The tiny island of Dauntless is really a reflection of its past. With less than two hundred inhabitants, the family name still resonates and holds certain power with the town, especially if yours happens to be the moniker of the founding father who established the island centuries ago. For Joe Nesmith, it also means taking on the keeping of the lighthouse and living a somewhat lonely existence on an island where his ancestor originally led a mutiny against a tyrannical ship captain so many years ago. So when a visitor comes to the remote land, everyone takes notice and welcomes them…unless their last name happens to be Hawthorne.
Eddie Hawthorne has come to his ancestor’s birthplace with a tiny book that will blow up the very foundation of the town’s beloved history. Visiting in order to get more background for his thesis, Eddie is shocked when he is met with open hostility that will lead to violence and murder. Only one man has welcomed him and that is the handsome and kind lightkeeper. But when one bizarre and threatening event happens after another, Eddie begins to suspect even the man who he happens to be falling for is a potential enemy.
Lisa Henry admits that Dauntless is a fluffy mystery—one centered more on romance and sweetness than any darker elements. Yes, there is a murder and, yes, there is a mystery aspect that keeps this novella moving swiftly, but it’s really the interactions between Joe and Eddie that take center stage here and make this story sing. Both men are really very attractive, character-wise, and almost make you want to see them happy together from the get go. Joe is a lovely introvert who also has such quiet strength and a deep sense of duty, making him the perfect hero. Eddie is a book nerd, young and enthusiastic, a bit bumbling when it comes to saying the right thing to keep himself out of trouble, and just really adorable overall. In other words, they are relationship gold together.
The mystery was a bit transparent in terms of the murderer, but still the story felt complete. The ending came all too quickly for me as I enjoyed getting to know Eddie and Joe, as well as some of the island folks. I will say that, having grown up in a very small town, I felt the author pegged the idea of what one might be like and the closeminded aspect of its inhabitants quite well. Overall, the words “genuine”and “realistic” kept coming to mind as I read this book. That, along with the warmth and sweetness of the romance, makes Dauntless a hit.