Desert Isle Keeper
Fans of small-town stories will love Breathless for its setting, while readers who like a good mystery will enjoy the courtroom scenes. Don’t worry – Breathless also has great characters, including a hero and heroine who often match wits with each other.
Lily Morgan can’t believe that Daniel Walker has the gall to return to Shivaree, Georgia. Five years ago, during her divorce proceedings, Daniel destroyed her reputation by accusing her of adultery. Now, he’s back in town, trying to reopen the local “social club.” Lily blames the prostitutes in that club for destroying her marriage, so she’s determined to make sure it stays closed. It takes some time, but Lily regains the respect of the other townswomen and organizes them in a fight to force the social club to close its doors forever. The women’s fight will remind some readers of Aristophane’s Lysistrata.
The fight over the social club takes on a new aspect when someone is murdered. Lily’s friend, Amos, is accused of the crime. Despite his political ambitions, Daniel decides to defend Amos – with Lily’s help. If they are to save Amos, they must learn to get along. Now, not only does he have to worry about his client’s fate, he has to worry about falling for Lily.
Lily is the local “fallen woman,” although she never so much as slipped. Readers who have grown tired of the way librarians are characterized in fiction will love Lily. Instead of trying to convince the town of her innocence, she ruffles feathers by keeping “dirty books” such as Candide in the library. While Lily was born into wealth, her family has cut off all ties with her after her scandalous divorce. She has few friends, and is beginning to enjoy her new role in town. Unlike Lily, Daniel endured a childhood full of poverty and abuse. He pulled himself up from those roots, and he is now a leading defense attorney in Atlanta. Yet he still feels out of place. He is now in danger of succumbing to his ambitions. If he’s not careful, he will let his ambitions destroy his relationship with Lily. (He is ready to make her his mistress because he doesn’t think she wants to marry again.)
Though Lily and Daniel start out on rocky ground, this isn’t one of those “I hate you, let’s kiss” books. The characters clash now and then, but they act like adults. Sure, Daniel stubbornly insists on believing that Lily was an adulteress, but he has his reasons. And he comes to terms with the truth at a believable pace.
The turn of the century is a setting not often found in romance novels. Perhaps if more authors wrote books like Breathless, that would change. Laura Lee Guhrke makes the reader believe that Shivaree exists by giving it a variety of believable people, from the simple Amos to the understanding Samuel and Rosie to the members of the temperance league. Though these characters don’t overwhelm the book, they hold their own against Lily and Daniel.
Though this story involved two divergent elements – the fight over the social club and the murder – those elements fit together well. Perhaps that is because Lily and Daniel are deeply involved in both stories. In addition, the courtroom scenes are exciting, reminiscent of the best of Perry Mason. Some readers might figure out the identity of the killer, but I was fooled for most of the book.
Readers who enjoy strongly written books about small towns will relish in Breathless. The mystery adds an extra element of excitement often missing from small-town romances. Squeamish readers don’t have to worry, either. Although there is a murder, the grisly stuff is kept off stage. In addition, Laura Lee Guhrke added many touches that raise this novel above the usual. For one thing, Daniel Walker’s opening statement is worth the price of admission.