Desert Isle Keeper
Lord St. Claire's Angel
I almost didn’t buy this book because RT gave it only two stars. I’m glad I decided to listen to word of mouth instead and buy this book. Psst, Laurie, is it too late to change my vote for best Regency of 1999?
Celestine Simons doesn’t envision a bright future for herself. She is a governess, she is plain, and she has arthritis. The best she could hope for is marriage to the local vicar. As if that weren’t enough, she learns that her employer hired her because she is plain. It’s part of Lady Elizabeth’s plan to thwart her rakish brother-in-law, Lord Justin St. Claire. She doesn’t want him dallying with the governess – why not prevent that by hiring a plain governess?
Justin thinks there’s nothing wrong with giving a servant a few secretive kisses. It’s not as if he’s bedding the women; instead, he’s giving them some pleasant memories. When he sees Celestine, the new governess, he knows Elizabeth hired this plain woman on purpose. He decides to frustrate Elizabeth’s plans by courting Celestine, even if she is plain.
Then, in a moving scene, Justin sees Celestine singing in the choir practice. This sets the pace for a novel that’s as much about growth as it is about love. For once he hears her sing, Justin is at a loss. He doesn’t want to hurt this woman, and he’s ready to leave her alone. That is, until Elizabeth interferes in his life again, and he decides to have his tryst.
The characters drive this story. Celestine might seem weak and mousy to some readers, but she faces her trials with quiet strength. She is realistically drawn – a governess in her situation could not afford to be pushy, or God forbid, “feisty.” You might expect to hate a hero like Justin St. Claire, but you come to understand him. He’s the younger brother, and nothing he ever did was good enough – so he compensated by becoming bad. It’s time for him to grow up, and the reader gets to watch this journey throughout the novel. It’s also time for other people to start treating him like an adult.
Despite the lack of love scenes, sexual tension is high. Justin understands the allure of stolen kisses, and he tries to exploit those emotions. Still, he underestimates the power of love. Though Justin and Celestine don’t make love, they are intimate in the ways that truly count.
Elizabeth does everything she can to keep the couple apart, but she’s not doing this because she’s evil – she truly believes that Justin and Celestine should know their places in society. Other standout characters include Celestine’s Aunt Emily and Lady Grishelda, both of whom have potential for carrying their own novels.
What was wrong with this novel? Very little, which is why it earns Desert Isle Keeper Status. At one point, jealousy causes Justin to make some snap judgments. The story could have worked without this element, particularly since the reader hasn’t been given the impression he is prone to jealousy. And, some characters with potential, such as Emily’s companion, are underutilized, while others are introduced too late in the story, making them little more than walk-ons when they could have carried a more important part in the story.
These are truly niggles, however, for this is a stellar Regency Romance. It rises above the standard governess-who-finds-love-with-a-lord plot. It’s neither a farce, nor a mystery, and instead entertains the reader because it is character-based. You may not love it as much as I did, but give it a chance if you’re looking for something a cut above the rest.