(Hot Arabian Nights, #1)
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency – Arabia, 1815)
Rescued by the sheikh!
Abandoned in the desert, Julia Trevelyan finds herself at the mercy of Azhar, an imposing yet impossibly handsome Arabian merchant. Determined not to be intimidated by her rescuer—or their sizzling attraction! —she asks for his help…
But Prince Azhar is in fact the rightful heir to the Qaryma throne, returned from exile to take back his inheritance! He knows a dalliance with the enticing English adventuress is out of the question, yet he can’t deny the temptation to claim both his throne…and Julia!
In this, her first book of her new Hot Arabian Nights series, Marguerite Kaye combines an emotive, romantic and passionate love story with the appeal of an exotic setting.
Sheikh al-Farid, Crown Prince Azhar of Qaryma
The last ten years had changed him for ever, shaped him into the man he was now, living the life he wanted to live.
Azhar has always accepted his position as heir to the Kingdom of Qaryma but, before having to eventually take on that role, he wants a taste of freedom…to live his own life for a while. This brought him into direct conflict with his father who wanted to control every aspect of Azhar’s life. At the age of twenty-one, realising that his father will never change his mind, he leaves Qaryma for good. In the intervening 10 years of exile, Azhar has built a successful business empire as an international trader, a job he really loves. However, he is compelled to return to Qaryma when his father dies, declaring Azhar to be his heir. He only intends to stay for a month before abdicating in favour of his brother, Kamal, and returning to running his business. A month should allow him time to ascertain the current state of the kingdom and ensure that Kamal will be a capable ruler. However, Azhar finds he must make some soul-searching decisions.
Azhar is everything a hero should be… honourable with a strong sense of duty. It is these very qualities that cause him such a dilemma when he makes some disturbing discoveries and must choose between freedom or duty. Despite his desire never to return to Qaryma, it is easy to see that he cares deeply for the kingdom and its people and wants them to have:
…only the king they deserved, a king who wanted to reign, and who was fit to reign.
Papa and Daniel both assumed my time theirs, their wishes mine. It never occurred to either of them that I might have wishes of my own.
Julia’s life has always been controlled either by her father or her late husband, Daniel. She describes her father as a “benevolent autocrat”, a man who was kind and caring but totally selfish. Her husband, an ambitious scientist, believed himself superior to her in every way and never valued her opinions. Even on his deathbed, he made her promise to finish his book, a comprehensive guide to rare and exotic species, and have it published and even persuade the president of the Horticultural Society of London to grant Daniel membership. Once she has fulfilled this promise, she intends to enjoy her new found freedom.
Julia is an intelligent woman, a botanist and an artist, whose abilities were never acknowledged by her father or her husband. I don’t blame her wanting to grab her freedom with both hands and live the life she wants. I also admire her courage (venturing into the desert might seem improbable but, in a recent interview, Ms Kaye made mention of four such pioneering women) and the fortitude she shows after discovering she has been drugged and robbed.
‘No point in imagining the worst,’ she told herself firmly. ‘Time to take stock, not give way to a fit of the vapours.’
The spark of attraction between Azhar and Julia is there from the beginning but I like how their relationship is able to develop before anything physical happens. It is a mutually beneficial relationship. Azhar is able to discuss issues with Julia because he finds her judgement sound and she is honest with him regardless of the consequences. The fact that Azhar finds Julia attractive gives her a confidence she has never had before and a desire to explore her own sexuality, something denied to her by her husband.
In the hot desert nights Azhar and Julia are bound to succumb to their feelings and Ms Kaye writes vivid, sensual and passionate love scenes but also full of tenderness too.
Her eyes fixed on his, she lifted the tunic over her head and dropped it to the floor. Her arms fluttered up to cover her breasts, but she stilled them, standing proudly naked under his gaze. ‘Julia,’ was all he could manage. His whole body ached with desire. He could not resist touching her. Taking her long braid of hair in his hands, he undid the ribbon and began to untangle it, running his fingers through the fiery river of red, letting it ripple out over her shoulders, down her back, over the creamy mounds of her breasts.
Oh and I will certainly never look at ice cubes in the same way again!!
Julia knows that whatever choice Azhar makes, she can never be part of his life and their parting is inevitable. The scenes where I was privy to their thoughts were so emotional that I felt my heart would break for them even though I knew that somehow they would be together. The ending is romantic but I like that Azhar is realistic enough to admit that it won’t be easy for them.
Ms Kaye’s vivid imagery creates a real sense of mood and atmosphere. I could see the changing colours of the desert sky:
Julia watched, fascinated, as the vivid orange and gold-streaked sky gave way to a pale, soft night-blue, as if the sun, on its rapid descent to the horizon, dragged a stage backdrop behind it. The sparse puffy clouds segued from dark grey to pewter then white as the sky darkened to indigo and the stars made their appearance, a blanket of silvery jewels hung so low in the sky that she felt she could almost touch them.
…taste the dark, bittersweet coffee; smell the heady scents of the desert; feel the sway of the camel.
Whether it is her reference to the Horticultural Society of London, the flora of Arabia or the dress, customs and politics, Ms Kaye’s meticulous historical research is evident throughout the story.
MY VERDICT: If you enjoy a well-written, passionate love story, compelling characters, wonderful imagery and fascinating history, then I can definitely recommend this book.
REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: WARM
Read March 2016
2. The Sheik’s Mail Order Bride – August 2016
3. and 4. Titles and dates to be announced
**My sincere thanks to Marguerite Kaye for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review**