Desert Isle Keeper
Celine Fontaine, a panic-attack-prone American heiress, is whisked away from her family’s ancestral French chateau and back in time by a lunar eclipse on New Year’s Eve, 1993. Winding up in the Artois Region of France in the year 1300, she immediately encounters Sir Gaston de Varennes. To be more specific, she encounters him in bed!
To say the least, problems arise. Celine just happens to look exactly like one of her distant ancestors, Christiane de la Fontaine. To end the bad blood between the Varennes and the Fontaines, King Philippe the Fair has decreed that Gaston will wed Christiane, and Gaston is none too happy about it. See, he’d already made plans to wed his lovely neighbor – not for love, but for land and heirs. Besides, Gaston knows that Christiane’s guardian is a murdering knave (the source of the bad blood), and he intends to prove it and gain justice for his dead father and brother. His plan is to follow the King’s orders and marry Christiane, but not to consummate the marriage, so that it can be annulled once he has the proof he needs. (This whole not-consummating thing makes for some pretty heavy sexual tension, let me tell you.)
Gaston also assumes that Christiane (i.e. Celine) is in cahoots with her guardian (the murdering knave) to do away with Gaston and take over his land once and for all. Celine doesn’t want to believe such an awful thing about her ancestor, but all she really knows is that she is not Christiane, and Christiane herself has inconveniently disappeared.
Every time this pair has just about worked out one problem, another arises. Celine insists she’s not Christiane – that in fact, she’s Celine Fontaine from 1993. Gaston can’t decide whether she’s insane or simply a terrific liar. Just as he begins to trust her a little, Christiane’s nasty guardian steps in and mucks up the works. Even after all this business is resolved, the situation looks hopeless. Celine has to return to her own time for a major surgical procedure. If she doesn’t, she’ll die.
I must say, Ms. Thacker resolves this major conflict in one of the most brilliant displays of fine, inventive plotting I’ve ever read. In fact, this book is a wonder of plotting. As with any time-travel in which a character goes back in time, the author must deal with the issue of how the character will affect history. Ms. Thacker wraps up this dilemma in a satisfying, convincing way that also serves to enhance the romance between the central characters. And I haven’t even mentioned all the obstacles that Celine and Gaston overcome – in truly ingenious ways – as space simply does not allow. Besides, I’d like to leave you some surprises!
But as brightly as the plotting shines, nothing surpasses the intense, beautiful romance between Celine and Gaston. Watching these two fall in love was one of the most moving, sensuous, joyous experiences I’ve ever had via a book. Gaston is the perfect tortured hero – good-hearted and caring at his core, but hardened and shaped by tragedy and guilt to the point where he refuses to believe in love as anything more than a foolish myth that weakens the man who buys into it. Celine is a delight – sunny and plucky, but insecure about her own intelligence and abilities. Facing the challenge of living in a foreign time and place helps her find a sense of self-worth. (Fighting for the love of her life doesn’t hurt, either!) She’s a woman I could relate to, especially as she deals with the unfamiliar modes of daily life in medieval times. Watching her adjust is a treat. She builds up a “mental medieval dictionary” filled with terms like “bailey” and “trencher” and “courser,” and she introduces some modern devices and treats to her historical companions – like spoons, seam rippers, cookies, and Frisbees for the kids. She even has the seamstress make her some pants! Boy, could I relate!
(Side note: I’m not a historian, and have only the most remote knowledge of French history, so I cannot in any way vouch for the historical accuracy of this book. It certainly seemed credible, but this is not a big issue for me as a reader, so who the heck knows?)
In any case, Forever His is a touching, ingenious, sometimes-funny-and-sometimes-wrenching tale wherein a tortured hero who doesn’t believe in love opens his eyes and his heart, and a formerly unaccomplished heroine finds her own strength (and true love) in the most unexpected of places.
I love this book. I’ve read it time after time, and even if I haven’t waited quite long enough between readings to forget all the details, I always get drawn back into the story so intensely that I can’t put it down.
Yes, I love this book. I love it so much that I’ll still read it, even though my cat peed on my only copy. If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is! (All right, it might just be time for a new copy!)