Desert Isle Keeper
Jewels of the Sun
After spending many, many months going through various levels of like and dislike of romance novels, when I finally read one I loved, it was a real joy, and I’m happy to report that Jewels of the Sun is a romance to love. It’s filled with colorful characters (both primary and secondary), a terrific love story, a great setting (and scenery), wonderful ribald humor, and a couple of haunting ghosts to add the right touch of pathos. So what if the hero is just a little too good to be true? This is fantasy, after all.
As Jude Francis Murray navigates the twisting and turning Irish roads in the rain, she’s sure she’s flipped out. Although it’s been two years since her divorce, her life seems a mess, and she’s made it messier. She quit her psychology professorship – that’s right, she didn’t take a sabbatical, she up and quit! – and is going to spend six months in a backwater Irish village called Ardmore in the cottage her grandmother was raised in. Her hair is frizzled, her nerves are frazzled, and when she learns the woman she saw in the window of her cottage has been dead for centuries, she’s knows her “steady as she goes” existence is about to change.
Aidan Gallagher is the proprieter of the Gallagher family pub, left in his care, and that of his younger brother and sister, after their parents left for the States. Aiden has always been a wanderer, but since settling back in Ardmore, he’s enjoyed himself. He and his siblings love one another, but darn it if he, Shawn, and Darcy don’t mix it up now and again. Aidan is black-Irish gorgeous and has the soul of a poet, and if readers find his dialogue a bit out of place in 1999, they won’t be alone, but they probably won’t care much. When women dream of Ireland, a man like Aidan is bound to be part of those dreams.
When Aidan and Jude meet, he knows she’s the one for him, even though it takes her much longer to come around to his way of thinking. It takes some heavy-duty match-making by Darcy and local lass Brenna to loosen Jude up, and it is the female bonding scenes with these three women that are as much fun to read as the male bonding scenes between the brothers in Roberts’ earlier Chesapeake Bay trilogy.
That Jude has seen ghosts is not a problem for Ardmore’s inhabitants – Aidan has been seeing one of them for years himself. The story behind the mournful woman and the faerie man who loved her serves as backdrop to Jude and Aidan’s budding romance, and until Aidan and his siblings are settled into wedded bliss, it’s apparent to the reader that the ghosts will not be allowed their own happiness. Jude’s meetings with the faerie, and a gift he settles upon her are rendered beautifully.
Of course, even though Aidan is a perfect fellow, he turns out to be rather dense when he tries to win Jude’s hand. And when she turns out to be rather more stubborn than he’d determined, his work is cut out for him. While some of Jude’s determination in regards to Aidan’s proposal seemed a bit manufactured, it does set up one of the most cleverly written scenes in the book and Aiden gets his comeuppance.
Jude grows and blossoms in her Irish surroundings. She becomes more sure of herself as a person and a woman – she learns not to worry so much over things that will take care of themselves. She learns that the reason for her past unhappiness is not that she wasn’t good at various endeavors, but that she had not found what she was meant to do, meant to be, and where she was meant to live. This story is far more about Jude than about Aidan, but is definitely of a love between equals.
In addition to creating the colorful characters that fill the pages of Jewels of the Sun, author Roberts has given us the local color as well. It’s in the dialogue, the brogue, the descriptions of the scenery, the down-home common-sense of the characters, and the mysticism that draws visitors to Ireland every year. And though this is clearly the story of Jude and Aidan, we get to know his siblings as well. Darcy perhaps more than Shawn, but since Brenna has her eye on Shawn, we know their story will be fiery and funny as well. And, after having spent time with Darcy, one hopes she meets a man who can see beyond her beauty and perhaps take her down a peg or two – much as I loved her, she was a bit of a brat!
As you can tell from reading this review, the characters in this book came alive for me. The extended family Nora Roberts provides becomes part of the reader’s family. As she has done in so many of her related romances, she shines in creating family relationships that are close-knit, loving, and physical. Damn, she’s good. I only wish I didn’t have to wait the six or so months it’s going to take until Shawn and Brenna’s story is told in Tears of the Moon.