Desert Isle Keeper Review
2003 reissue of 1997 release, Series Romance
MIRA, $5.99, 256 pages, Amazon ASIN 1551667592
Part of a series
Life, as he knows it, is over for soon-to-be-former Navy Lt. Alan "Frisco" Francisco. His leg is shot, and with it, his life as a U.S. Navy SEAL, which is his entire identity. He doesn't want to teach, as has been suggested to him, he is pushing so hard in his therapy sessions that he's doing himself more harm than good, and if he can't be Frisco, he can only be Alan, and Alan, he believes, is a nobody.
Against this unwavering wall of despair and pain come two forces. The first is high school teacher Mia Summerton, who makes a note to avoid the rude drunk she's got for a neighbor and the second is five-year-old Natasha, Frisco's niece, who has been brought to live with him by his no-good, alcoholic sister while she goes to detox. Frisco wants neither of these people in his life, and he's frustrated to realize neither is going away anytime soon.
As Frisco struggles with the challenge of disciplining a child who's spent her entire life doing as she pleases, because her mother was always too drunk to notice, he finds himself having to ask Mia for help, and hating himself for it. He can't shop for groceries without help, he can't get Natasha to a doctor without help, he can't even fight his sister's criminal ex-boyfriend when he threatens to take Natasha. His feelings for Mia are even more frustrating - sure, there is a strong attraction, but what on earth can a broken man like him offer her in the long run?
Mia, meanwhile, runs the gamut of emotions when it comes to Frisco. She doesn't like him at first, and with good reason - he only has sarcasm and rudeness for her, but she is wise enough to get past the fašade and see the good man he really is. When he lashes out and says harsh things to her she eventually realizes he's doing so out of fear; he doesn't realize his life is not over, that there is still a lot of good he can do for himself and others. Mia helps Frisco to realize that help is valuable, in whatever form it takes, be it the list she makes of the things he can do (as opposed to the list Frisco makes, of the things he can't do) or her own style of positive reinforcement.
The transformation Frisco goes through, from a self-pitying, rude shadow of a man who drinks to forget the pain, to someone who accepts his limitations and finally sees what positive aspects there still are in his life, is believable and heartwarming. I don't usually like heroes who continually keep pushing the heroine away, but once we know Frisco, we understand why he acts that way. The sexual tension is there from the beginning, and the love scenes are both tender and luscious.
Natasha is neither a sullen teenager nor a cute, dimpled baby - she is a little girl who has been through a lot. She doesn't know what rules are because she's lived in a no-rules world all her life. She equates the drunken Frisco of the beginning of the book with her mother, who would usually not be awake before Tasha got back from school.
Frisco's Kid is one of my favorites in the Tall, Dark and Dangerous series. There are no stereotypes or cardboard characters here - take Thomas King, for example, a secondary character in a book this length who manages to make his presence felt. Frisco and Mia are wonderful characters whose respective journeys were great additions to this fine series.
-- Claudia Terrones
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