Desert Isle Keeper
The Basque Swallow
The Basque Swallow is noteworthy for its unique setting, unusual characters, and the author’s distinctive style of telling a story. But more importantly – most importantly – it’s quite simply a great read.
The story is told in first-person by its heroine, Joanna Bellamy. As the book opens, the New York divorcee is trying to decide what to do with the rest of her life. She recently finalized her divorce from her husband and former business partner, whom she allowed to buy her out, leaving her more than well off. Her twin sons are away at college, no longer needing her the way they once did. Needing something to do, she replies to a classified ad that catches her eye. A business that arranges to send mail-order brides to Europe needs a chaperone to escort the newest group on their trip. Charmed by the old-fashioned and romantic concept, Joanna applies and is hired.
She finds herself on a cruise with a boatload of nervous and hopeful woman, headed to the small European nation of Andorra. But it soon becomes clear that there’s more going on than it seems. The group’s coordinator seems to have more at stake than getting the brides to their destination. One of the woman is clearly there for reasons other than matrimony. Then there’s Lucien Soileau, the mysterious Frenchman who appears to be tracking the group’s every move. He pops up at the oddest of moments, far too conveniently to be coincidence. He’s not telling Joanna everything, or anything at all. But as danger closes and murder enters the picture, he also may be the only person she can trust.
There are several elements that make the book unique. It’s rare enough to see somewhat older characters – in this case a heroine said to be pushing forty and a hero well into his. It’s even rarer to find them in an action-adventure plot. It’s always nice to see a story set in an unusual place. This book taught me more about Andorra, a country I’d never heard of before I read it all those years ago, than any textbook could have (which came in handy for trivia questions later).
In the author’s note, Daniels notes that Daphne Du Maurier and Mary Stewart were influences on her, and it shows. The story plays out like a more modern version of one of their stories, told in first-person by a heroine caught up in mysterious circumstances amidst exotic locales. It’s not as dark as a gothic, but shares the same vibe. There’s the nice guy who’s clearly up to no good and the more shady character she doesn’t know whether she should trust. The reader, of course, knows he’s the true hero. In one of the book’s most memorable scenes, he proves how good he is without uttering a single word, coming to the rescue of one of the more hapless brides with a sweet gesture that speaks volumes about who he is.
Speaking of the brides, the author does a sweet job carving personalities for them and manages to find time to bring them happy endings with the Andorran men. Meanwhile, Lucien and Joanna are caught up in a decades-old crime and modern-day danger. There’s plenty of excitement, and the first-person narration lends the story a nice sense of intimacy, while capturing the picturesque settings and larger than life action.
For anyone looking for romantic adventure or unique characters, The Basque Swallow is one of my favorites. It may become one of yours.