Desert Isle Keeper
Sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint which books are really getting a lot of buzz on the Internet. But when six AAR reviewers and editors (and publisher) independently buy two books by the same author over one weekend and four more rush out to get them in the next few days, well, that’s buzz like I’ve never seen before. Anne Gracie is an author worth getting excited about, and Tallie’s Knight is the best Regency Romance I’ve read in years. (The other book we all rushed out and bought? Anne Gracie’s other U.S. release – Gallant Waif – which received DIK status earlier this week.)
Thalia (Tallie) Robinson is the proverbial poor relation, living on the good graces of her snobbish, mean cousin Laetitia. Tallie is fairly happy living at Laetitia’s country estate and caring for Laetitia’s children; Laetitia is rarely home, and Tallie is free to care for the children and daydream. Then one day Laetitia hosts a house party for her cousin (on the other side of the family) Magnus, and everything changes.
Magnus, Earl of d’Arenville, thinks he is content with his bachelor life until he holds his friend’s child in his arms and decides that he wants children of his own. He asks his cousin to host the house party and invite some eligible women, figuring that choosing one of them will be a simple matter. He is mostly interested in her future wife’s ability to bear children, so his primary requirements are solid bloodlines and ample hips. But all the women at the house party seem so vapid and spoiled. Then he observes Tallie the poor relation and he decides she’ll be perfect. She seems to like children, and surely she’ll be so grateful for his proposal that she won’t mind being left in the country.
Tallie is shocked to be Magnus’s choice, and initially she plans to refuse him. After all, his proposal is more an arrogant assumption than a proposal; he never really asks her at all. But when Laetitia throws her out of her home, she feels she has no choice but to marry Magnus. Magnus is hardly thrilled with Tallie’s reluctant acceptance, but he goes through with the marriage anyway.
This may sounds like a hundred Regencies you’ve read before. We’ve all seen noble poor relations who dream of being rescued by true love, and arrogant heroes who think “any good breeder will do” are hardly unheard of either. So what makes this book different and special? Gracie breathes life into these characters, from the first scenes. When Magnus first holds his friend’s child, the reader can tell that he is a generous, loving person inside – even if he doesn’t know that yet. Tallie evokes comparisons to Cinderella, toiling away for an ungrateful keeper, all the while spinning fairy tale fantasies in her head. Magnus seems like a very unlikely Prince Charming at first glance, but it’s clear that Tallie and Magnus will actually rescue each other.
From Dover to Paris to Italy, Tallie and Magnus get to know and love each other, each of them realizing that their marriage is much more than they thought it would be. Magnus realizes that his wife is more than a brood mare, and Tallie sees through Magnus’s reputation as an icicle to the man who needs desperately to be loved.
There are other characters worth noting in the book. Laetitia could be a stock villain, but she manages to be completely believable in her spitefulness. There are butlers, maids, and even a bandit who are on stage for only a short time yet manage to make an impression. And always there are Tallie and Magnus; you just can’t help rooting for them.
Gracie’s writing style is charming and wonderful, and the love scenes are very sensual for a traditional Regency. Not only do they provide both humorous and tender moments – they actually move the plot along (rather than reading like so much window dressing).
Even if you’re not the biggest Regency Romance fan, I suggest you make an exception for this one. This is a special book with excellent writing and characters that touch the heart.