Desert Isle Keeper
A Warriner to Rescue Her
When I read the first book in Virginia Heath’s Wild Warriners series, A Warriner to Protect her, I was instantly smitten with Captain James Warriner – Jamie – the second eldest brother and former officer who is no longer able to serve due to a debilitating injury to his leg. In that book, Jamie emerged as a taciturn man who will do anything for those he loves, whose outwardly gruff manner hides the heart of a romantic and the soul of an artist. A Warriner to Rescue Her reveals more about Jamie’s past and the demons that continue to haunt him as he struggles to come to terms with his injuries and find a new purpose in life – and sees him falling head-over-heels in love with a most unusual young lady. The romance between this unlikely couple is beautifully written and overflowing with tenderness, but Jamie isn’t the only one whose past has left him with more than a few dragons to slay – and watching these two different but damaged people find their way to each other is an absolute delight.
The Earl of Markham and his brothers have always been shunned by their neighbours and the local villagers owing to the fact that the previous earls were unpleasant, untrustworthy drunkards with vicious tempers who never paid what they owed. The current earl – Jack Warriner – inherited nothing but a ramshackle home and a mountain of debt, and even if he could have afforded servants, nobody would have wanted to work for him, so he and his three brothers had to work the land themselves in order to make enough money to keep body and soul together. Unable to take more of an active role in working the estate, Jamie took on the role of housekeeper at Markham Manor, but since Jack married an heiress who brought servants from her London home to work there, Jamie has more time on his hands than he knows what to do with.
He is riding home one day when he hears a cry for help coming from the apple orchard within the manor grounds. Seeing a horse standing beneath one particular tree, he looks up to see a rather nice backside and a pair of shapely legs dangling from some way up, and realises the female in possession of those lovely attributes is stuck. Awkwardly, Jamie climbs up and helps to free her from the branch that seems to have captured her skirts and is helping her to descend when the lady makes a wrong move and they both plummet to the ground. Jamie ends up winded and flat on his back with a face full of wild hair and a warm, curvy armful sprawled across his chest.
Cassandra Reeves hastily apologises for her clumsiness and introduces herself as the daughter of the new vicar, cringing inwardly at the fact that she has likely just crushed the handsomest man she has ever seen. But even that can’t keep her words from tripping over one another as she babbles on enthusiastically about wanting to get some apples for her horse and not realising that the apple trees were on private land.
When Cassandra – Cassie – pays a call the next day to thank Jamie for his assistance and to check that he is unhurt (she saw him limping and thinks he must have been hurt by their fall) – she is received warmly by Jack’s wife, Letty, but not by Jamie, who remains quiet and aloof throughout her visit. When she mentions to her hostess that she makes up stories as a hobby and has begun one about yesterday’s misadventure, Letty immediately and eagerly seizes the chance to do a bit of matchmaking, and tells Cassie about Jamie’s talent as an artist, going so far as to suggest that perhaps he could provide illustrations for her story and they could have it published.
Jamie is not best pleased at his sister-in-law’s meddling. He’s already somewhat smitten with the pretty, voluble vicar’s daughter but knows he has nothing to offer any woman; he’s broken, both mentally and physically and has no way of making a living, not to mention he’s afraid of the dark and has certain other quirks it would be impossible to keep from a wife. He brushes off Cassie’s questions and appreciation of the painting he is working on, and is surprised at the disappointment he feels at the likelihood that he will never see her again.
He is even more surprised, however, when Cassie visits again – this time in the company of her father, a fire-and-brimstone, bible-thumping bigot, whose overbearing, domineering manner turns Cassie into an unrecognisable shadow of the vibrant young woman Jamie knows her to be. Jack tries to be polite in the face of the man’s insults, but Jamie is furious at his treatment of his daughter and all but throws the man out. The Reverend Reeves is not one to take such treatment quietly, however, and having learned of the terrible reputation accorded to the Warriner family makes plans to denounce them in his next sermon.
Needing to assure himself that Cassie is safe and unharmed, Jamie braves the dark in order to speak to her properly, and during their conversation, finds himself opening up to her about his own father and telling her something of how he acquired his injuries. He obliquely invites her to meet him the next afternoon, and they spend a couple of hours very companionably while Jamie paints and Cassie tells him about the progress of her story. Such meetings become the norm, and they each start to wonder if perhaps their growing feelings are reciprocated and if there is any possibility of their making a future together.
Jamie and Cassie are attractive, fully-rounded characters, and Ms. Heath does a terrific job of portraying the longing they feel for each other and building the romantic tension while also establishing a strong emotional connection between them. But much as I liked Cassie, it’s Jamie who is the real star of the show. Perceptive, kind and sensitive, he’s a romantic at heart who pours his love of nature and beauty into his paintings, saying with them some of the things for which he can’t always find the words. Ms. Heath says in her author’s note that she had originally had different plans for Jamie in this story but that he clearly wanted to go in a different direction. I’m glad he did, because it makes him a most unusual and delectable hero and I fell hard for him.
A Warriner to Rescue her is a beautiful love story that’s imbued with warmth, sensuality and humour, and I raced through it in one sitting. It’s book two in a series, but can be read as a standalone, and I’m really looking forward to reading about Joe and Jacob Warriner in the near future.