Desert Isle Keeper
The Love Charm
Big Misunderstanding plots don’t work for me. Beautiful but scatterbrained heroines really don’t work for me. So it was a surprise and delight when Pamela Morsi’s The Love Charm proved the exception and made both these elements work very well.
In an Acadian community living by the Vermilion River, everyone knows the most beautiful girl is Aida Gaudet. They also know she’s forgetful and featherheaded, not that this makes a difference to the young men. Aida is engaged to Laron Boudreau, and it looks as though they’ll stay engaged for a long time, since Laron keeps postponing their wedding.
Aida is well aware of her limitations, which is why she agreed to marry Laron. Other men would only have wanted her for her looks – and there’s not much else to want, she admits. At least Laron is in need of her father’s land, so he’ll appreciate her for more than just her pretty face. She’s heard rumors that he has another woman, but she doesn’t particularly mind about that.
Armand Sonnier minds, though. As Laron’s best friend, he has no intention of showing he’s in love with Aida himself, especially since Aida would never be interested in him. Armand is shorter than the other men, not physically imposing at all. But he’s very well-educated, and can think his way out of any problem.
By the way, if he reminds you of a French-speaking Tyrion Lannister (minus the drink and carousing), you wouldn’t be far wrong. He even has a tall, handsome older brother. Said brother, Jean Baptiste, throws a monkey wrench into Tyrion’s, er, Armand’s world by admiring Aida a little too much himself. Jean Baptiste’s wife Félicité is pregnant for the fourth time in five years, and Jean Baptiste feels the pleasures of marriage are gone, leaving only work and responsibility.
Thanks to a series of unfortunate remarks, Armand gets the impression that Aida, neglected by her fiancé, is falling for Jean Baptiste (though Aida points out later that she is not quite so stupid as to set her sights on a married man). Laron is determined to marry the woman he really wants—except her husband deserted her, and their faith doesn’t permit divorce. And Aida discovers she might be more useful to her community than she, or anyone else, ever realized.
Pamela Morsi’s characters tend to be warm and likeable people despite their flaws, and that’s exactly what this book delivers. Aida is not at all intellectual, but she has plenty of emotional intelligence, plus she’s kind and friendly. Armand doesn’t carry the Big Mis too far, and he only gets involved because he doesn’t want his brother to make a mistake they’ll all regret. As for the woman Laron loves, she’s an older German mother of three. Not half as pretty as the most beautiful girl on the Vermilion River, but she’s the one for him.
The setting is detailed and colorful, making me wish I could see the bayous for myself. Everything works perfectly, except for Jean Baptiste’s subplot. Spoilers ahead, be warned.
Jean Baptiste is a jerk towards his wife, who’s nursing as well as heavily pregnant. He complains that she has to get up often in the night, she smells of milk, she’s fat, etc. It culminates in his pestering her for sex as she keeps saying no, and I wanted to hit him. Thankfully he gets a well-deserved comeuppance and learns not to take her for granted.
Here’s the real problem, though. It’s great that he’s finally in love with her again. But that doesn’t change the underlying issue: having baby after baby in quick succession can place a strain on a marriage. Félicité and Jean Baptiste eventually decide that since they love each other and love children, they’ll be happy with however many they have, a laissez-faire approach which wraps up their HEA (HFN?) but didn’t convince me at all.
But that said, The Love Charm is well worth reading. I’ve lost myself in it more than once, and I always close the book with a happy sigh. Americana—and romance—doesn’t get much better than this.
I'm Marian, originally from Sri Lanka but grew up in the United Arab Emirates, studied in Georgia and Texas, ended up in Toronto. When I'm not at my job as a medical laboratory technologist, I read, write, do calligraphy, and grow vegetables in the back yard.