Desert Isle Keeper
Magic in a Jelly Jar
I first came across this book when it was nominated for a RITA back in 2001. I’m not sure how many times I’ve reread it, but know I’ve included it in each of my Top 100 ballots at AAR. As a pollster I get to look at everyone else’s ballots, so I know this is truly a buried treasure; it doesn’t seem to be on any other AAR readers’ radar.
I should admit that I initially had my doubts about the book. It features a dentist who dresses up like the tooth fairy and visits grade schools. Add in a couple cute kids on the cover and it looked saccharine sweet. Boy, was I wrong. While it has a real “meet cute” premise, there’s real substance, and sorrow, in both the hero and heroine.
Joe Morgan is the epitome of a family man. He gave up his beloved Texas and the rodeo when his wife wanted to live closer to her wealthy family in Virginia. When his wife abandoned Joe and their two young children, he didn’t move back to Texas but stayed in Virginia for his children, the only home they’ve ever known. In everything that he does, Joe is a truly honorable man, struggling to get by and raise his children well.
Joe is flummoxed when he gets a call from his son’s school. Seems his son has been playing dentist with his classmates. Joe doesn’t know what to think when his son refuses to say why he’s pulling his classmates’ teeth. The boy’s teacher suggests that it might have something to do with the recent visit to the school by a dentist dressed up in a tooth fairy costume. At her suggestion, Joe takes his son to the dentist’s office.
Samantha Carter is the type of dentist I wish I’d had as a child. She does everything she can to make her young patients feel at ease. She’ll pull objects from the children’s ears, has a collection of fairies in her office, and gives the kids glow-in-the-dark toothbrushes.
Sam’s still bruised from her divorce, not so much mourning over her ex-husband, but over his two young daughters from a previous marriage. It’s clear pretty quickly that Sam loved the daughters more than the husband. Now her ex won’t let the girls have any contact with Sam. It was heartbreaking when one of them called Sam, pleading with her to let them live with Sam instead of their father.
Sam falls immediately for Joe’s children, and is deeply attracted to Joe. But like Joe, Sam’s honorable to the core. She’s deeply touched, and troubled, when Joe’s son tells her that he’s pulling teeth to give to the tooth fairy. Somehow, he’s decided that this magic will bring his mother back to the family.
If you don’t like children in romances, this is one you’re going to want to avoid. Joe’s children have a critical role in bringing Joe and Samantha together, and in setting the pace for their relationship. Both Sam and Joe have broken hearts, and are nervous about starting up a new relationship. They also have their priorities in order. They take the children into account in everything that they do; they’ve each seen children hurt from failed relationships, and don’t want that for Joe’s children.
Nothing earth-shattering happens; the focus is on the characters and their relationships with each other. Joe and Samantha feel like real people to me with real problems. And Joe’s children, while cute, aren’t perfect. I absolutely adore this book, and know I’ll read it again. It’s truly a DIK for me.
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My first memory is sitting with my mother on a blanket in our backyard surrounded by books and she is reading one of them to me. My love of reading was encouraged by my parents and it continues to today. I’ve gone through a lot of different genres over the years, but I currently primarily read mysteries (historical mysteries are my favorites) and romances (focusing on contemporaries, categories, and steampunk). When I’m not reading or working, I love to travel, knit, and work on various community projects.