Desert Isle Keeper
The third book in Con Riley’s His series of contemporary romances, His Haven is a gorgeous, angsty opposites-attract romance between an uptight lawyer and an open-hearted gentle giant of a man, and it’s every bit as good as His Compass, which I adored.
The books in this series work as standalones, but I’d advise reading His Compass before this one, as it will provide a bit more background detail about the relationships between the main characters.
The beginning of His Haven finds lawyer Keir Brodie aboard The Aphrodite, the charter yacht owned by Tom Kershaw and his partner Nick, together with Tom’s younger brother Justin and Justin’s carer, Mitch, a specialist in severe brain injury rehabilitation. Nick comes from an extremely wealthy family, and Keir sees it as part of his job to protect him from poor decisions and to make sure he isn’t taken advantage of financially, so when Nick and Tom ask Keir if he will work with Mitch to find Justin a house somewhere near Porthperrin harbour, alarm bells start ringing. Property in the area is far from cheap and Justin can’t live independently; Keir suspects Mitch is behind the idea, that he’s sowed seeds of doubt in Tom’s mind about The Haven (the facility Justin and Mitch live in) becoming a bit run down, and is out to get himself a very valuable property without paying a penny. Keir’s suspicions are only increased by the fact that Mitch has been blatantly flirting with him all day but wears a silver band on his ring finger – and in Keir’s eyes, cheaters are the lowest of the low. But it’s his job to do what Nick instructs him to do, even if it means spending time with Mitch and constantly shutting down his flirty innuendo.
It’s apparent right away that Keir is tightly wound and the way he jumps to conclusions about Mitch makes him seem like a class A prick. But it’s also clear that there’s something else behind his suspicions, something that doesn’t really have anything to do with Mitch at all. Almost a year earlier, Keir’s fiancé jilted him on their wedding day, and since then, he’s thrown himself into his work rather than deal with the emotional fallout. It’s obviously left him with serious trust issues, but Ms. Riley slowly and skilfully shows us that those issues go a lot further back than his aborted wedding. He’s wounded, hurting and lost and the author does an amazing job of portraying him as a man close to the edge, the raw emotions that lurk behind his rigidly maintained self-control a tangible presence.
By contrast, Mitch is pretty much an open book. He’s kind and patient and understanding and he’s one of life’s givers; he’s devoted to Justin and to making his life the best it can be, and he regularly goes above and beyond at The Haven, helping to care for all the residents and being an important part of the community there. He’s a skilled professional, too – he senses straight away that Keir is carrying a huge burden and genuinely wants to help; there’s a lovely scene early on where he helps Keir through a panic attack which shows exactly the sort of person he is – he notices everything and acts accordingly and that moment is something of a turning point in his relationship with Keir.
Keir is definitely attracted to Mitch but he fights it all the way – until he decides he’s tired of feeling empty and alone and that maybe a fling with Mitch is just what he needs. Mitch has made it clear he’s not looking for anything long term, and that suits Keir just fine; they’ll have a no-strings affair while they’re house-hunting for Justin and once that’s done, so are they. Simple.
But of course, it’s not simple at all, and it doesn’t take long at all for both men to realise that there’s more than ‘just sex’ to whatever is going on between them. The romance between this unlikely pair is beautifully written and superbly developed as they learn more about each other – their pasts and insecurities – and Keir comes to fully appreciate the role Mitch plays in Justin’s life and to see him for the genuine, caring man he is. He is also, with Mitch’s help, able to start letting go of some of the experiences and misconceptions that have been holding him back and to begin to move forward with his life. The amount of character growth Keir experiences is phenomenal; one can almost feel him slowly lightening up as he learns to trust – and to love – Mitch, who makes him feel truly wanted and fully present in a way he hasn’t ever felt before, as though he’s enough and worthy of being held on to after a life full – one way or another – of rejection.
Mitch isn’t without his demons; we learn here of the guilt he carries over the incident that happened in his younger days that prompted him to specialise in brain injuries, and how it informed his attitude towards relationships. He’s such a thoughtful, compassionate person, and he thoroughly deserves someone who’s going to look out for and be there for him, someone who sees him and understands what’s important to him. The chemistry between these two very different men is so strong that it leaps off the page, and their romance is peppered with moments of such perfect honesty and understanding as to be almost breathtaking.
Although Keir is the PoV character, the author does such a great job of bringing Mitch to life through his eyes that I didn’t for one moment miss a second perspective, and the same is true of the secondary characters. Justin is extremely well-written and the limitations he lives with as a result of his injury feel very realistic; he’s endearing and sweet, but there’s no question that looking after him can be difficult at times. I loved catching up with Nick and Tom, and meeting Keir’s best friend and flatmate Charles, who is huge fun and completely irrepressible, but who clearly has issues of his own to deal with. I was delighted to learn that he’s getting his own book soon and I’ll be at the front of the queue waiting for it!
A warm, tender and emotionally satisfying romance featuring two memorable leads and a superbly characterised secondary cast, His Haven will tug at the heartstrings and bring a tear to the eye in the very best way. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Buy it at: Amazon
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