Desert Isle Keeper
I loved this book. Coulter has the unique ability of taking old tried and true themes and twisting them into an altogether new plot. In this book, Victoria Abermarle is running away from Baron Drago. The Baron is not a nice man, and he’s done his best to seduce Victoria. When that failed, he tried force. Victoria is determined to elude him.
She’d come to live at Drago Hall when she was 14, after the marriage of her first cousin, Elaine, to Damien Carstairs. Damien had always treated her kindly — until 6 months ago, when she’d turned 19 and begun looking like a woman. Since then, she’s been forced to keep up her guard, always living in fear.
Now, knowing it was only a matter of time before he caught her alone and had his way, she steals some money from his cash box and escapes into the night. In the process of stealing the money she discovers papers claiming she isn’t the penniless relative she’d always believed herself to be, but rather something of an heiress. Damien, and her cousin Elaine, had never seen fit to tell her. Victoria decides to make her way to London, to the solicitor, and collect her own funds. She runs into trouble on the beach however, as Brandy smugglers discover her. Frightened, she starts to run, and ends up in the arms of Baron Drago.
It takes Rafael several minutes to convince the young lady that he isn’t Baron Drago at all, but rather his twin, Rafael, just returning to the area. In truth, Rafael is captain of his own ship and a spy for the war ministry. He’s on his way to take important papers to London, and since Victoria is headed the same way, he insists on escorting her. Rafael has always known his twin was more on the disreputable side than not, but it still pains him to find out he would have taken advantage of Victoria. He finds her sweet and innocent and guileless, but she’s also hiding a secret, a secret he doesn’t understand.
Circumstances, once they’re in London, force them to wed. Damien is lurking about, ready to take advantage and regain Victoria’s inheritance, and she can’t collect it until she’s married, or 21. Knowing he has few choices, and that it won’t really be a hardship at all, Rafael asks her to be his wife. Unfortunately, Damien plants the seed of suspicion in Rafael’s mind that he and Victoria have already been lovers. Rafael doesn’t believe it until that night when they’re ready to consummate the marriage, and Victoria wants the candles snuffed. She also admits she has a confession to make. She’s ready to unveil her secret.
Rafael assumes the worse, that she’ll confess to being his brother’s lover, and it all goes downhill. They sleep in separate beds. Hurt, Victoria then refuses to admit to Rafael what her confession would have been. When her parents died, she suffered an accident that damaged the muscles in her leg. She has a harsh scar and anytime she overdoes it, the leg will spasm. She finds it incredibly ugly, and had thought to warn Rafael. Now she feels he has no right to know.
There’s a lot of hilarious bickering, and a scene in the kitchen where Rafael makes an outrageous breadman, and some incredibly sexy scenes where Rafael seduces his wife into forgiving him his misassumptions, all the while he still doesn’t know about her leg. He teases her that she must have a malformed toe to continually insist on keeping the candles unlit, but he’s willing to be patient for her confession – to a point.
The war ministry asks Rafael to investigate a Hellfire club which puts him and Victoria right back at Drago Hall. This time Victoria is Rafael’s wife, but that doesn’t stop Damien from trying to impersonate his twin to gain his ends. The following scenes will have you holding your sides in hilarity, at the same time you want to cosh both brothers upside their hard heads.
When Rafael does discover the truth of Victoria’s leg, he doesn’t let us down. He’s at first justifiably upset that she would keep such a secret, and that she would think he was shallow enough to care. He tells her it doesn’t matter to him, that he only cares about relieving her pain. He tends her, and they make new headway into their love.
As with all Coulter books, this one ties up a neat, intriguing mystery involving the Hellfire club and Damien and several other locals. The main culprit is a surprise, and the resulting ending is satisfying. Rafael, after almost losing his wife to villains, is more than willing to admit how much he loves her. This, the last of the Magic trilogy, ends with all three couples together, all still in character, all still fun and loving. This was one of my all time favorite trilogies ever.