Desert Isle Keeper
Harper Fox’s latest novel is a beautiful sweeping story of love, dedication and betrayal. We start on a Peace Warrior ship in the Norwegian Fiords with Keir Mallory (aka Mallory or Mal) attempting a publicity stunt that goes terribly wrong and results in the loss of two of his ship-mates. Mallory returns home to his unwelcoming Scottish Highland home of Kerra. As expected, he is given no refuge from his drunken father, retiring mother or neighbours who all know what has happened and blame him for the death of one of their own.
He runs from this emotional rejection to a childhood retreat, a dilapidated artist colony called Spindrift, a few miles from his home on the coast. Here he encounters its only resident, Vivian (Viv) Calder. Vivian is a brilliant, but emotionally detached scientist who believes he has mastered the holy grail of environmentalists, and greatest fear of the oil companies – Cold Fusion. A bond begins to form between the two men both of whom have their secrets and fragilities. However, when betrayal and an explosion destroys Viv’s work and nearly kills them both, they go on the run, hiding out in a shack in the Highlands that belongs to Mallory’s deceased Aunt Lilian. Snowed in together, they have to make this remote, derelict, wooden house their temporary home.
The locations and settings for this story give Harper Fox the chance to do what she does best, and she lavishes this story with environmental descriptions and metaphors:
The wind had died, allowing the snow to fall direct from a sky whose belly you could touch with a stretch of your hand. The pines were muffled in swags of white, their sea music hushed. As Mallory starts to see that the fragile soul he is protecting is also a very attractive man, it imbibes his every physical action, even cutting logs, with erotic appeal:
After the first few back-and-forth strokes of my blade…I began to hear the thump of my heart instead. One step, two. Systole and diastole, God’s own music, the bass beat for every song on Earth. Warmth spread across my back like sheltering wings. Viv would be gorgeous in that kind of action, wouldn’t he?
While snowed in, they start to reveal facets of themselves – Mallory’s guilt and fears of becoming like his drunken father; how he desires to do something to help the world and its sea life, and his neglected but wonderful poetry. Vivian reveals his virgin status, why he is as he is, and what that means should Mallory and he begin a serious relationship. When Vivian feels able to trust Mallory wholly and wants to have sex – he tells Mallory to meet him and who wouldn’t wish that moment to be somewhere like this…
Rills and ripples of music from unseen birds only served to counterpoint the hush. The thick carpet of needles- viridian from the pines, the larches rich umber- absorbed my tread. Sunlight drifted in shafts. There in the brightest of them was Vivian, curled in the curve of the great larch branch where Lilian had used to sit. The place felt utterly sacred.
Needless to say they have a rather gorgeous sexual encounter here, and pretty much everywhere after this. It is sexy, but also romantic, totally believable in this setting, and very necessary to the plot. When they are discovered in their hideaway, a further twist means finding a safe place is not their only – or most serious – problem.
Another wonderful novel from Harper Fox Cold Fusion includes some lovely humorous touches, and a terrific secondary character in the form of the endearing, dour Alfred – Vivian’s Steward. The ending is slightly contrived, but in no way spoiled either the story, my enjoyment or the beautiful writing.