All He Desires
by Anthea Lawson
(Zebra, $5.99, R) ISBN 978-1-4201-0457-8
A chance fall from a horse begins a long journey for a contrasting couple in All He Desires.

Alex Trentham is an Englishman who has banished himself to the island of Crete, because of his shadowy past and fear of close relationships. Alex has sequestered himself in a very small town, in an isolated cottage, living with very few possessions and fewer people to talk to. His former life as an English doctor, living near his loving mother and elder brother at their family estate called Raven Hall, has been almost erased by his hermit-like behavior. Alex hides his grief at the loss of that happy life and has accustomed himself to a Spartan existence because of a mysterious, awful incident – one that caused him to flee.

Caroline Huntington is bright, happy and carefree. She has left England with her dear friend Maggie to help establish an orphanage in Malta. Caroline talks Maggie into detouring into Crete for a short holiday while they are abroad. While on Crete, Caroline falls off a horse while riding and severely injures her arm. She is brought to the very reluctant Alex for medical care. 

Alex is stunned by the intense feelings that Caroline’s presence in his home create as she recovers from her injuries. Caro’s cheerful, indomitable spirit is exactly the opposite of how Alex feels since the dark days of “the incident.” Caroline finds herself surprisingly attracted to the dark, brooding Alex.  As Alex decides to help Caroline heal and explore Crete, they begin to form a bond and succumb to their mutual attraction.

As soon as Caroline heals, though, Alex ships her back home to England, where she belongs.  Caroline starts to adjust to life back with her family, and even begins to entertain a new suitor when suddenly Alex is back in England – and Caroline is being threatened by an ominous stranger and by her own devious cousin Reggie.  Caroline’s spirit begins to crumble when it turns out that Alex isn’t back to save the day, after all.

All He Desires has some good points and bad points, but I do think that the good outweighs the bad. On the good side, Alex is well-written, intriguing, and dark without being sinister. Caroline is a fresh spring breeze, sweet and clean and easy to like. Their chemistry is understandable, and electric. 

However, this book suffers from the “of course” syndrome. Of course we don’t know what Alex’s dark secret is until nearly the end of the tale.  Of course Alex and Caro predictably fall in love with very little turmoil or question. Of course Alex ships her off as soon as his feelings start to grow. Of course he ends up back in England, when he swore never to return. Of course there is convenient danger that throws them together.  Of course they find their happily ever after. It’s tiresome to be able to tell the plot of the story from the first chapter.

So, dear reader, if knowing the plot is outlined from the first line as a very typical romance story doesn’t deter you, pick up All He Desires and read for the good lead characters instead.

--Amy Wroblewsky  

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