Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Cedar Fort whereupon I am thankful to have such a diverse amount of novels and non-fiction titles to choose amongst to host. I received a complimentary copy of “Courting Carrie in Wonderland” direct from the publisher Sweetwater Books (imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I personally love soaking inside a Carla Kelly Historical:
Carla Kelly shines her soulful grace of the craft of story-telling within this novel, which accomplishes much more at it’s core than merely telling us a story wrought out of the Western genre within the folds of a Historical Fiction. No, this novel seeks a gentle truth towards telling a story rooted in the realism between the continental divides of race, identity, and personal worth as related to station, lifestyle, and locale. She interweaves a gentle hand of guidance within the minds of her characters, but it is how each of her characters bespeak of their innermost beliefs I found endeared me the most to the novel itself.
Kelly has captured my heart for the American West and given me a novel fully supported of cultural integrity and diversity of spirit, soul, heart, and the pursuit of finding your own path when life gives you an intercession of pause to choose how you want to live rather than having a life dictated to you.
-quoted from my first reading of a Carla Kelly novel in 2014 on behalf of ‘Softly Falling’
And, I had the pleasure of reading a second novel by her in 2015:
She has such a wicked clever wit about her dialogue and the conversational exchanges she induces her characters to evolve inside, I find myself happily immersed in her novels post haste! As reflected when I had read Softly Falling I fell so close to the lead characters, I had not begged to exit the story anytime soon! She draws you in with her command of setting and timescape; as this story Summer Campaign held within it all the ferocity of a Jane Austen novel set around the period of time in a young woman’s life where she has become the object of marriageable age.
-quoted from my reading of ‘Summer Campaign’
You can see why I was excited about the prospect of reading a ‘third’ Carla Kelly novel! There have been a few of her novels which have toured which I passed over reading – either the story-line was outside my comfort zone (ie. The Civil War era) or I simply did not have the free time I wished I could have had to consume it. One thing is for certain, I will be spending many a moon in the future seeking out her titles and enjoying the journey I take into her collective works! For awhile now, I have simply felt blessed and overjoyed in finding a few of her novels have been available to review on blog tours! It’s become such a delightful way to be ‘introduced’ to her characters and the different periods of the historic past she loves to write about!
Courting Carrie in Wonderland
Subtitle: Is Kissing Against Army Regulations?
Mercy, he was a fool for this woman. Why on earth had Major Pitcher told him to look for a wife? This was more trouble and heartache than he needed right now since his affairs had suddenly turned south.
Struggling through college and balancing her summer job with the Wylie Camping Company, Carrie simply doesn't have time to consider romance. War veteran Sergeant Major Ramsay Stiles isn't looking for love either because of his own complicated job. But as the magic of Yellowstone Park makes its way into their hearts, both see love making its way up their priority lists.
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on 1st March, 2017
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my review of courting carrie in wonderland:
Although unrelated to the ‘wonderland’ of this novel, I began reading this story set to the backdrop of “Tara’s Theme” by André Rieu in Wonderland. I love how I can modify my listening soundscapes by queuing in different pieces of music through my headphones via Slacker Radio! More oft than not, I am finding the symmetry and the coincidences of selections provide a musical harmony accompaniment to what I am reading!
In the Spring of 1903, we entreat beside the Sergeant Major as he takes position to safeguard President (Teddy) Roosevelt from an uncertain fate when a member of the crowd (awaiting a speech of dedication; on behalf of the newly established National Parks, etc. as related to Yellowstone) jostles himself forward with a supposed intent to do Roosevelt harm. The two men share a whispered conversation before duty takes precedent but within those short moments, both men admire the other. For they have served and survived some of the worst situations any officer could face when sent to war. It is an interesting place to begin this story, as it’s on the footsteps of the Sergeant Major changing his duties; his position is about to become more desk bound than assigned to the field – a change he’s not yet certain is of his best interests to embrace.
On a personal note, I found myself nodding in agreement with his observation about how certain constellations have a way of following you no matter where you are at any given point in time. You can cast your eyes skyward and see the same collection of stars at home as you would elsewhere and it is during those particular moments, your quite curious: who is following whom? Or better still, how can being in one place and then another, dictate the same position of stars if the stars are influenced by the rotation of Earth and Moon as much as latitude and longitude? It is surely one of those human curiosities that none of us shall truly understand in this lifetime. And, yet how lovingly fitting it is to be able to stretch mind and heart upwards to find a ‘familiar’ sight in the heavens; a wink of awareness of how rare a treat it is to see the stars as bright as being just out of reach but yet, so distant at the same time? I liked how Ms Kelly drew a connection between something we can all relate too, and the internal mind of her leading man. His thoughts are contemplating the meaning behind his actions and how some of his years in service proved to be quite jarring to where he’s still not fully recovered from the effects of what he saw or did. (these portions felt like moments of dealing with PTSD)
Quite early-on, Kelly asserts the ‘Wonderland’ of her story is related directly to the curiously glorious site of her setting: Yellowstone National Park of which I can attest is a feast for the eyes and soul. As I grew up with the adventures of my Mum’s family excursions West including their visits to Wyoming and Colorado. The best adjective she always lamented to me was it was simply ‘God’s country’ and therefore, I could immediately connect to Ms Kelly’s declaration of ‘Wonderland’; as to see true natural beauty and be swept inside the germination of it’s eclipse on your soul and spirit has to be a blessing beyond what mere words can express.
As seasons start to exchange for one another, we start to see how the life of an Army’s encampment is not quite as fetching as one might think. Sure, the comings and goings of different companies is one thing but to be settled at the camp itself is quite a tiring ordeal. Not too much changes as the seasons change except the diminished rations of available food – including game readily available as a source of protein. You start to see how the Sergeant Major might be keen on ‘something’ to fetch his eye of interest if he isn’t meant to succumb to boredom outright! If you think on it though – past your set duties, it had to be quite a droll life.
One thing that startled me a bit but then as I thought on it a bit more realised the past shouldn’t make me cringe anymore than the present – which was the nightmare situation he had to settle in his heart about his orders to ‘reduce’ the population of wolves. There is a growing concern in our modern world for the safety and sanctity of wolves in their natural habitat even now; why they are constantly being threatened and killed is beyond me. All animals deserve to reside in their habitats without fear of being assaulted but there are some which chose to dictate which are allowed to live and which are meant to be controlled by means which break all our hearts. It was truly soothing to hear his own fears offering prayers of hope the wolves would not come near his encampment and thereby lesson his duty in needing to do anything but respect them from afar. It had to be soul-wretching; to receive orders and wonder if you should dismiss them or face them despite how they go against your beliefs?
His spirit lifts a bit at the prospect of touring the Park throughout the Summer – a rounding stroke of luck to have the freedom of choice to visit and court the visitors with his presence if only as pretense towards keeping everything civil and lawful within the Park itself. I liked how his CO even encouraged him to monitor the animals and wildlife, to keep a rotating measure of how many animals were present as much as finding time to court a wife, if at all possible! This last bit made me smile – especially after the series of ‘pertinent questions’ as necessary if a bloke such as he was about to be ‘marketable’ to seek a wife! His credit is both his acceptance of the enquiry and of potentially considering how much it made sense if he were to be honest as well.
I could immediately resonate an alliance with Ramsay (the forementioned Sergeant Major) as I am a nature girl – I have blogged many a time about how keen I am on the natural world and the natural environs which lift my spirit into a sanctuary of calm reverie. To be caught up in scenes where he’s riding through the Park (Yellowstone) and privy to elk or buffalo going about their everyday lives is something you wish you could see for yourself – and rightly nearly do, as Ms Kelly has graced her novel with an intuitive eye for giving wildlife a strong visual presence in this novel. It’s something I commend and love to find – as her passion for the setting and the alluring way in which the natural world beckons all us to simply stand ‘still and observe’ is something I truly understand!
How Ramsay and Carrie ‘met’ is nothing short of a ‘meet-cute’ situation in the wilds of an untamed park where the true inhabitants are the wildlife who call it home and thereby, do not take kindly to the ‘humans’ who are interceding their presence in their habitat! It’s such a good chuckle of how you can get yourself into quite a pickle without even truly trying! After more than a gentle nudge by his CO’s wife and a book in hand to help him appropriate the right behaviour and modes of speech in front of a lady, you could say Ramsay was out of his depth in knowing how to proceed! I had a good giggle over how he found the book slightly offensive in not being able to ‘riddle out’ all the situations which could pop up in a bloke’s life where finding the right thing to say might be harder than one first thinks! Laughs.
I love finding stories which have a strong sense of conservation, preservation and a general fire in their characters’ bellies for protecting wildlife. Ms Kelly has given her hero and heroine a mutual accord for voicing their own concerns on behalf of the bears of whom were being paraded about as ‘entertainers for guests’ rather than being guarded as the fierce bears they are and rightly deserve a bit more respect from everyone round! On a personal note, on having interacted with bears previously during my college years – bears are territorial and protective of their own. They do not do well in our environs anymore than they would survive long in theirs; there has to be a balance and an acceptance of differences. Plus, their right to have land and freedom to live their lives in their natural habitat is paramount. I have a healthy respect for bears – even if I came quite close to a mama bear and her silly three cubs who had the charming idea to ‘scamper up a tree’ just ahead of hibernation! I’m sure you can ‘fill in the blanks’ on how that was resolved!
One of the gentle murmurs of the narrative is how each person in turn has a knowing understanding of how the past can become back round in mind, heart and memory. Of how finding someone to tell the stories of their past too is sometimes harder than one thinks as it’s a courage of trust. Carrie herself had a hard upbringing and a life of standing on her merits whilst embracing that despite the adversities she and her mother shared, she had a grit of strength inside her which would carry her through anything which came along. This she shared with Ramsay, as he too, had to develop an internal resolve to beat the worst of what life brought his way. Somehow in all their routes to reach this point in their life, they each found themselves in a place which encouraged them to seek out a calm serenity and believe in the possibilities of having ‘more’ rather than ‘less’ in their futures.
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