Friday, January 22, 2016

Guardian of Paradise by W.E. Lawrence

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: December 17, 2015

In 1888, Kira Wall, surviving daughter of missionaries swept away in a tsunami, lives a primitive, but enjoyable life with natives on an isolated island in the South Pacific. But her serene world is turned upside down when an Australian merchant ship, commanded by the sinister Captain Darcy Coleman, arrives with an overabundance of modern and lavish goods. Kira suspects ill intent. Chief Ariki refuses to listen to Kira’s warning, forcing her to uncover the real plan of the captain on her own. Unfortunately, she has a distraction. A six-foot tall, blond, and handsome distraction. Trevor Marshall, doctor and botanist, hopes to find exotic plants on the island to research new cures and medicines. He is dedicated to science, but when meeting the strong-willed, beautiful Kira Wall, he’d prefer to spend time researching her—all night. The captain thwarts Kira’s attempts to call him out at every step, turning the village chief against her. With only Trevor and her best friend Malana by her side, she stalks the captain and his officers through the dense, predator infested jungle, toward the island’s inactive volcano. Frustrated by her failure to reveal the captain’s true intentions, Kira begins to think maybe she’s wrong about everything. Then an explosion and earthquake bigger than anyone on the island has ever seen renews her resolve. Was the blast natural or man-made? She is determined to prove it was the captain’s doing. Kira races against time and the island people’s naivety to stop the captain from destroying her home and killing everyone she loves.

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I owe my interest in W.E. Lawrence's Guardian of Paradise to the artist who designed the jacket. I'm well aware one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but in today's market it is impossible to deny the importance of eye-catching imagery. Much as I loathe admitting it, I wouldn't have stopped long enough to read the description on Guardian of Paradise without the richly colored graphic that graces its cover and I admire the author for recognizing its marketing potential when self-publishing his work. 

Moving into the narrative itself, I have to admit that I found Lawrence's setting unique. His story unfolds on an isolated island in the South Pacific in the late eighteen hundreds. It's not a time and place that are paired often and I found the exotic nature of the island, its people, and their lifestyle easy to indulge in.

That said, I wasn't overly impressed with Lawrence's cast and couldn't help being bored with the author's generic character designs. Heroine, Kira Wall, is beautiful, intelligent, and genuinely good. Hero, Trevor Marshall, is handsome, astute, and kind. They are a golden couple who are ideally suited to one another, but they lack complexity, intrigue, and depth. They're stock characters and I found little to appreciate in the make-up.

The novel suffers pacing issues and I wasn't sold on historic elements of the plot. Guardian of Paradise is a romance, but I think it would have read more strongly if the author had invested more in both character development and period detail. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes and no. The book has its moments, but pales next to volumes like Alan Brennert's Molokaʻi. Guardian of Paradise is a lighter piece, the kind of thing I might take to the beach, but at the end of the day, I'd have difficulty suggesting it to hardcore fans of historic fiction.

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“You were right, Kira. God did not mean for us to live forever. But if we could, for me, that life would be a long time of misery unless you were part of it.”
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1 comment:

Magdalena Johansson said...

I wouldn't mind "A six-foot tall, blond, and handsome distraction" now and then...;)

I can say by the look of that cover that it's not for me. I'm just allergic to some romance covers. Other people go "wow" and I go "nope"...and when you described the couple you really brought up the things I have the most problem with when it comes to romance book. They are just seldom convincing and lack depth...