Desert Isle Keeper
Dark romance isn’t a sub-genre I’m normally drawn to, but there’s something so compelling about the stories Karina Halle creates that draws me in every time, and Discretion, the first installment in her new Dumonts series, turned out to be no exception. Its lush setting and complex characters drew me in from the start, and I found myself utterly captivated by the entire thing.
Backpacking across Europe seems like a dream come true for Sadie, a college student looking for a change from the blandness of her everyday life, but when she and her boyfriend break up two weeks into the trip, the vacation turns into something pretty grim. Sadie spends her nights in a series of run-down hostels and her days walking the back streets of some of Europe’s most glamorous locations. Needless to say, she’s down on her luck and not convinced things will get any better before she returns to the U.S.
One afternoon while she’s walking through a seedy part of a small town in southern France, Sadie is the victim of an attempted mugging. Fortunately, a darkly seductive stranger comes to her rescue, and after fighting of her attacker, he scoops her up and takes her to a local hospital. Sadie is reluctant to seek medical treatment due to the expense, but her rescuer urges her to accept his financial assistance. At first, she’s not sure it’s wise to give in, but her injuries are pretty severe and so she eventually allows him to pay for her treatment.
The next time she comes to, Sadie finds herself in a luxurious hotel suite, unlike any room she’s ever slept in. There’s initially no sign of the man who rescued her, but it’s not long before he unlocks her door and explains how she came to be at the hotel. Of course, there’s more to him than he tells her right away, and it’s clear to both Sadie and the reader that he’s keeping some major parts of his life a secret from her.
Olivier Dumont is the heir to one of France’s biggest fashion houses, and is one of the world’s most sought-after bachelors, but he also has a dark side. Ten years earlier, he was involved in a scandal that forever changed the trajectory of his life, putting him in the debt of some very dangerous individuals. These individuals happen to be members of his family, and the debt he owes is about to come due, causing Olivier to wonder if the price he’s being asked to pay is really something he can afford.
It’s obvious from the start that Sadie and Olivier are attracted to one another, but neither is sure their feelings can stand up to the pressures of their everyday lives. Olivier talks Sadie into staying at the hotel for a while longer so they can spend more time together, an offer she finds irresistible. True, she knows practically nothing about Olivier and his family, but something about his good looks and consummate charm draws her in.
The romance between Olivier and Sadie is quite relatable, especially if you enjoy stories about rich people and their problems. Sadie sometimes struggles to feel worthy of Olivier; after all, she’s a struggling college student and he’s one of the richest men in France. Fortunately, Olivier is able to make her see that money and social position aren’t the most important things in his life, and she eventually begins to trust his love for her. Of course, the novel’s villains try hard to undermine their relationship, adding an extra layer of tension to the story.
The romantic arc is wrapped up by the end of the book, but Ms. Halle does leave readers hanging in terms of the more suspenseful parts of the plot. Olivier’s enemies haven’t finished with him yet, and I’m eager to see how things turn out. The second installment appears to feature one of my favorite secondary characters, so I can’t wait for it to be released.
There’s so much to love about Discretion, despite its darkness and angst. Hopefully, prospective readers are able to look beyond its slightly fluffy jacket blurb to the deeply moving story the author is telling. It’s a novel that’s so much more than the sum of its parts, one that’s sure to appeal to both new readers of Ms. Halle’s work and those who have been enjoying it for years.