Jamaica could be both heaven and hell! At least that's how it seems to Ryder Sherbrooke when he pays a visit to the Sherbrooke sugar plantation on this Caribbean isle. The views and colors are heaven and the heat is sheer hell to an Englishman more accustomed to cool rainy days than burning tropical sun. His neighbor, Sophia Stanton-Greville, also seems an unusual blend of angelic and devilish! Acting the sophisticated woman of the world one moment, yet allowing glimpses of an innocent young girl to escape, Sophia is a mystery to Ryder, who is not at all sure he wants to get involved enough to solve her puzzle. There are other matters to be attended to: Ryder is in Jamaica to look into strange happenings on his plantation - but sure enough, all indications are that Sophia and her family are too closely involved for comfort.
Ryder is the second son of the Sherbrooke family and brother to Douglas Sherbrooke, Earl of Northcliffe. If you have read The Sherbrooke Bride, you'll know that Sherbrooke men are not to be trifled with - especially when it comes to honor, romance and sex! Many surprises await Ryder, not the least of which is the depth of feeling he unwillingly develops for Sophie. The story resolves itself back on English soil and Ryder gets the chance to finally win himself a mate for life, while Sophie learns that her past need not taint her future and love can be hers for the taking!
This is a fascinating story, and one of my favorite Catherine Coulter novels. Ryder and Sophie are a complex pair - Ryder has hidden depths that are revealed as the story progresses; he is not the superficial rake and seducer that he might have earlier appeared. Sophie, on the other hand, is a study in conflict, kept in an intolerable situation only by her loyalty to, and fear for, her younger brother Jeremy. Loyalty is something any Sherbrooke can fully understand, but it takes a major upheaval to demonstrate to Ryder just how deep Sophie's loyalty goes. It is wonderful to watch how Ryder matures into a patient, loving, and deeply sensual man while soothing Sophie's fears and awakening her to the joys of her own sexuality. These types of heroes are Catherine Coulter's specialties, and oh, how well she creates them! Sophie and Ryder seem to have been written with a deeply affectionate touch - they are surrounded by some excellent secondary characters who have a wit and charm all their own, and of course back in England we get to visit Douglas and Alexandra, whose delightful love story was featured in the previous book. All the right plot elements are in play in this novel - mystery, villains, death, love, sex and family! I enthusiastically recommend this book along with the others in Ms. Coulter's "BRIDE" series!