A fiendish merchant-ship captain is more invested in taking precious material from a South Pacific island than trading with locals in Lawrence’s debut adventure novel.
In the late 19th century, an Australian merchant navy ship lands at the island of Alofa. Islander Kira Wall is wary because previous traders who’d visited were greedy men who carelessly trampled through fields of plants and fruits. She doesn’t trust Capt. Coleman in the slightest. He seems too eager to offer bountiful goods, as if he were trying to distract the natives. Sure enough, Coleman is secretly scouring Alofa for diamonds that a pirate said he’d discovered on the island. The normally standoffish Kira struggles with her newfound affection for the handsome Dr. Trevor Marshall, the ship’s civilian physician and botanist, and they both look for a way to avoid a conflict between the crew and islanders. Meanwhile, Coleman tries to force Kira into revealing the diamonds’ location by kidnapping her best friend. Despite the tropical-paradise setting, this romance doesn’t dawdle. Instead, it follows two people falling in love while immersed in suspenseful scenes and the occasional action sequence. Kira is a laudable but bewildering protagonist. Her distrust of outsiders, for example, is odd, as she herself is the daughter of missionaries who came to Alofa. But she more than holds her own, boasting a thorough knowledge of the island’s interior and proving a formidable adversary in scuffles with men. Lawrence conveys the developing relationship between Kira and Trevor primarily via sex scenes, but the duo still has emotional resonance. As a villain, the captain is a worthy opponent (he even uses dynamite) with an ever present arrogance, while the few loyal crew members who stand by him are really just extensions of his corruption. The final act, in which Coleman targets Kira’s loved ones and inevitably faces off against her, could be trimmed, but it maintains momentum and delivers a satisfying finale.
Lawrence blends romance, action, and beautiful scenery into an alluring concoction.