Desert Isle Keeper
Who hasn’t read a Beverly Jenkins book? Her stories are as memorable as the author herself, and I am delighted to have this opportunity to review one of her novels. Tempest is a western mail-order bride story, and I’m in awe of the heroine’s willingness to start a new life in a new land all by herself by marrying a virtual stranger. It takes such courage and such belief in the innate goodness of mankind that it will all work out. And it truly does for Regan Carmichael and Dr. Colton Lee.
In an impulsive moment, Regan decides to answer Colt’s advertisement and starts corresponding with him, intending to become his mail-order bride. Seeing that they seem compatible on paper, Colt asks if she will move from her loving home in Arizona Territory far up north to where he lives in Wyoming Territory.
Regan takes this up as the adventure of her life and sets out on her journey. As she’s closing in on her destination, her stagecoach runs into some miscreants, but armed with her Winchester and sharpshooting skills she efficiently routs them. Impressed, the driver asks her to sit up top in case the villains come back. Seeing a posse riding hard on their heels, Regan fires off a couple of quick shots of warning… and shoots her intended in the shoulder.
While his closest friend, the sheriff, fights laughter, Colt is decidedly not amused and wonders if he was mistaken in his choice of bride. What kind of unladylike woman has he asked to take the place of his beloved, deferential late wife, Adele? When Colt refuses to speak to her, the sheriff decides to drive her to a boarding house to spend a few days before the wedding. But when she encounters Minnie Gore’s hostile nature – Minnie is Adele’s great aunt – and the mean room she allocates her, Regan requests that she be put up elsewhere.
Luckily, Colt’s sister, Spring, is more than welcoming. Regan is immediately beguiled by Spring’s independent outlook, her can-do attitude, and competent nature. Here is a kindred spirit, and she feels hopeful of her future. Spring, likewise, feels that Regan is the woman to bring Colt out of the frozen shell to which he’d retreated following his wife’s death.
Colt is resigned to giving Regan a chance, because he is desperate to find a mother for his six-year-old daughter, Anna. He is determined that neither judgmental and sanctimonious Minnie nor defiant and rebellious Spring have the raising of the girl
When he goes to visit Regan the next day and they finally get a good look at each other Regan is conscious of his being as handsome as an African god, while he can’t take his eyes off her beautiful face and body, both their minds traveling ahead to their wedding night. Colt spends their conversation adjusting his expectations from the suitable woman he thought he’d found to the thoroughly unconventional woman seated before him.
I really liked how Colt and Regan build their fledgling relationship over this frank conversation. It’s a harbinger of the respect and maturity they will bring to their marriage, where neither is afraid to apologize and compromise. And even though Regan challenges Colt’s way of thinking in all aspects of marriage and home life, he’s willing to learn and change. I also liked how much credence they both give to Anna’s opinion of Regan and her willingness to welcome Regan into the family.
While there is some bigotry lurking in Paradise – there always is, isn’t there? – overall, the town’s residents are glad to have Colt’s medical expertise and kind nature and are warmly welcoming of Regan. Her kindness and charm quickly make her an indispensable part of the community.
Even with danger to Regan’s life nipping at their heels, the couple makes sure to carve out time for each other in their busy lives and, much to their surprise and the reader’s delight, find tender love and happiness with each other. The pacing is very good, and while theirs is not a fiery relationship, the romantic and sexual chemistry between them is superbly done.
I learnt much about Regan’s loving nature from the way she bonds with Anna and Spring. Her free-spirited, adventurous, and compassionate nature means that she not only accepts these two as family right from the beginning, but brings them under her wing, while also encouraging their independence and respecting who they are. She is both the sun and water to Anna and Spring and watching them flower under her care is a joy.
The only false note struck in the story concerns Regan’s education at Oberlin College. How can a woman – who’s broken all records to study there in 1885 – be satisfied with a quiet life keeping house in a small town? This is inexplicable, but it’s a small hiccup.
Despite the length of this review, I find that I have failed to express how much I loved this story. Beverly Jenkins is truly a master storyteller, and Tempest is a story not to be missed.