Desert Isle Keeper
Quick – find me Candace Camp’s backlist! If all her other books are as good as this one is, I’ve got a real treat waiting for me. This one has it all: smooth writing, an intelligent story, engaging characters, and sexual tension that positively sizzles.
Julia Armiger needs to rehabilitate her brother Selby’s memory. After being accused of embezzling money from the trust of a late friend’s son, Selby was found dead, an apparent suicide. Julia is convinced the death was accidental and, moreover, that Selby was framed for the theft. Having come to London in an attempt to kidnap and confront his most vocal accuser, Deverel Grey, Lord Stonehaven, Julia soon realizes that another tactic is necessary, so she sets out to seduce him, using a false identity.
Too soon, the hunter becomes the prey. Stonehaven is not exactly a rake, but a man who knows how to slip past any woman’s defenses, especially those of a lovely, if naive, girl from the country. Before she knows it, Julia finds herself being seduced. She manages to keep her head just long enough to lure him into one last trap. This time the kidnapping is successful, but Julia suffers pangs of conscience. When she goes back to release him, he turns the tables and kidnaps her.
Dev is furious when he learns who she is; the revelation comes at a most inopportune moment, and circumstances force him to pretend that he and Julia are married. He bribes her into going with him to his country house by promising to show her the suicide note he found next to Selby’s body, a note Julia never knew existed. Her examination of the note convinces her it’s a forgery. At first merely humoring her, Dev begins to believe she may be right, and they set off to get to the bottom of things.
The partnership proves awkward. Julia wonders how she could be falling in love with the man who ruined her family; Dev is driven to heights of frustration the likes of which he’s never known in his life. How can he spend so much time with her and keep his promise not to touch her? And the closer they get to solving the puzzle surrounding Selby’s death, the more dangerous events become: someone’s on to them and will stop at nothing to keep the truth hidden.
I was almost late to work because I couldn’t put this book down. I can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like. Julia is strong, intelligent, and unafraid to stand up for what she believes. And yet, the reader also senses her vulnerability and uncertainty, as she slowly learns that Stonehaven is not the devil she’s made him out to be. Deverel may have been attracted to her initially by her beauty, but he comes to respect her; he grows to like her while falling in love. Make no mistake, though, his desire for her is strong, and some of the fun of this read is finding out just how far these two can go before they finally give in to themselves and each other. I may have rated it “warm,” but there’s warm, and then there’s warm. Take your sweater off before you start reading: this is pretty darn warm.
The mystery is good, tightly constructed, and avoids the pitfall of many others in romance, when the identity of the villain is transparent right off. But the intrigue never overpowers the relationship between Julia and Dev, which remains the main focus of the story. The plot flows smoothly, moving at just the right pace, never dragging but not going off at breakneck speed, either. A wonderful supporting cast and a charming secondary romance add to the book’s appeal. There are touches of humor, some very good dialogue, and – for me, a real plus – no blatant anachronisms to jar me out of the story.
When it hits the bookstores later this spring, I urge you to go out and get Swept Away. You won’t be disappointed. If you are, just send me your copy; I’ll be happy to throw it in the suitcase I’m packing for the day I move to my desert island. Ah, Paradise: a never-ending supply of Cokes, cigarettes, and books as good as this. Now, if I could just make room for that real-life to-die-for man. . . nah, the books are more important!