it."

10:11 PM PDT  

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