Desert Isle Keeper
Carla Kelly is back at last! It’s been far too long since her last release, but this book makes up for the wait. Kelly’s tale of two tortured survivors finding love and comfort together is beautiful, touching, and often very funny. As always, she creates endearing characters and stories that go places far deeper than the usual courtship stories.
Susannah Park has lived a life of retirement and disgrace since her return to England following the death of her husband in India. Her family can no longer go about in society and Susannah is never allowed to forget that they carry this burden due to her scandalous elopement. She spends her days visiting her elderly godfather, painting specimens at the Royal Gardens, and tending to her young son. When she learns that her father intends for her to escort the winner of the Copley Medal around town during his stay at the family home, she is terrified at the prospect of venturing out into society once more.
James Trevenen is none too thrilled at the prospect of a stay in London either. A triumphant return from being marooned on a desert island has not dimmed his painful memories of the shipwreck that sent him there since his island was no paradise. When he meets Mrs. Park, he is drawn to her intelligence, good humor, and decency, but fears he will be poor company.
The author mixes the darkness of the characters’ memories with the humor of everyday life in London. Her characters suffer, but they also maintain their wit. James and Susannah are brave, yet painfully vulnerable, and their characters seem very real. The depth of the characterization in this novel gives the romance a poignant quality it would not otherwise have. The story is at times witty and even laugh-out-loud funny, but this humor is tempered with deep emotion in almost equal measure.
Though the story takes place among a rather narrow circle of people, Kelly makes it seem like a complete world in itself. When secondary characters appear, they serve a purpose and many of them are rather interesting people as well. When reading this story, I found myself not only having a vision in my mind of the people involved, but also having a strong sense of place. That is a rare event for me when reading historical romance and the book is all the richer for it. The author has posted online at various times that she would like to try her hand at time periods other than the Regency and I would dearly love to read the results.
The deft balancing of light and dark in this novel makes for an unforgettable read. Carla Kelly writes some of the best and most intelligent characters around, and this story is no different. James Trevenen and Susannah Park are each impressive people on their own. And together? Together they’re magic.