Desert Isle Keeper
Sandra Kitt is excellent in writing about the races in all of the varied forms we experience them today. Her heroine, Dallas Oliver, is biracial. She and her white best friend, Valerie, are now in their early thirties and have been bound together since they were in grade school. Dallas is a journalist for a publication which thrives on controversy. Valerie is a single mother of an adorable little girl whom Dallas adores and by whom she is called “Aunt Dallas.”
Kitt turns up the heat between these two women by having them both fall for the same man, Alex Marco, a white former Navy SEAL, who now has his own diving business in the city. The police hire him a lot for dangerous underwater work. He left the SEALS because of the death of another SEAL for which he blames himself. If you’ve read Suzanne Brockmann’s SEAL books, Alex is very similar in characteristics to those SEALS.
Dallas has some history with Alex because he saved her from being raped by a relative of his when she was a teen. They have been out of touch for over a decade though. Alex comes into both women’s lives when this same would-be-rapist relative dies in a car crash. The dead man’s parents are beloved people within the community even though their son was nothing but trouble. Everyone comes together again at the wake, primarily for these parents.
One problem that Kitt handles beautifully is Valerie’s perceptions as she finds herself in competition with her best friend for a man. For one, Valerie can’t believe a white man would be attracted both to a biracial woman and a white one. This is the only racism Valerie has felt; being displaced romantically and sexually by a biracial woman does not sit lightly with her. Her daughter Megan, however, has no problem with it’s happening and zeroes in with laser-like accuracy on this character flaw when she detects her mother’s jealousy.
Kitt’s novels are never solely about the people in the romance itself. She, as usual, delves deeply into the families from which the main characters come, and the origins of their problems which emanate from those families. Dallas, for example, had a white mother who died when she was quite young. When her father remarried an African American woman, Dallas became part of a fully AA family. And, in a neat reversal, Dallas has to cope with having an AA half-brother who is the favored child in her family.
Alex and Valerie both must deal with illegitimacy; Alex with his own and Valerie with her daughter’s. Alex and Valerie are linked by these illegitimacy issues and they go to the heart of why they even consider one another romantically.
Kitt’s romance novels are not light or comedic. This is what I would call “a thinking person’s romance.” Kitt excels at writing this type of romance. There is a HEA at the end but the story is filled with well developed characterizations and a deeply felt plotline. In this sense, Kitt reminds me more of a mainstream writer, although her work does contain all the wonderful and essential elements of romance as well.
Kitt’s books with Signet all have lovely graphic covers too. This one is of a man and two women, each of them in a different color, superimposed over a graphic of the New York skyline. This more than adequately conveys the mixed and bi-racial nature of the novel. Kitt’s publisher before Signet used photographs of 100% African Americans which did not convey any bi or mixed racial aspect. Out of the three main characters, two of them, Alex and Valerie, are white, and Dallas, the third, is biracial. This mixed racial potpourri is true of all four of Kitt’s novels with Signet which I have read and it is wise of Signet to promote this graphically on the cover.