Desert Isle Keeper Review

(This DIK review was written by a reader)

Mary Balogh
1997, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Jove, $5.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0515120014
Part of a series

Grade: A
Sensuality: Warm

Mary Balogh has created some of the most tormented of heroines in modern romance, and Catherine Winters is no exception. When Rex Adams, Viscount Rawleigh, and his friends accompany his twin brother Claude Adams and sister-in-law Clarissa to their country estate for a house party, Mrs. Winters mistakes him for his brother and smiles. This is sufficent to convince the viscount that the lady is a woman of loose morals and he decides she will make an entertaining diversion during his stay in the country.

Undaunted by her staunch refusal to become his mistress, Rex pursues Catherine and unwittingly ends up compromising her. As a consequence, they marry. It is sometime into their marriage - after Rex and Catherine have fallen in love with each other though but haven't admitted it - he comes to know of Catherine's past and how she came to be "Mrs. Winters" in the first place. And this is when Indiscreet comes into its magic for the reader.

Catherine's character is drawn in layers. She is beautiful, gentle, and "Very obviously a Lady". She is also unnerved by her seemingly physical attraction to the Viscount even though she is indignant when he offers her the position of his mistress.

At times Rex pales in comparison to Catherine, for a few reasons: 1)Her feelings are so prominent to the story; 2) She is so brilliantly written; and 3) She is such a rounded character. Even so, Rex comes across as a charming man with real and believable love for his wife. Their scenes together are at times funny but mostly poignant.

The chemistry between the two is palpable, even when they are simply conversing. Their discussions are never inane or dull; they are mature and meaningful. Be it the piano room where Catherine administers a blistering setdown to Rex, the path by the fountain when they talk about springtime and hope, or their argument in Catherine's cottage when a very tempted Catherine refuses Rex's impulsive offer of marriage. They don't scream or rage or indulge in temper tantrums. They adults do.

To a point both Catherine and Rex are honest with each other. When Catherine and Rex kiss for the first time, he is as shaken by it as she is and they both admit it. When he tells her that he is not prepared to conduct a celibate marriage {their wedding night is a disaster), she frankly tells him that neither is she. Of course there are misunderstandings, including most obviously those about Catherine's dark past, and Rex's behaviour after he knows the truth. But these don't stretch on unbearably, they are plausibly resolved.

The book's most affecting section occurs when Catherine narrates her past to Rex. Her harsh treatment by society - even though she is a victim - rings so true because I see it happening in so many cultures even today. And yet you know that Catherine never regrets the decision she took at that time, no matter what society or her own father put her through. Her belief in honor and her courage (made evident by the life she chose to lead) makes her a most endearing heroine.

There are not undying protestations of love here. Rather, small gestures and heartfelt sentences do the job. And rather than making grand gestures for the sake of honor, Rex fights for his wife because he loves her. And the sentence in which Catherine confesses her love to Rex had me in tears.

Catherine Winters is undoubtably one of the most wonderful female characters in romance. It's hard to find a heroine more deserving of an HEA, and through his love for her, Rex becomes a deserving hero. Indiscreet is simply the perfect Regency-set romance.

-- Neeti Garg

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