Desert Isle Keeper
This second entry in Nalini Singh’s Rock Kiss series is a completely delightful experience in audio. While both the hero and heroine have major issues from the past, this is my “favorite funny” romance of 2015. Ms. Singh deftly intertwines the true grief and trauma experienced by the characters with sparkling wit. She never downplays what they’ve experienced, but the result is an enjoyable, completely satisfying listen. .
Charlotte Baird, our heroine, is best friends with Molly, the heroine of Rock Addiction. This book takes place at the same time as the first series entry, with a number of the same scenes viewed this time around from Charlotte’s perspective. Despite the commonalities, this works well as a standalone, and I like it better than the first book. .
Charlotte is a records clerk for Saxon & Archer, a large New Zealand corporation. The company is floundering due to negligent – and even criminal – management. Gabriel Bishop has been brought in as CEO to rescue the company. Charlotte’s initial meeting with Gabriel is both funny and revealing of each of their characters. Charlotte is working alone in the office when she hears a noise and spots a very large man. She’s terrified, throws a stapler at him – and then recognizes him as her new boss. .
The choice of narrator was a bit distracting initially. While the novel is set in New Zealand, Ms. Keef speaks with a distinctly American accent. However, within minutes I got over my trepidations; it was clear that despite the accent, Ms. Keef is a skilled narrator. She conveys Charlotte’s terror and subsequent embarrassment in her first meeting with Gabriel as her voice croaks appropriately. And the tone she uses for Gabriel is distinct from Charlotte’s, never causing any confusion. .
Gabriel, a former star rugby player, is gorgeous, sexy, rich, a business shark and we quickly learn he is very smart. Within a few days, he figures out that Charlotte has been doing most of the job of his Personal Assistant, and after firing most of the firm’s top management, he appoints her as his new PA. .
Gabriel is used to women falling all over him; in contrast, Charlotte is afraid of him. We learn Charlotte suffered terrible abuse from an ex-boyfriend and that the experience, coming soon after the death of her parents, left her afraid of almost everything – large men in particular. And Gabriel is a very large man. Charlotte thinks of herself as a mouse and Gabriel as a T-Rex, “stomping through the company, chewing up people and spitting them out.” Despite her attempts to appear invisible with ugly clothes and a harsh hairstyle, Gabriel is intrigued by her, especially by her mind. .
While Gabriel is interested in Charlotte from the beginning, their personal relationship builds very slowly. What occurs more quickly is a successful working partnership that gives Charlotte more self-confidence. Gabriel is hard-working and demanding – attributes successfully conveyed by Ms. Keef’s performance – but Charlotte quickly begins to stand up to him, and we hear her growing confidence and assertiveness through the narration. .
Charlotte goes through numerous changes and feels many different emotions, and Ms, Keef is spot on with each of them. Moreover, she nails the gender and personality of each character, from the (sometimes) arrogance in Gabriel’s voice to the breathiness of a beautiful blond attempting to hit on him. .
Despite dealing with serious issues, there’s plenty of humor in the story. Ms. Singh has wonderful titles for each chapter such as “Charlie-Mouse Meets T-Rex…and Things Happen” and “In News That Surprises No One, Anya is a Bitch.” But the humor goes beyond the chapter titles; the dialog between Gabriel and Charlotte frequently sparkles with wit as do many of their email exchanges. .
There’s so much to like about this book. So often the characters’ jobs are merely window dressing; not so here. There are so many nice, small touches that let us see just how brilliant they each are in their jobs. .
Both Charlotte and Gabriel are fully developed, with hobbies, jobs, and friendships, and both show growth over the course of the book. While Charlotte is definitely a “mouse” in the beginning, she develops strength and confidence and learns to stand up for what she wants, both in the workplace and in her personal relationships. While seemingly opposites at the beginning, by the end of the book, Charlotte and Gabriel are equals with a believable, satisfying relationship. This was just delicious, and I can’t wait for more contemporaries from Ms. Singh.
Breakdown of Grade: Narration: A- and Book Content: A- Unabridged. Length – 10 hours 23 minutes