This book is a gem. Set in the context of a treasure hunt through, of all places, the Polynesian Islands, it tells the story of a developing relationship between Claire Bancroft, daughter of an eccentric British naturalist, and Rand Hamilton, the last surviving son of a Charleston family devastated by the Civil War. Claire and Rand are thrown together by a two-part riddle that ultimately requires both their combined knowledge and skills in order to solve. The book stands out not only because of the unique premise, but also especially because of the characters, which are very well developed, with depth and believability. Their conversations are wonderful, and it feels like one is actually watching two real people fall in love slowly and deeply. Ms. Goodman manages to infuse the story with tenderness, sensuality, and humor all at once! The growing romance between Rand and Claire is also told in a manner that is refreshingly free of pettiness and artificial fights, because Claire has a condition which forces her to deal with the world without the usual coquettishness, and Rand won't let her feel sorry for herself. Instead, Ms. Goodman's writing manages to convey, in Rand's character, deep devotion without too much machismo or posturing.
The mystery is kept secret till near the end. The setting is unusual and somewhat exotic. I know I will want to read this book again, to catch all the nuances I missed the first time. I recommend it highly.
If you do get this book, read chapter 10 slowly and carefully. Hidden within it, in an almost off-hand interchange between Rand and Claire, is a powerfully beautiful and intense declaration of love that doesn't come along very often.