Desert Isle Keeper
Anne's Perfect Husband
Gayle Wilson is a RITA winner for her contemporary romantic suspense novels for Harlequin’s Intrigue line, but if you really want to see her talent shine I recommend picking up one of her historicals. A good place to start is her most recent offering, Anne’s Perfect Husband, second in the Sinclair Brides trilogy.
Major Ian Sinclair was released from army service after being severely wounded in battle in Portugal. A piece of shrapnel remains in his chest and could dislodge at any time and kill him. His injury could have been prevented if a cowardly officer had sent help instead of watching the slaughter of Ian’s men from a safe distance.
Over a year and a half later Ian is surprised to learn that the cowardly officer, Colonel Darlington, has made Ian the guardian of his daughter, Anne. Ian is not happy about this news, but being a man of honor takes responsibility for the child.
Anne Darlington is shocked when she’s informed by one of the younger school children that her guardian has come to collect her. Sure that the girl misheard, Anne goes to meet the gentleman and gives Ian a shock, too. Anne is not a child, but a young woman just weeks away from her twentieth birthday. Not one to shirk his duty, Ian invites Anne to spend the holidays with him. The school’s headmistress informs Ian that Anne, by virtue of her birth, deserves a debut in society, something her long absent and uncaring father never gave her. Ian agrees.
On their way back to Ian’s country estate, they are set upon by highwaymen. During the melee, Anne comes to Ian’s rescue by smacking the highwayman over the head with a branch. In that moment Ian falls in love with Anne, but he denies his feelings for her because he believes he lives under a death sentence. He feels that Anne’s life should be filled with joy; not worrying about a crippled husband always on the brink of death. So with the help of his family, he ushers Anne onto the marriage mart to make a good match. But Anne doesn’t want just anyone, she wants Ian.
So begins our tale of two lovers kept apart by hidden emotions and lies told with the best of intentions. The reader understands where Ian is coming from. He is in constant pain and trying to adjust to a life of limited mobility, as well as frequently falling victim to illness and fever. It’s little wonder he finds himself an unfit husband for a healthy young woman. Ian also fights against pity and forbids those around him from speaking of his weaknesses. Occasionally I felt the need to shake Ian, as when he lashes out at his family for even daring to help him, not to mention when he keeps pushing Anne away.
Anne does not let Ian force her into marriage with someone else. Even though she has other suitors, and one particularly ardent one, Anne chooses potential spinsterhood rather than marry someone she does not love. She has always been on her own, and is happy to have someone take care of her for once.
My one quibble with Anne’s Perfect Husband is in the actions of the villain. From very early in the book, he left a lot to chance, which wasn’t quite believable. At the same time, his actions led to one of the best parts of the book – I wish it had happened earlier. Ian does not arrive quite in time to stop our villain from completing his evil plan. Had author Wilson shown how he and Anne got past this in more detail, the book would have been just about perfect. Luckily, what the reader does see is quite moving and showcases Anne’s inner strength.
This is Wilson doing what she does best – creating strong heroines and humbled heroes and letting them fall in love. Those who’ve read the previous book in the trilogy, My Lady’s Dare, will be happy to see the Earl of Dare and his lovely wife Elizabeth in secondary roles, helping to bring Anne and Ian together.