Desert Isle Keeper
Love Beyond Measure
I hadn’t read any of Elizabeth Boyce’s romances before I picked up Love Beyond Measure, fourth in her The Honorables series. Normally I’d avoid getting into the middle of a series, but this works as a standalone for the most part, plus the heroine of this story is half-Thai, and I like diverse romances, so I started reading.
Harrison Dyer is the sole survivor of a shipwreck, and when he washes up on the shores of Siam, more dead than alive, his troubles are far from over. He recuperates at a monastery, where no one speaks English (and he doesn’t speak Thai). But news of this castaway reaches the ears of Gaspar, a Portuguese merchant, who sends his translator Lamai to see if there’s any profit to be made here.
Sad to say, there isn’t. Nor is this first meeting particularly heartwarming for either of them. Harrison is painfully unaware of Thai customs and Lamai is disappointed because she keeps hoping to find or hear from her British father, who left for his homeland a long time ago. She mounts her elephant to return to Gaspar’s house, except Harrison has no intention of being parted from the one person he can talk to. He pleads with her to let him work for her employer so he can earn enough to buy his passage back home.
Lamai is dubious. For one thing, she knows Gaspar and has good reason not to trust him. For another, Harrison is more at sea in Siam than he was on the ocean. But she knows what it’s like to be powerless and alone, so she allows him to accompany her, and sets out to make him more familiar with her language and culture.
I can’t begin to describe how much I loved the setting. It felt incredibly authentic; I was right there in the monastery and the marketplace, tasting the curries and fending off mosquitoes. And placing this story in another country negated the late-in-the-series problem where all the heroes of the previous novels, along with their large and loving families, shoulder their way in. The focus of this book is solidly on Lamai and Harrison, who are wonderful characters. Both of them have endured a great deal of pain, but with each other’s help, they overcome their demons. As little more than a boy Harrison was taken advantage of by someone who should have been caring for him – and I applaud the author for showing that an older woman who lures a teenaged boy into sex is a predator. The story explores the effects of this with sensitivity. For instance, Harrison enjoys a day at a festival with Lamai, where he competes in a race so he can win a prize to give her. This is something he missed out on when he was younger, because thanks to his early sexual experiences, he couldn’t shyly court girls and dream of a kiss or two. So although his relationship with Lamai does become a passionate one, the moments of simple, innocent connection brought tears to my eyes.
The best part of the book is when these two set out to free Gaspar’s sex slaves. Lamai isn’t one of these, because one side of her face is badly burned and because she has a more in-demand skill, but there are three other women in the household whom Gaspar pimps out to his business acquaintances. I’ve read romances where, once the heroine is freed, that’s the extent of any concern for the less fortunate, but this is not one of them. And the scheme Harrison devises is a delight to read. Just thinking about it makes me grin.
The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the epilogue, with its reunion that involves not only wives, kids and friends, but pets as well. Only the villains and the mosquitoes missed out on a happy ending (unless the mosquitoes were feeding on the villains). But the rest of Love Beyond Measure works wonderfully. I loved reading it.