Desert Isle Keeper
This is my kind of romance: two people drawn inexplicably to each other who, for various, often noble reasons, feel they must fight what they feel for each other. The struggle is a moot one, however, as the spell that holds the two lovers in its grip is too powerful to undo. After reading a book like this, I like to fantasize that there is a love like this out there for everyone – particularly myself. If it truly exists, it must be incredible.
Lord Ashley Kendrick returns home to England and to the bosom of his family after several years in India. Unspeakably weary, he strides purposefully, almost maniacally, across a crowded ballroom intent on asking Lady Emily Marlowe to dance. Others try to impede his progress by telling him that she is deaf and cannot possibly know how to dance much less have any desire to do so. He ignores them. Upon reaching Emily, he extends his hand, and says, “Come . . . We will dance, Emmy. We will prove to these unbelievers that a man who is weary through to the marrow of his bones and a woman who cannot hear music or anything else can dance without missing a step.” Prove it they did throughout a mesmerizing and compelling love story that has absolutely nothing to do with listening to audible sounds and words. Instead, Emily and Ashley listen and respond helplessly like puppets on a string to a silent melody of love that has held them in its grip since Emily was a young girl and Ashley a young man barely into his twenties.
Ashley, tall, dark and requisitely handsome, has never had any problem communicating with Emily. Emily, deaf since a childhood illness, knows that Ashley is the only person who truly understands her. They develop a sign language all of their own and their love is like a living thing that leaps off the pages of the book to draw the reader into their story. With Ashley’s return, the spark that lit the original fire is heated back into a flame that swallows its willing victims in a heady inferno of love and desire.
Ashley cannot imagine a life without Emily in it and yet, for several reasons, he tortures himself with guilt and feels unworthy of Emily. When he and Emily initially met, he knew that she was too young for him and he pushed her away. His marriage to another woman while he lived in India was an unhappy one and, the night his wife and son were tragically killed in a fire, he was in another woman’s bed. Emily, on the other hand, has been merely going through the motions. The night of the ball she is on the verge of betrothing herself to a titled gentleman of the ton. She longs for a husband and children of her own but is plagued by a nameless emptiness. When Ashley and Emily find each other again, a beautiful love story unfolds and it is made even more compelling because Emily cannot hear. The crucial piece, however, is that she hears Ashley just fine and he her. True, they stumble a bit along the way but they get back up, dust themselves off, make a little love and, gradually, move ever closer to completeness.
This story has it all as far as I am concerned and it does one thing for me that is a must for a book to be considered a keeper. It is a gripping, compelling love story that lives and breathes as if Ashley and Emily are real people. When I finish a book like this, I fully expect to look up and see not only Ashley and Emily in my living room but all of the wonderful characters that made this book such a magical experience. I feel as if they have become my friends.
Many of the characters in this book are familiar to readers of Mary Balogh. Emily’s sister, Anna, and Ashley’s brother, Luke, are the featured hero and heroine of Heartless. I have to admit that Luke is one of the most interesting characters I have come across, although I am loath to call even him a character. A man’s man, Luke dresses like the finest dandies in Paris where he spent some of his youth; yet he is a devoted family man who is deeply in love with his wife.
As I said earlier, if love like the kind that Ashley and Emily find together truly does exist, it must be incredible. I heartily recommend this book and, always a hopeful romantic, wish that every person out there in this world could find something like it in their lifetime. Failing that, I suggest a warm fire on a cold winter night, a cup of hot chocolate or other some such soothing libation, and this book.