Desert Isle Keeper
I love Elizabeth Thornton’s writing for one important reason: her heroes trust their women. There are no ridiculous scenes of jealousy or accusations, and when her heroes are wrong, they actually (gasp) apologize. There are no drawn-out, big misunderstandings here – and that’s a very good thing.
In Cherished, Lady Emily Brockton and Leon Devereux are childhood enemies. Emily’s guardian is her Uncle Rolfe, who is married to Leon’s sister. He brings Leon into Emily’s life from a very early age, and they hate each other at once. Leon becomes her sister Sara’s best friend, but he always picks fights with Emily and makes her life a living hell. On the night of Emily’s sixteenth birthday, Leon gives Emily a passionate kiss, shaking her out of her composure. Later that night she catches Leon in the arms of another woman in flagrante delicto, and runs away, stunned. Leon chases after her and tries to explain what happened, but during this effort they are caught in a compromising position and forced to marry. Sara is crushed by this turn of events, as she has secretly been in love with Leon the entire time. After the wedding, Uncle Rolfe recommends for Leon go to America to let Emily grow up a little before claiming her as his wife, and Leon agrees.
Now five years later, Lady Emily has a nice, boring suitor and is leading a peaceful life without her husband hanging around. On the night of a masquerade, Leon suddenly appears and comes back to claim his rights as Emily’s husband, and she is not happy about it. Never mind that sparks fly between them whenever they’re in a room together and she feels more alive with him than with any other person – she’s convinced she wants to live a normal English life.
Leon has been making a name for himself in New York as a fur trader while waiting for Emily to mature. Soon after he and Emily reunite, a few near-accidents occur, and Leon becomes worried that his past in the resistance against Napoleon is coming back to haunt him. When he finds that Emily has a serious suitor, he decides that enough is enough and it is time to bring Emily back home where she’ll be safe from danger and any tempting men. On the way to New York, Emily and Leon’s mutual attraction develop as she reluctantly admits to herself that this considerate, gentle Leon is a far cry from the annoying tormentor she used to know. She learns that Leon is a respected, upstanding member of society, and realizes that she’s been prejudiced against him. The accidents continue around them, drawing the couple closer together.
Leon’s character is really what makes the book such a keeper for me. He’s loved Emily since she was a child, but because of the age difference, kept away until she grew up. He’s not afraid to show his feelings for Emily, and the scenes in which he tries to convince her of his love are tender and romantic. He has a dark past that troubles him, but he doesn’t brood like a gothic hero. He’s wonderfully honest, and masculine without being an alpha jerk.
Emily is a little harder to like; she’s a sensible, level-minded girl, but she initially finds silly reasons to ignore her growing love for Leon. She’s a little bit too starchy Brit, and I found her just a teensy melodramatic. She does save her character in the end, and rightly defends Leon in front of her family and friends.
There are some problems in this book (like a slightly melodramatic villain), but somehow everything works so well together that these problems don’t detract from the book. While Emily isn’t exactly my favorite heroine, Leon makes up for her little problems in tenfold. In fact, Leon makes up for anything that could possibly be considered a problem.
My main criterion for a DIK is that I must want to read the book again, and I have read Cherished many times. I would recommend this book very highly to anyone looking for a romance with a good mystery and intriguing sub-plots. The relationship between Emily and Leon is very sweet. The secondary romance between Sara and her husband is surprising, and the characters are all interesting and believable. You Only Love Twice still remains my favorite Elizabeth Thornton, but this is a close second.