Desert Isle Keeper
When you’re longing to read a book with memorable characters and dialogue that can be light without insulting the reader’s intelligence, Venetia is the perfect read. Of Heyer’s Regencies, this is definitely one of my favorites. Though the tale of the rake falling for the sweet, innocent virgin is no new innovation, this version is one of the best.
Venetia is the daughter of a recluse who has essentially kept her locked away in a small country town. Living in a home where guests were not welcome and denied any opportunity to go to London for the Season, she has been quietly aging her way onto the shelf with few desirable prospects in sight. While she recognizes that marriage is the only way to avoid the unpleasant fate of becoming a hanger-on in her brother’s home, Venetia’s only prospects are a solid (and extremely dull) country gentleman and a smitten young man several years her junior who seems to worship Byron and who casts himself as a romantic in the most ridiculous sense. Though innocent of the world, Venetia is intelligent enough to realize that she must pick a suitor if she is to have a household of her own.
As Venetia resigns herself to her fate, something quite out of the ordinary happens when her scandalous neighbor, Lord Damerel, takes up residence on his estate. Though Venetia has not met Damerel, whispered stories of his debauchery have traveled all around the neighborhood and Venetia is cautioned to avoid all contact with the man. However, she encounters him one day while out on a walk and discovers that while he may be a rake, he is not at all the cold-hearted seducer of local rumor.
To her surprise, Venetia discovers that her neighbor is an intelligent man with a sense of humor. Though she knows the neighbors would be scandalized, she finds that she rather enjoys his company. Venetia and Damerel for the most part conduct themselves as one would expect people of their time to behave. They are often chaperoned and, rakish though he may be, Damerel still treats the innocent Venetia with respect. This is a romance of the mind rather than a steamy, explicit romp.
Even though this book has a sensuality rating of “kisses”, it manages to demonstrate that a couple can have loads of chemistry even if the bedroom door remains firmly closed. Venetia and Damerel’s dialogue is witty and the connection established between them makes their romance sexier in some ways than the most graphic, hot novel. Venetia is obviously bright and Damerel’s reaction to that is something more complicated than mere lust at first sight. The friendship, love, and blatant attraction between this pair instead combines to create tension so deliciously real that it will remain in the reader’s memory long after the book is finished.
Venetia and Damerel’s stations in life present real obstacles to their love and Heyer does a wonderful job of showing how they deal with the problem. She skillfully (and sometimes very humorously) uses her secondary characters to show just how Society would react to a match between an innocent young lady of good reputation and a genuine rake. While Venetia recognizes in Damerel a “well-informed mind, and a great deal of kindness”, the unfortunate truth is that to many his personality is less important than his reputation. And therein lies the problem.
I enjoy Georgette Heyer’s books in general, but I cannot recall a time when I flew through a novel as quickly as I did this one. Those who enjoy Trad Regencies will likely enjoy this one and for those who have never tried Heyer’s books before, this is an excellent place to start. The romance is a sweet one, and the story in general is a true delight.