Desert Isle Keeper
A Scandalous Winter Wedding
Every book in Marguerite Kaye’s Matches Made in Scandal series has been an A grade read for me, which is rare. Kaye is clearly a superb storyteller and a careful craftsman. The tightly-knit plots and the multi-faceted characters make for a satisfying whole.
The series has a central figure called The Procurer, a woman who charges a small fortune to help desperate men solve their problems. She achieves this by pairing each client up with a woman who’s highly skilled in certain areas, but needs a fresh start to life that new experiences and a hefty purse would give her. The Procurer has an army of contacts in high as well as low places who will provide information knowing that there will be no gossip about what they impart because she is discretion incarnate and all her exacting rules assure her anonymity and that of her informants.
After her father dies, Kirstin Blair is left homeless and alone in the world, so she journeys to London to begin a life of her own. Unconventional in the extreme, when she meets Cameron Dunbar, a highly successful businessman, on the road, she allows her attraction to him to cloud her judgment, just as he is doing the same. What intrigues them most is not their respective beauty, but a sense of deep connection, understanding, and empathy. A night of deep passion later, they part ways knowing that the night had been a dream, a time out of reality.
Cameron goes on to build an even bigger empire in trade, while Kirstin goes on to start her unorthodox business at The Procurer. She does not expect to ever see Cameron again, until his missive lands on her desk more than six years later. He has need of The Procurer’s talents in order to locate the daughter of his half-sister and her maid, who both disappeared while they were en route to London. Deeply conflicted over their past connection, but nevertheless fascinated, Kirstin – in the guise of the Procurer – meets Cameron to discover the nature of the problem.
Those same contradictory emotions have her taking the unprecedented step of deciding to solve his problem as herself rather than sending someone else, confident that Cameron will not be able to discern that she and The Procurer are one and the same. It isn’t just blind curiosity that is driving her, but rather, a need to prove to herself that the unconventional, independent path she has chosen for herself is the correct one. This is emotionally risky for her, and also risky in another way, for she is harboring a secret that she is at pains for Cameron to not discover.
But when she meets him, she is fascinated against her will once again, just as he seems to be with her. While they are assailed by memories of their past passion, it is the new connections being forged between them that keep them riveted to each other.
When Kirstin took on her new life, she promised herself that she would be completely true to herself. I liked her scrupulousness because it allowed me an insight into her thought processes and her struggles between opposing emotions: what she wants to do and what she must do.
What makes Kirstin so successful as The Procurer is her pragmatic clear-sightedness. When Cameron agonizes about what could possibly have befallen the two clueless girls, she tells him that it does not bear thinking of “for it serves no purpose save to upset you. Let’s concentrate on the cold hard facts.” I really like how Kaye reversed the traditional gender roles. For a hard headed businessman in international trade, Cameron is the soft touch in this story, whereas Kirstin is the sensible realist, despite her heart being battered by her feelings for him. It for this that Cameron develops an abiding respect for her abilities and a trust that she will achieve what she says she will.
Both Cameron and Kirstin are concealing secrets, he of the bleakness of his background, she of her current situation. Both of them are bound and beholden to other people and are at pains to keep that from each other. The Procurer’s rules of not divulging to or enquiring about her clients’ private lives allows them to hide each other, but developing emotional ties in relationships have a way of sundering the restrictions keeping them apart. What is more natural than to trust the other person a little at a time?
The book opens up like a succession of Russian dolls, revealing more and more about the protagonists in all guises. And this is Kaye’s strength as a writer: setting up a plot and characters shrouded in mystery, and then revealing them with increasing complexity as the story moves on. I have also found the pacing in her books to be exacting and faultless, entirely dependent on where in the story she is. If you’ve never read a Kaye book, A Scandalous Winter Wedding is a good place to start, and if you’ve been following the Matches Made in Scandal series thus far, this is a book not to be missed.