Desert Isle Keeper
A Warriner to Tempt Her
In the three years or so that she’s been a published author, Virginia Heath has gone from strength to strength, having produced coming up for ten novels, all of which I’ve read, enjoyed and rated highly. A Warriner to Tempt Her, the third book in her Wild Warriners series, takes place around five years after the events of A Warriner to Rescue Her, and in it, we find Joseph – the third of the Warriner brothers – qualified as a doctor and working in Retford, not too far from the family home.
Readers of the previous books in the series will recall that the brothers – the eldest of whom is the Earl of Markham – haven’t had an easy time of it. Thanks to their father and grandfather, who ran up debts, drank, gambled and chased skirt to excess, the current generation – while nothing like their debauched forebears – has been very much tarred with the same brush, and the locals are wary and keep their distance. In spite of the family’s tarnished name, however, Joe is kept busy treating Retford’s less well-off denizens, the ones who can’t afford the services of the pompous – and old-fashioned – Dr. Bentley. Joe is forward-thinking, dedicated, hard-working… and a bit of a romantic at heart; he is nursing a crush on the beautiful Lady Clarissa Beaumont, eldest daughter of the Earl of Braxton, even though he knows he has no chance with her whatsoever and has to content himself with worshipping her from afar.
Clarissa is an Incomparable whose blonde curls and sparkling blue eyes ensure she is fêted wherever she goes, but her sister Lady Isabella is a different matter entirely. Just as lovely, but dark where Clarissa is fair, Isabella is a bit of an enigma, and in spite of himself, Joe is intrigued. They have crossed paths occasionally at the children’s home run by the Countess of Markham (Joe’s sister-in-law), where Isabella volunteers in the infirmary, but Joe finds her awkward, standoffish and sometimes outright rude.
Isabella is really none of those things, but a violent assault she suffered around a year earlier has left her much changed. The physical scars have long since faded, but the mental ones are ever present, and she hates that her memories of that night have turned her into someone she doesn’t recognise as Isabella Beaumont. Her family did what they thought was best for her, and she was subjected to the sort of remedy that was believed, at the time, to be efficacious in the treatment of mental imbalance – such as being strapped to a chair and doused with icy water – but when that didn’t work (there’s a surprise!) she asked her family remove from London for a time, hoping that a change of scenery would help her to move on and find her true self again.
And she does feel that little by little, she’s moving forward. For a while after what her family has termed the incident, Isabella couldn’t bear loud noises or crowds and didn’t leave the house, but her fears are gradually receding. She is still wary of men and still finds it difficult to go out alone, but when Clarissa sullenly refuses to accompany her on her visits to the children’s home any longer, Bella screws up her courage and makes the journey by herself. Unfortunately, however, her first solo foray ends badly when she is crossing the town square and, courtesy of a cartload of spilled vegetables, sprains her ankle. In spite of her protests, she finds herself carried to the nearby surgery of the handsome Dr. Warriner (by the handsome doctor himself, no less) who swiftly ascertains that her sprain is nothing worse.
Their conversation is stilted and Joe is once again irritated by Bella’s rudeness, but when he pays a visit to check on her a couple of days later, he begins to think that perhaps she’s not rude, but shy; and after she returns to her work in the infirmary, he is surprised to discover that she reads medical journals and is knowledgeable about current treatments and medical matters in general. Increasingly impressed by Bella’s keen mind and her capacity to learn new skills and apply them, Joe offers to teach her as much as he can. Women at this period in time were not permitted to become doctors, and young ladies of Isabella’s status were not expected to undertake work of any sort, but she clearly has a talent for healing and it would be a shame to let it go to waste. For Bella, working at the infirmary has become a life-line of sorts, and with each passing day, she begins to feel more and more like her old self.
Joe is increasingly drawn to Bella and she to him, although she is still skittish around him, and Joe finds it difficult to reconcile her sudden and inexplicable retreats from him with the compassionate, approachable young woman he is beginning to see more and more often. Bella is both surprised and relieved to discover that the ability to feel attraction and desire weren’t taken away from her, but while she recognises the need to conquer her fear of physical intimacy – she isn’t sure if she can.
I am always a little apprehensive when I read that a character in a book has suffered a horrible trauma, because sometimes characters are SO damaged (in order to create drama) that it’s hard to believe they can recover during the span of the book. Here, however, I’m happy to say that Ms. Heath has done a splendid job with Isabella, whose thought processes make perfect sense. Her fears are understandable, as is her impatience with herself and her worries that if she doesn’t ‘get back to normal’ soon, she will be subjected to more horrible and invasive treatments. Bella knows that the answers lie within herself and that she’s the only one who can break down the walls of self-protection she built up after the attack. She has begun the process through her work at the infirmary, and with each new experience and with the benefit of Joe’s unwavering support and belief in her, we witness Bella taking back her self, a little bit at a time.
Another thing that impressed me about the story is the amount of research Ms. Heath must have done into the medical practices and extent of medical knowledge of the time. These aspects are very skilfully and subtly integrated into the storyline without making the reader feel as though they are being subjected to a lesson or pushing the romance aside; Joe and Isabella are clearly dedicated medical practitioners and not just characters in a book who pick up a stethoscope now and again.
In A Warriner to Tempt Her, Virginia Heath has created a gorgeous slow-burn romance, two attractive, likeable protagonists and an absorbing storyline infused with lots of interesting historical detail. It’s not necessary to have read the earlier books in order to enjoy this one, but I’d recommend them all (especially as one thoroughly unpleasant recurring character finally gets his comeuppance here!) and am eagerly awaiting the final book – Jake’s story – in the coming months.