Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Carla Kelly - Mrs Drew Plays Her Hand and Miss Grimsley's Oxford Career

Mrs. Drew Plays her hand: Young widow Roxanna Drew was fair game in the sport of cads. But the one man she could trust, the one that set her heart afire, had been betrayed once before by a woman... and he didn't intend to submit to love's desires once again.
Miss Grimsley's Oxford Career: Disguised as her own brother in order to realize her dream of attending the male-only Oxford University, Miss Ellen Grimsley finds her cover blown when a handsome lord, himself disguised as a humble scholar, falls in love with her.

Comment: I got this book when I was looking for the second story included and when I found it I saw I could actually buy the story included in a omnibus edition (with the 1st story) for the same price that I'd spend in the single title book! 
I went and bought the omnibus edition and what a bargain it was, two stories for the same price as one, even in used books pricing.

This omnibus of two novels by the author is a clever idea to put together titles that alone don't seem very big. The two stories included here were originally written in 1994 and 1992 respectively.
the first story features a young widow and a divorced lord and the second one focuses on two people who love books and studying but have a social place that doesn't allow them the freedom they want for it.
Of the two I preferred the first one, something that really surprised me, considering that my original goal was to read the second one and I only read the first story because it is included in this volume, otherwise I wouldn't get it. Sometimes chance does work for us.
But a few lines about each story.

Mrs Drew Plays her Hand is a sweet story about a widow that is forced to accept the fact other man now see her as fair game. In particular, her brother-in-law, who has a unhappy marriage thinks her as the solution to his personal troubles. Roxana Drew is a pragmatic but caring mother who did everything she could to help her husband and was with him until the end. She misses him and everything her happy marriage gave her, something that happened not only since he died but since he got ill, years before.
Lord Winn is a man refused in all the good houses because he's divorced. His former wife was unfaithful while he was at war and when he found out he wasn't quiet about it. Now only his sisters receive him but he's tired of having to live alone with gossiping. He much more prefers to be completely alone. He meets Roxana when traveling to check on his properties and she is renting one of his houses to escape her brother-in-law. Circumstances force them to be together and the result is a wonderful story, very sweet and perfectly told. 
This story won a RITA! I didn't even know it and I could almost miss a great story based on the blurb but the story is very good and I really enjoyed reading about those characters. I think both were appealing, engaging and had a certain voice I loved reading through. The story is wonderful, the characters all come alive and the HEA is more than amazing, is a true story about forgiveness, redemption, true love, serious affection. I loved it.
Grade: 9/10

Miss Grimsley's Oxford Career was my intended original buy because I like stories with misconstrued ideas and hidden identities and this story was dead on both! 
Miss Ellen Grimsley wants to study, to travel, to know more. She knows her sex forbids her to do everything she wishes and her most likely future is marriage but she doesn't resist to take her brother's place at Oxford for a while and she does love the environment, the study halls, the library...
Lord Chesney/James Gatewood is a man who knows he'll have to take on his duties as a lord and stop being at Oxford as a student, something he loves. He meets Ellen and figures later she's doing her brother's papers for him and kind of helps her and gives her a push to keep doing so. He doesn't tell her who he really is but in the end things get confused and they both have to take charge of their duties.
I wasn't as marveled by this as I imagined I would when I first read the blurb which, by the way, isn't as good as it promises. The story has too many things, details and hidden wishes that I thought this could only be read as comedy, something I didn't particularly like that much in fiction. I mean, in this case I also don't think it was that well done. I didn't really like Ellen or James despite recognizing their wants and the fact it must have so for many people at a time where society had such a power over institutions and people's places/hierarchy and such. I struggles to stay focused on the story and not roll my eyes at some scenes which bordered on stupid and melodramatic.
Grade: 6/10

I think it's obvious by the style of both stories they were written by ms Kelly. But frankly I have mixed feelings because the story I didn't think about much was the one I loved and the story I wanted ended up being meh.
It shows that it was written years ago - based on my reads of some of her more recent books - but overall, I feel both had their virtues but the execution only feels perfect in one. Actually the older one, which is another argument for my idea her writing does get better with time.
Despite each story having a different feel for me, and different outcomes in my POV, the fact is I've read this book as a whole, so my final grade will be about the whole book. And considering my different views about each story, it will be a reflex of both.
Grade: 7.5/10 = rounded up to
Grade: 8/10

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