This book begins with definitions for two words: Jimjeran (Marshallese for a lifelong companion) and Island Fever (The “claustrophobic sensation caused by living on an island, created by being surrounded by the ocean on all sides, resulting in the sense that you can’t escape”). Understanding these words comes in handy while reading the book, because so much of the story depends on the island setting. The dedication mentions that the book began as fan fiction, so the two lead characters (Carlie [a sexually experienced 27-year-old American nurse practitioner] and Campbell [a virginal 22-year-old Scottish teacher]) are based on two lovers from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. The story also contains many of the author’s own experiences while staying in Arno, in addition to imagined scenes and characters. So this blend of fan fiction, fiction, and nonfiction makes for an interesting story of a hot-tempered nurse falling in love with a mild-mannered Scottish teacher. Some of the romantic story elements (such as the despicable boyfriend Carlie left behind, Campbell’s incredible maturity, and their instantaneous desire to become Jimjeran) feel a little forced.
Told in the first-person from Carlie’s point of view, the book contains plenty of lustful thoughts, foreplay, and fade-to-black sex scenes. Many of these scenes combine with unsexy discussions of menstrual cycles, sweat, diarrhea, chafing, and mosquito bites, which keep the book from ever generating much heat despite all the sexual activity. Campbell’s self-restraint, chivalry, depth of character, good looks, and charm will entice most readers to fall in love with him, but Carlie is a far less likable character, prone to emotional outbursts, lack of self-awareness and insight, and an overactive libido that clouds her judgment.
Unfortunately, some of the plot points are predictable, particularly concerning the boyfriend that Carlie left back in the States and trite sexual innuendos used during their brief courtship. First-time novelist, Sarah Carrell provides Campbell with a strong Scottish accent that occasionally disappears when he speaks. Perhaps the biggest misstep is the author’s Chapter Notes at the end of the book where she describes the origin of each chapter based on her own experiences in Arno. Just as standup comedians don’t deconstruct their jokes for the audience and magicians don’t give away the secrets to their tricks, pointing out the extensive nonfiction elements in fiction takes away much of its allure.
Details concerning clothing, climate, foods, families, and customs of Arno are the most interesting parts of the story, which add memorable flavor, color, and context. For all its beauty, fragility, and off-the-grid charm, Arno often feels more like a main character in this romance than the people do. In fact, the book reads almost like a love story to the island itself.
Even with a few minor problems, this romance novel captures the unique people, culture, and atmosphere of the remote tropical island where the love story is set.
~Carol Michaels for IndieReader