The Lightkeeper's Woman by Mary Burton
The Particulars: Historical romance, Harlequin Historical #693, 2004, Out of Print, Available in Digital
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: I've read Mary Burton's historicals before and I'm a sucker for lighthouse settings.
The Review: Alanna Patterson has come to the god-forsaken coastal town of Easton, North Carolina to close the door on her past forever. She was once madly, passionately in love with Caleb Pitt, a captain on one of her father's finest ships. They had plans to marry, and were already lovers. Then on his last voyage before their wedding there is a terrible accident. The ship goes down, men die, but Caleb survives. What follows is an inquest, and accusations that Caleb and his crew were incompetent. It's now two years later and Alanna's life is very different. Her father has committed suicide, the family finances are in ruins, all of their so-called "friends" won't receive her and she's on the verge of accepting a marriage proposal from another man. But first she must deliver a wooden box that her father bequeathed to Caleb - a box Caleb has already sent back (with a scathing note, naturally) once.
Caleb is now the lighthouse keeper, a hermit who only comes into town when absolutely necessary. A storm is blowing in, he looks out and spots a boat. He recognizes the local idiot at the helm and catches his breath when he sees the woman. Could it be? No, it possibly can't be. Alanna? What the holy heck is she doing there? Naturally he rescues her, but continued gnarly weather means he's stuck with her, alone, on his island until the waters calm.
There are a number of elements I really enjoyed about this story. I liked that Caleb and Alanna had already been lovers. I liked that Alanna is impulsive, and not the sort of woman to back down from a fight. I also really appreciated that she's halfway to knowing something was rotten in Denmark before arriving on Caleb's doorstep. She arrives in Easton on the pretense of giving him the box, but truly she's there to get some answers. She once lived the life of a well-to-do pampered daughter, but the last couple of years have drastically altered her fortunes. She's different, her life is different, so when the truth comes tumbling out she doesn't automatically scream at Caleb that he's lying.
This story runs a little hot and cold for me though when it comes to Caleb. At first he's portrayed as the local hermit. A man who has shut himself off from everybody. Then he's determined to have Alanna back in his life. Then he heads into town and everybody loves him, he interacts with everybody like he's the unofficial town mayor, and then he morphs back into wanting to send Alanna away for "her own good." He's not a terribly consistent fellow, but hey - he's a hunky loner with a badass facial scar. Guys working with less than that have made credible romance heroes.
The story itself moves along at a fairly smooth clip, although pretty much all of the conflict hinges on Alanna and Caleb being too proud and stupid to have talked to each other back when his boat sank. There's also the letters he wrote to her that she naturally didn't read and the box from her father that Caleb refuses to open. I'll be honest, I tend to hate plot devices like this because they are utterly unbelievable to me. Seriously, who doesn't open letters, especially when they are addressed to them? And cripes Caleb - even Brad Pitt wants to know "What's in the box?!?!" And Morgan Freeman opened it!
In the author's dedication she thanks her critique partners, one of whom is Cathy Maxwell. What I find interesting is that how I feel about Maxwell's historicals is exactly how I feel about Burton's. They're easy reading, they go down smooth like a really nice dessert wine, I enjoy them while I'm reading them, but a day later? Yeah, I have no recall. None. They're chocolate chip cookie reads. They're a great snack, quite tasty, but it's not like a steak dinner at a five star restaurant. They're not the sort of reads that stick with me for days, weeks, months after the experience. Which means it's probably a good thing I'm blogging about this book, because other than the lighthouse aspect, I'm not sure how much I'll recall down the road.
In the end this was a nice, pleasant diversion. I liked the story, I liked the characters, and I loved the setting. Sure, it didn't rock my world and I'm not in a swoon over it - but it was a pleasant, leisurely experience that kept me entertained for a couple of days. There are times in my life when I just need a book like this one. Which is why I keep some Mary Burton historicals lying around in the TBR. Break glass in case of emergency.
Final Grade = B-