Desert Isle Keeper
Dangerous in Diamonds
This fourth and last of Madeline Hunter’s Rarest Blooms series, tells the tale of Tristan, the Duke of Castleford, and Daphne Joyes, the proprietor of The Rarest Blooms, an unusual nursery. Theirs is a grand romance. Tristan is a splendid character — a smart as hell duke who spends all his days drinking and whoring — all days, that is, but Tuesdays. Tristan’s sober, sex-free Tuesdays are the days he applies his intelligence and energy to whatever interests him: Managing his investments, advising the Prime Minister, meddling in the lives of his friends (something he did to great success in other Rarest Blooms books), or masterfully seducing the guarded and aloof Mrs. Joyes.
Tristan’s closest cohorts are married to Daphne’s closest friends, yet the two have never actually met. (Tristan, once he sees how alluring she is, suspects his friends and their wives deliberately kept her out of his sight.) Their paths finally cross when Tristan inherits the land and the buildings that house The Rarest Blooms. Straight away, Tristan wants her in his bed and he is a master at getting what he wants. Daphne has heard countless scandalous stories about Tristan, and when he comes to introduce himself as her new landlord, she knows she’s in trouble. He makes it clear to her as they begin to negotiate the future of The Rarest Blooms, he will seduce her, pleasure her, and see her wearing nothing but diamonds. He is, of course, right.
I so enjoyed this book. Ms. Hunter is a fine writer and in her capable hands, Daphne and Tristan are complex, fascinating characters. Tristan is a libertine whose life is the antithesis of domestic bliss and yet when he applies himself to the concerns of those around him, he enables them to find such bliss for themselves. Daphne offers sanctuary to fugitive women until those women are able to find love safely, yet has never thought such love is for her. She hides her heart and secrets — and she does have secrets – from everyone, even her friends, and is, beneath her placid chilliness, deeply lonely. As they banter, argue, and touch, Daphne and Tristan grow to be fundamentally changed. Tristan gives up his debauchery and Daphne, her secrets.
Ms.Hunter writes so well that each choice her characters make seems exactly right. Their budding rapport is a delight to behold. In a series, the appearance of characters from other novels is sometimes at best distracting and at worst annoying; the opposite is true in Dangerous in Diamonds. Tristan’s interactions with his friends are wry and wonderfully illuminate not only Tristan but the lives the other men have chosen. Daphne and her companions from The Rarest Blooms have the kind of friendships that anchor lives and it’s poignant to see them support each other in ways large and small. As I read the last line of this book — which is wonderful – I was content. It’s not that this conclusive book is overly orderly, but rather that when the stories come to their end in Dangerous in Diamonds, it’s a satisfying finish.
One of the interesting things about all four books is the subplot in each centers around the class wars taking place in England in the first half of the 19th century. Ms. Hunter’s heart is clearly on the side of the common man, for all that she writes tales of nobles, and she undergirds her books with a wealth of accurate history. In Dangerous in Diamonds, she puts Daphne and Tristan in the middle of the Manchester protests of 1819. In ways interesting and integral to the story, Ms. Hunter writes about the quest for wider suffrage, the harsh labor conditions British workers demanded Parliament change, and the deprivation the nation’s inequities in wealth created. Ms. Hunter also casts an informed and critical eye on England’s patriarchal legal system in which a woman had no worth or rights other than what the men in her life defined for her. Daphne, like each heroine in the series, has suffered at the hands of men. Rather than bow down, Daphne is heroic — the safe harbor she offers women at The Rarest Blooms enables those women to take charge of their own destinies in ways society has denied them.
Daphne and Tristan, despite their differences in class and approach, are a well-met couple. Daphne needs the uninhibited passion and emotional joy Tristan brings to her life. Tristan, with his skilled love-making (Ms. Hunter writes brilliantly about sex), decadent gifts, and insightful understanding, enables Daphne to flourish. Equally importantly, Daphne’s love allows Tristan to live a far richer life than the life he’s allowed himself. Theirs is a gem of a story.
And speaking of gems, I do have one small quibble with this book: Its title. Not once is Daphne ever dangerous in the diamonds Tristan drapes her in. According to Tristan, she is delectable to love and exquisite to see. Perhaps Ms. Hunter didn’t want to liken Daphne to the fine wines Tristan plies her with. Or, maybe, Ms. Hunter doesn’t like emeralds. Whatever the reason, the title is a misleading misnomer. But the book is an utter pleasure.