Desert Isle Keeper
The Wild Swan Series
A Retro Review
(originally published on February 2, 1998)
Celeste De Blasis was ahead of her time in her portrayal of strong romantic heroines who took control of their own lives and demanded equal footing with their men. Give Heather from (Kathleen Woodiwiss’) The Flame & the Flower her due, but she would have been knocked on her butt by any of De Blasis’ formidable women.
De Blasis’ greatest accomplishment was the Wild Swan trilogy. The novels span the lives of Alexandria Carrington Falconer and her descendants from 1813 to 1894 in both England and America. As the first book begins, Alexandria is a young, neglected teenager who is sent to live with distant relatives on the coast of Devon. While her cousin, Raine, is enchanted with her, he believes her too young to hear his romantic declarations. Alex is suddenly called home when her older sister dies shortly after childbirth, and she eventually marries her sister’s widower to help him raise his newborn twins. When Raine comes to claim her he discovers, to his dismay, that he is too late. While Alex’s life with her husband, St. John, is not initially a happy one, she is unwilling to leave him or the children. Eventually she and St. John come to find love in their marriage, and they decide to emigrate to America. They build their fortunes by raising racehorses and are happy in their life together, until one day Alex comes face to face with Raine, who has also made a home in the States.
While Alex is torn between the two men, a tragedy occurs that takes the choice out of her hands. St. John is left an invalid after being thrown by a horse, and Alex must use all of her strength to care for him and keep him from killing himself.
Alex is an extraordinary character, as she grows from impetuous adolescent to matriarch of a wealthy family. She races horses, protects runaway slaves and guides her children in their own love affairs. Both her gentle, gradual romance with St. John and her passionate eternal love with Raine are compelling, garnering both laughter and tears. She is a character you will not forget.
The best part of the trilogy for romance lovers is that De Blasis develops the characters of Alex’s children and grandchildren, and many of them find true love as well. Their stories are very different. There is the love between slightly stuffy son Blaine and free-spirited intellectual Philomena; the romance between stalwart Morgan and long-suffering love Samantha; and the story of dedicated physician Nigel and poverty-stricken Sally. Each one leaves you sighing in romantic bliss. My favorite romance belonged to Alex’s granddaughter, Gincie, the underground railroad worker who finds her soul mate in Travis, a gorgeous Confederate soldier who is fighting for his home despite his hatred of slavery.
Ms. De Blasis also has done her historical research well; you’ll learn about everything from the Battle of Waterloo to the violent railroad union strike in turn-of-the-century Chicago.
If you can find any of Celeste De Blasis’ novels at the library or bookstore consider yourself in for a treat. Her other classic is The Proud Breed, first published in 1978. The Proud Breed is probably one of the few romances in which the heroine stabs the hero and seriously wounds him at their first meeting, and it only gets more exciting from that point on!
De Blasis is a classic author whose work I have read and re-read for more than 20 years. I hope you will have a chance to discover this pioneer.
by Susan Scribner