Desert Isle Keeper
Narrated by Rosalyn Landor
One of the first historical romance authors I read and enjoyed was Julie Garwood. But when I think of my favorites, Saving Grace, the recipient of two DIKs at AAR, never comes to mind. After listening to this 1994 print release in audio format, I believe my list of Garwood favorites will change in the future, as both the story and the narration are a DIK for me.
The story begins in 1206 England when Lady Johanna learns that her husband, Baron Raulf, is dead. The priest who passes this news on to Johanna isn’t surprised when she bursts into tears, but what he doesn’t know is she’s crying tears of joy. Johanna suffered horribly during her three year marriage to Raulf. He abused her physically and mentally, and cheated on her with a string of women. But Johanna didn’t suffer just at Raulf’s hand. Raulf was allied with an evil Bishop who taught his followers that women are the lowest of God’s hierarchy, below dull-witted oxen. Johanna was isolated and when not abused, ignored, during her marriage.
Johanna is believed to be barren which should make her unappealing for a second marriage, but her wealth cancels that out. To protect her, Johanna’s brother arranges for a quick marriage to a Scottish laird, promising the laird Johanna’s wealth in exchange for his protection.
The scenes in which Johanna first meets Laird Gabriel McBain are memorable. He’s made some assumptions about Johanna that quickly prove incorrect. Ms. Landor catches each of Gabriel’s moods perfectly. He sounds alternately arrogant, harsh, firm, gruff, and impatient, exactly as I imagined he would sound when reading the book.
But it’s not only Ms. Landor’s rendering of Gabriel that I appreciate; I like how she differentiates between Johanna’s voice and the narrative/descriptive text. The “narrator” sounds a bit older and more sophisticated, while Johanna sounds somewhat younger and less formal. Over the course of the book Johanna regains her confidence, her bravery, and her sense of self. This change in Johanna comes through in Ms. Landor’s narration.
Ms. Landor also pays careful attention to the various secondary characters. There are long passages with two or three men talking and Ms. Landor effectively differentiates one from another, allowing me to easily discern which character is speaking. Each is given a voice that is appropriate for their age, gender, and nationality. There’s a mix of Scottish and English accents and ,from my perspective (as an American), the differences worked without being over-the-top. Nicholas, McBain’s son from a camp-follower sounds like the young boy that he is.
In her review of the print version, Marianne Stillings comments that the book contains, “the sweet love and gracious humor that are Garwood trademarks.” This holds true for me as well, and the narration made this reread an even more enjoyable experience and the development of Johanna and Gabriel’s relationship even more touching. As Johanna regains her confidence and bravery, Gabriel comes to realize that he doesn’t just lust after Johanna, he truly loves her. I know that I will read this again at some point in the future, and my next re-read will also be in audio.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: A- and Book Content: A
Unabridged. Length – 14 hours 9 minutes