In 1888, beautiful but quite capable Kira Wall was living a challenging and enjoyable life in a relatively isolated culture. However, her world gets turned upside down with the arrival of an Australian merchant ship carrying the evil and deceiving Captain Darcy Coleman along with its handsome doctor, Trevor Marshall. Each man, in his own way, possesses the ability to charm and seduce. For the innocent souls of the remote island paradise, including Kira, they are both intoxicating and will, using different methods, test her will to the limit.
After she reluctantly agrees to be Trevor’s guide, things become unraveled when she suspects he is distracting her from the renegade captain who has his own ulterior, “get rich”, motives for being there. Her situation becomes desperate when no one will listen. The evil captain has a devilishly captivating manner, plenty of “modern” goods with which to woo the islanders, and a clever ability to lie his way out of suspicion. He has also brought a new invention, dynamite.
Straddling the line between historical romance and historical fiction, Guardian of Paradise is set on an island in the South Pacific, showing allegiances and clashes between Victorian colonials and the people who call the island home.
This book reminds you there was more to the world in the nineteenth century than Britain and the United States. This is something even I – as an Australian – tend to forget when looking for historical reads.
As with some other male authors, W.E. Lawrence does something many women authors do not: he gives his female characters skills and power and makes them instigators of situations. Yes, Kira is naïve and inexperienced in some things, but she knows who she is and what needs to be done – and then she goes out and does it.
I also like a hero who doesn’t fit the mould. Or at least I appreciated that Trevor was as intellectual as he was traditionally (romance-style) heroic.
Coming in at just over ninety thousand words, Guardian of Paradise is a slow-burning story, immersing you in island life before the danger starts to build.
It’s good to see authors experimenting with unusual settings, and the Victorian era is a favourite of mine to read about. I hope to see more historical romances with settings like this one.
Review copy provided by the author.