All He Desires by Anthea Lawson
Miss Caroline Huntington is traveling around the Mediterranean with her friend, Maggie, in the hopes of securing funding for an orphanage on Malta. While in Crete Caroline meets with a horrible riding accident and suffers a dislocated elbow and a concussion and the islanders bring her to fellow Englishman, Mr. Alex Trentham. Alex has been living on Crete for years after having run away from England and he is not happy to have these people intruding on his life and he especially does not like having such an attractive and distracting young woman in his house. Caroline wants to continue on to Malta with Maggie to help her friend, but Alex informs her that it is imperative that she stay and continue her recovery on the island. Penelope Briggs is assigned as her companion and Maggie heads off to Malta, leaving plenty of opportunities for Alex and Caroline to spend time together. They go riding, climbing, caving, swimming, boating, and visit local points of interest and eventually succumb to their mutual passions. People begin to have suspicions that someone is out to get Caroline when accidents continue to befall her, but before he can be apprehended, Mr. Simms, escapes to Italy.
When Caroline is healthy enough she and her companion, Pen, leave for England and although Caroline desperately wants Alex to come with her. He refuses because there is something in his past that convinces him that Caroline is better off without him and that makes it impossible for him to go home. When Caroline goes home it is to discover that her uncle, the Earl of Twittingham, is planning to adopt her and her cousin, Reginald, is very upset about this as he has already spent his planned inheritance on gambling. He enlists the aide of the Viscount Keefe to woo Caroline and marry her so that the two can split her dowry between them. Alex finally follows Caroline to London when he believes she might be pregnant but leaves her again when he finds out it was a lie. Unfortunately Cousin Reggie's creditors have decided to take their pound of flesh out of Caroline and Mr. Simm's reappears in London. Alex is the only one there to save her and together they confront Alex's secretive past and must discover if together they can work past the mistakes that were made and move on in the future together.
Apparently Anthea Lawson is a husband, Lawson, and wife, Anthea, team that writes novels together and right away I was incredibly intrigued- I really want to know which parts were more male driven and which parts were more female driven. I guess this explains why, although they are far too few, the parts of the book that are told from Alex's points of view, are very well written and realistic. Caroline is a thoroughly likable character with an interesting past, a wonderful sense of self-assurance and purpose in her life, and a true knowledge of what she wants to make of her life. I like that she is so dedicated to her charity work, and is really and truly a part of making the orphanage/ school/ dispensary work and there was a wonderful moment in the book where the women she relies on for funding decide to fund a fountain of Neptune instead and Pen reflects that it is easier for them to argue about seals and statues then to think about the suffering that is really happening in the world. It was a wonderful reflection and also served to illustrate what a great character Pen was as well- so really how great these authors are at writing about people.
There was plenty of steam in this book and it was very well distributed throughout the book and there was some great buildup. It was also nicely done that the characters were so physically attracted to each other and yet it was obvious that both Caroline and Alex loved each other because they honestly knew the other was such a lovable person. I also did enjoy the roiling emotions that sprung up in both characters as they both believed that they were going to lose each other. I really enjoyed the writing in the novel until the last 30 or so pages after the rescue was made and they were making plans for the future together when the writing just got a little overdrawn and unbelievable, especially in regards to the dialogue with characters saying very unrealistic things. I am still a tad unsure of how I feel about Alex's "great secret." I know that the authors had to work a very fine line to make the secret at least somewhat bad enough to warrant his reaction and yet still be tame enough for him to be easily forgiven by Caroline and the readers. The secret very nearly made it there and really was the only thing it could have been given the circumstances. I also really enjoyed reading about the mystery/ kidnap side-plot as it was fitting and not overwhelming and led to some great actions on the part of our hero.
Rating: I really enjoyed this book although I did find it somewhat slow going at times. I could have done with better dialogue overall and maybe a more shocking secret. Overall a very great book.