The Book of True Desires by Betina Krahn

Saturday, December 20, 2008

You know when you open a book and from the very first page you can just tell that you are going to love it? Well that was definitely the case for me with Betina Krahn's The Book of True Desires. From page one I was sucked into the story and realized that this was probably going to end up being one of my keepers.

The Book of True Desires is set in the late nineteenth century and tells the story of a young adventurer; Cordelia O'Keefe. Cordelia spends her times in the deserts and jungles of the world, hunting out historical legends and artifacts. At the start of the book she has information that could potentially lead to a great discovery of treasure, but is held back by her lack of funds. She needs someone to sponsor her trip and so turns to the one person she knows of with the means to do so: her grandfather.

There is only one problem however in that her grandfather disowned her father for marrying her mother and hasn't ever even set eyes on Cordelia.

But after a brief debate, her grandfather agrees to fund her expedition on one condition: She must first explore the legend of a Mayan treasure known as the "Gift of the Jaguar". She agrees and to make sure she does what he asks and does not simply abscond with his money, her grandfather assigns his surly English butler Hartford to accompany her through the jungles of Mexico.

But the butler is not what he seems and it is through their adventures (poisonous snakes, poisonous plants, treasure hungry murderers, explosions, etc.) that Cordelia and Hartford fall in love.

What I loved most about this story is that it was different. It is not often that you read a historical romance in which the heroine is a self assured, independant, adventurer. She fights through the Mexican jungles and faces down a jaguar numerous times without becoming the stereotypical, hysterical woman that you so often find in historical romances.

And watching her romance develop with the sarcastic and sometimes tempermental Hartford was a real treat. They are constantly verbally sparring and neither one seems to want to back down and admit to the other that they are falling in love. They will admit to a physical attraction but they seem to feel that if they admit anything deeper than they will have given up control and neither Cordelia nor Hartford are able to do that.

There were a few problems with the book however. I felt as though Cordelia's aunt wasn't necessary and also that she wasn't a fully devloped or realized character. She didn't seem to serve any real purpose in the story except to highlight one of the other side characters as a traitor.

I also could have personally done without the small mystical aspects of the book. The Mexican witch (a bruja) who goes into trances and receives "visions" from the Jaguar Spirit didn't add anything and the story would have held up just fine without it. That is not to say that the specific character of the bruja was unnecessary, just the supposed trances and communications with the spirit.

Other than those small quibbles, I can't recommend this book enough. I simply loved it and would urge those who read romance to pick it up.


This title is currently out of print but is available as an ebook or as a used book through abebooks.