Desert Isle Keeper
Linda Howard pens hot and exciting romances with sexy, mouth watering men and strong women who fight for what they want. Half-breed Wolf Mackenzie, (whew, the name alone sends chills through my body) refuses to give in to the prejudice directed at he and his son by the people of Ruth, Wyoming.
Wolf stayed on his mountain on the outskirts of town and had very little to do with the townsfolk until the arrival of school teacher Mary Elizabeth Potter. Mary stirs everything up when she won’t let sixteen-year-old Joe Mackenzie drop out of school. She begins tutoring him in her home. The townsfolk don’t like it, and neither does Wolf, although his desire for her burns with such intensity it singes the pages. For the first time in her life Mary understands sexual attraction. But it’s more than that. Not only does Mary want Wolf, she loves him as well.
But she’ll have to fight for the right to love him. A few years ago a series of rapes occurred and Wolf was mistakenly jailed for them. He was finally cleared of all charges. When the local townswomen are being attacked again, Wolf is accused once more. Mary is incensed by this injustice and prejudice and tries to draw the culprit out, placing herself in great danger in the process.
Mary may be considered plain but she gives Wolf an exhilarating run. The emotions throughout the story are intense and Ms. Howard delivers. This finely crafted romance has deliciously racy love scenes and a fantastic plot. All the elements readers look for are there to be enjoyed.
My only complaint was it ended too soon. If you haven’t already read this dynamite novel, I urge you to run out and buy it. It was out of print but a couple of months ago, Silhouette reprinted it with Joe’s story, Mackenzie’s Mission. There are other books about Mary’s and Wolf’s children out there and I’ve read each one and all of them are fabulous. I just hope she continues to write about the Mackenzies.
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Over the years, AAR has had many a guest reviewer. If we don't know the name of the reviewer, we've placed their reviews under this generic name.
|Review Date:||November 12, 2017|
|Book Type:||Contemporary Romance|
|Review Tags:||Mackenzie Family series|
Yes, Howard tries to muddy the waters for her hero by inserting lines from Mary such as, “what if I get really scared,” etc. However, the moment when Mary says “no” and the moments when she tries to fight Wolf off, the scene becomes non consensual It really is that simply. Writers need to create men who respect a woman’s right to say “no.” I tremendously dislike writing that tries to create ambiguity around this issue. We do need to part ways on how we interpret this issue.
I’m not sure what you mean in your last sentence. Who’s the “we”?
I’m referring to the conversation between Chris booklover and me.
OK–I couldn’t tell what you meant there.
Disagreements about a novel’s merits are to be expected. It’s another thing entirely to read an account that misrepresents its contents by omitting critical details that are essential for understanding the context of a particular scene. Mary, not Wolf, is the one who initiates their encounter when she says “I don’t want to be afraid any longer. Make love to me like that – please”. Wolf asks “What if you get really scared?” She replies “Don’t – don’t stop.” Later in the scene Mary says “I don’t want you to make love to me now. Not like this.” Wolf replies “Then I won’t. Don’t be afraid, baby. I won’t go any further unless you want me to.” Eventually she says ‘I want you” at which point they proceed further.
I find it difficult to see how this encounter could be considered non-consensual in any respect. Mary is, and acts as, an autonomous human being. She is a strong character who achieves what she sets out to do, not simply a victim. As Chrisreader pointed out above, Linda Howard has written a number of seemingly traditionalist and conventional heroines who turn out to be smart, strong-willed and fearless. Daisy from Open Season, Maddie from Duncan’s Bride and Grace from Son of the Morning are other examples. I understand that Howard’s sexual politics may not be to everyone’s taste, but that is not a justification for distorting what she does actually say in this or other novels.
No, Mary wasn’t raped but she was assaulted, and I didn’t have doubt that she would have been raped had she not fought back and then been rescued. I understand that trauma has created fear for her of being approached from behind, and that seems very believable. I interpreted Mary’s hesitation to Wolf’s suggestion as skeptical and then fearful, but the real problem for me in this entire scene is that there is no doubt the moment she says “no” and he disregards her words and her actions, the scene becomes non-consensual. It’s the “no” and the fight she puts up that makes this so scene troubling. The message I take away is that “no” means “yes,” basically, in Howard’s writing. My sense of her writing is that she finds the strong man appealing and patriarchy seductive. The reenactment scene between Mary and Wolf has been repeated in other of her books to varying degrees too. Off the top of my head, there is a scene in Dream Man where the heroine, another survivor of a sexual assault (also not a successful rape), admits to anxiety about sex. Dane, the hero, convinces her to climb onto his lap where he holds her down when she protests and shows her how good sex can be. Not as intense as the Wolf/Mary scene but seems to be a scenario that Howard likes to work through, and in both cases, the hero knows what’s best.
I guess for me with more current romance writing, I see many authors resisting the trends of the past, talking back to them in many ways, and deliberately creating heroes who respect a woman’s right to say no. Is there a way to defend a man who proceeds (touching, having sex, holding a woman down, etc.) after being told no? I guess that’s what it comes down to for me as a romance reader.
Well, I looked up the scene in question because apparently I still own this book, and I do find it a troubling scene, and one that is pretty much in line with what I remember and what SusanK describes. Wolf does say exactly verbatim, “we could reenact parts of the attack” (p. 206). Incidentally, I think learning self-defense strategies to fight off an attacker is a different and more empowering response than reenacting a rape, but that’s not what this scene offers. In Howard’s book, Mary feels anxiety witnessing a mare being pinned for insemination, and after a brief discussion of horse mating, Wolf suggests (not Mary) a reenactment as a way for Mary to move forward in her life. Mary seems to go along with it but then panics and tries to call it off, at which point the narrator states: “a bleak look entered his eyes, but his voice was guttural. ‘No, I’m going to catch you'” (p. 208). She struggles hard to get away but doesn’t succeed. They struggle for nearly two pages before Mary comes to her senses, realizes she loves this man, and they have wonderful sex together. We’re told he felt terrible having to do this to her, but it is very clear in this scene that it is for her own good. The scene seems to me to be a turning point in Mary’s emotional and psychological recovery. How we read this scene could be open to reader interpretation, but I’m uncomfortable with scenes that put the power in the man’s hands to show the woman what will work for her sexually much less scenes that literally put the power in the man’s hands to hold a woman down until she accepts the lesson she apparently needs to learn.
It is but one scene in what I thought was a very traditional romance with respect to old-fashioned ideas about women’s sexuality and how men and women interact. The book is not for me, but I too am okay too with disagreeing about the novel’s merit.
(I have a MIra Book publication from 1989).
I just reread this so It’s pretty fresh in my mind.
Mary is jumping whenever anyone comes up behind her, even when it’s just a touch on the shoulder in the kitchen so they decide to try Wolf’s idea. It’s made very clear in the novel their sex life was not affected at all and if anything she is even more passionate and wants to be close to him more often. It’s not done as a way to get her past any intimacy issues but her fear of being touched or approached from behind. She is upset about seeing the mare but for anyone not used to that on a ranch and didn’t understand how it all worked I could imagine it would be off-putting-particularly someone who went through what she did.
Just to be clear 1.) she wasn’t raped by the attacker although he pushed her down and was certainly going to do so if the deputy hadn’t come by and she was scared and bruised up 2.) it wasn’t a re-enactment per se of her assault -it starts off with the two of them running around the yard in what Mary sees as a child like fashion with her chanting “you can’t catch me, you can’t catch me” and she feels quite silly at first, of course it progresses from there.
I am in no way going to assume this type of thing could or would actually work for someone scared of anything but I don’t think it is exactly fair to categorize it as him re-enacting a sexual assault to “cure” her. But as in all things YMMV.
Isn’t this the book in which the heroine almost gets sexually assaulted and the hero “cures” her by re-enacting the event, then everything is fine and dandy after that? I just found that so disturbing. I read the book for the first time a few years ago and have no desire to read it again.
Oh yeah, I forgot that. Howard is not a writer I go to for progressive views on gender :(
Um … this is not IMO an accurate summary of the events in the novel. Wolf does not “re-enact” Mary’s attempted assault, nor is there any suggestion that he magically and instantaneously cures her of any trauma. Although Mackenzie’s Mountain is a relatively short category romance with familiar elements, it works for many readers (including me) because of the complexity and subtlety of Linda Howard’s writing. I suspect that we will have to agree to disagree about the novel’s merits. I’m O.K. with that, but I felt it necessary to reply because I would not want readers who are unfamiliar with the story to receive a misleading account.
This and Open Season are my favorite Howard novels and I reread both every few years. I agree with the comment that Mountain reads as though it was written longer ago than the 90s, but it still works for me. I quite dislike Mr. Perfect, which is much higher on the list. And I too am shocked that there is no Brockmann anywhere on the list. . . .
I’d love to see a Top 100 list of authors and another one for series. . . . although I’m terrified a series list would be dominated by Nora Roberts trilogies.
Open Season is also one of, if not my favorite, Linda Howard book and I was struck when I was rereading Mackenzie’s Mountain again last night (thanks to this list) how much Mary reminds me of Daisy from Open Season in that they both come from conservative southern families with strong willed aunts.
They are still quite distinct characters in my mind but I enjoyed that they are very strong willed (Mary even more so perhaps, which surprised me on the reread). I had forgotten just how much Mary does and says what she wants. Wolf being alpha and blustery I remembered, but Mary for all her outer “mousiness” in appearance is very strong willed and goes against Wolf a lot doing what she thinks it right even when he tries to protect her. She is no shrinking violet, even when confronted by Wolf or by the townspeople and she has a backbone of steel. I loved how Howard made her traditional and conventional in terms of social niceties but absolutely fearless and gutsy. You can tell she is based on a type of woman that Howard knows well and it really comes through in the writing.
This is the only category romance in the AAR Top 100. It’s also my favorite Howard novel, and one of my top two or three romances written by anyone. Although it was published almost thirty years ago it stands the test of time very well. I still re-read it quite often, as Wolf and Mary may be my favorite couple.
Incidentally, the numbering of the list seems to slightly off. By my reckoning (as well as the list posted on the Vox Populi page) Mackenzie’s Mountain should be #50, not #53, just as As You Desire should be #51, not #54.
I was looking over the list because you mention this is the only category romance on it and I thought that surely one of Suzanne Brockmann’s category romances were included- but I was shocked to see none of her books on it (unless I missed it). That really stunned me. I know not all of her books stand the test of time as well as others and she has annoyed some people with her personal comments or attitude or whatever over the years but a couple of her books are real DIK’s for me even after all this time. Contemporary books don’t seem to do as well overall on the poll it seems to me.
Linda Howard should be proud indeed of this book as category romances don’t really get well reviewed across the board anymore and it seems like a lot of romance readers skip over them now. Mackenzie’s Mountain and Joe’s story (is it Mackenzie’s Mission or is that the other brother?) really have held up for me. If I were submitting a top 100 list today they would both likely be on it, and Mackenzie’s Mountain for sure.
I enjoyed this one though it does feel pretty dated to me compared to how men and women interact in current romances being written. It was entertaining but I have to admit that I never for some reason went back to reread it, as I have done with many Howard books.
This is one of her best. Gotta love that Wolf. And it’s always good for a reread!
There are a whole bunch of things in this book that shouldn’t work for me if I’m being nit picky or analyzing it but the bottom line is I enjoy this book every time I read it.
If I had to list some problems I’d say it reads more like it was set in the 1960’s than the 1990’s and Wolf is definitely overbearing, grumpy and bossy but it’s a book that stands up to multiple re-reads and has some very likeable characters. Joe is particularly great and I loved his story as well.
I too thought this book had been written earlier than the publishing date.
This continues to be one of my favorite Howard books. I’m off to do some re-reading!