Desert Isle Keeper
As a voracious reader, I go through books like mad but do not often find a book that so engages me from beginning to end that I cannot put it down. This book though, with its theme of the human mind being so powerful that it can overcome critical illness and distance, did just that. Not only does it succeed in this manner, it left me wanting more of the characters and the author’s voice.
Elizabeth Graye is a successful businesswoman who is currently in a coma due to head trauma sustained during an attempted mugging. Lying in a long-term care facility, she is unable to communicate and is unaware of her surroundings. Her nurses though, believing that the brain can and should be stimulated under these circumstances, read to her and play music for her. In a change of pace from the regular classical music they have been playing for her, one of the nurses plays a CD by a country singer named Rick Denning. While she remains physically unresponsive, Elizabeth can hear Rick’s music and connects with his songs, visualizing a handsome man on whom she can rely to keep her safe within her murky thoughts.
Meanwhile, far away from the long-term care facility in upstate New York, Rick Denning is trying to eke out a living as a country singer at his brother’s bar in Oklahoma. He begins to dream of a beautiful woman named Elizabeth who needs saving. His dreams find him in various scenarios such as Medieval England or the scene of a plane crash in the Alps. But the scenarios all have one thing in common: Elizabeth is in peril and needs his assistance in order to survive. As the days go by and the dreams become more vivid, Rick begins to suspect that Elizabeth is in fact a real person. And that she is very much in danger.
Elizabeth begins the novel as not the most likeable character. She’s motivated entirely by success, is ruled by cold logic, and believes that emotions have no business in either her business or her personal life. She has grown up financially privileged and has a sort of sense of entitlement. Embroiled in a complicated legal battle with her stepmother, she is determined to win at any cost. She uses and manipulates to get what she wants and denies any emotion. I can’t say I loved or connected with her immediately. But as the story unfolds, the reader is allowed to see Elizabeth’s many layers. We see her in her more vulnerable moments and learn about her childhood that was devoid of affection. And we get to see her evolve from selfish rich brat into a strong young woman who can put the needs of others above her own and allows herself to love and be loved.
In sharp contrast, Rick is an easy-going country boy who works construction by day and writes his own music and performs at his brother’s bar in the evenings. He’s had some tough times in the past and also must grow emotionally over the course of the story. Together Elizabeth and Rick embark on an emotional journey as they develop their psychic connection. I really felt deeply for both characters, especially Elizabeth, as emotion is such a brand new concept for her. Likewise, due to his past, Rick has succeeded in keeping his distance from strong emotions up until this point and must learn to let his guard down. It was a joy to watch this pair grow emotionally while developing their relationship.
One of the aspects I liked best about the book is that the relationship is kept in the forefront and developed over the course of the story. There are no sudden 180-degree turnarounds or complete personality transplants here. Each character evolves in a believable manner. While the danger to Elizabeth is always present, I never felt like it overshadowed the development of the relationship. And though it is readily apparent to the reader who the villain of the tale is, the author manages to keep the sense of danger and suspense high throughout the story.
For me, all of this adds up to a novel that was enjoyable from beginning to end and that will be occupying a prominent place on my keeper shelf. Dream Shadows was preceded by Delaney’s Shadow, but it is not necessary to read Delaney’s Shadow first. I, however, will be seeking it out now as well as the rest of Ms. Weaver’s backlist.