Desert Isle Keeper
This book is another well written and compelling story by Grace Burrowes. I keep waiting for the book that indicates she is running out of steam, but I have not run across that book yet. This prolific writer just keeps scoring big in the romance department and I sincerely hope she has many stories left to tell.
Christian Severn, the Duke of Mercia is an officer in the British Army when he gets captured by the French while he is taking a bath and out of uniform. Because he is out of uniform, the rules concerning the treatment of officers do not apply and Christian is considered a spy. For the next eight months, he is brutally tortured both mentally and physically. When peace talks ensue, Christian is finally released and makes his way back to his unit where his relative, Colonel Marcus Easterbrook, is stationed. Easterbrook has difficulties in identifying him because of Christian’s severe weight loss, but the fact that Christian’s horse (whom Easterbrook has renamed and kept as his own) recognizes him, is enough for the British to recognize Christian as the lost Duke of Mercia. In the midst of his return, he discovers his wife and son have died in his absence. Christian returns to London to recover, but depression and PTSD make his recovery almost insurmountable. The only thing keeping him alive is the thought of vengeance against Girard, his French captor and chief torturer.
Gillian, the Countess of Greendale has just been widowed from her elderly and extremely abusive husband. She was practically sold into marriage by her family at the same time her cousin Helene married the Duke of Mercia. She visited Mercia’s country estate regularly to visit with her cousin and has been helping her only surviving child Lucy since Helene died. When Gilly learns that the Duke has returned, she goes to his London townhouse to chide him into returning to see about his daughter. Lucy has not spoken a word since her mother and brother died and Gilly is convinced that she needs her father. Christian is so out of it at first that he hardly recalls he has a daughter. Gilly recognizes a fellow sufferer when she sees one and instead of berating him for his neglect, she begins to nurture him along in his recovery. Because Lucy is well acquainted with Gilly and Christian is still uncertain about his health and frame of mind, he convinces Gilly to travel to his country estate with him. Gilly’s agreement to help Christian out with Lucy sets up a scenario for genuine friendship to develop between our hero and heroine and it does. Christian’s flashbacks to his captivity provide the backstory of his torture and clues to questions Christian has about Girard.
Burrowes has a way of writing that allows the reader into the head(s) of her characters in a very personal way. I really loved, loved, loved both the hero and the heroine in this book. The suffering they endured was authentic and never seemed contrived. This reader could feel Christian’s torment both during and after his torture and my empathy that flowed from that was natural (rather than contrived). The hero’s relationship with his daughter was both poignant and uplifting at the same time, and her reaction to her abandonment first by her father and then by her mother was heartbreaking. Many times, child characters in novels are superfluous to the plot of a book, but Lucy was an integral part of Christian and Gilly’s story and I found myself rooting for her HEA as well.
In addition, the villain(s) were not even approaching caricatures, and I believe writing believable villains is extremely difficult to accomplish. Girard had depths that Burrowes plumbed to just the correct degree. Almost every single thing worked in this book. The writing was exquisite. The characters were believable and compelling. The tone was just right.
The only tiny, little quibble I had with the book was the issue of Gilly’s reaction to violence. I understood the rationale, but thought it was out of place in context and seemed just a bit contrived to interject a problem between her and Christian rather than organic to the story. But a DIK is a DIK and Grace Burrowes has earned herself one with this novel.