Genre: Historical Romance Erotic (Victorian – Morocco 1893)
In the heat of the desert night, passion rises like a flame…
Raised in a brothel, Allegra Synnford quickly learned that survival meant taking charge of her destiny. Now, as a renowned courtesan skilled in the pleasures of the flesh, she vows she will never be vulnerable to any one man…
Sheikh Shaheen of the Amazigh has been hiding from his past for a long time, but not enough to forget how another courtesan made him abandon his life as the Viscount Newcastle. When Allegra ignites his desire, his need threatens to undermine his cover.
With old enemies circling, experience tells him he must resist her charms at all costs. But Allegra has her own game to play…with a man who can’t afford to lose.
This is the second book I have read by Monica Burns and, although I don’t think it is quite as good as MIRAGE, the suspense, steamy romance, interesting characters and evocative setting make this a very enjoyable read.
The young Allegra suffers the same fate as her older sister when her mother sells her to a brothel owner. She is finally able to escape this existence when she becomes the mistress of Arthur, Earl of Bledsoe. The scandal surrounding his death serves to create the illusion of a courtesan unparalleled. Men are drawn to her but Arthur’s death has given her the independence to choose the men she takes to her bed. She always needs to be in control and never becomes emotionally involved.
She was always the one who seduced. The one in control. Men succumbed to her not the other way around.
Allegra is strong, resilient, courageous and, above all, a survivor and I like how she never apologises for making the best of a life that was not of her choosing. She is a good person at heart which is clearly shown in her love for her niece, Cordelia. She wants Cordelia to have someone who really cares about her and wants her to be happy, something that Allegra never had in her own life.
Sheikh Shaheen/Robert Camden, Viscount Newcastle
15 years ago Robert left England after his involvement with and betrayal by a courtesan led to the tragic death of his older brother, James. Disowned by his father and racked by guilt over his brother’s death, Robert seeks death in the Moroccan desert only to be saved by Sheikh Khalid Mahmood. As Sheikh Shaheen, Robert builds a new life for himself and the Amazigh people become like family to him. He has successfully negotiated treaties between the various warring Bedouin tribes and earned the respect of not only the Bedouins but also the Spanish and French governments that control the Moroccan Sultanate. These treaties and the life he had made for himself could easily be destroyed if his true identity became known.
Shaheen is definitely an alpha hero…strong, arrogant, stubborn and a man who likes to be in control. He has never talked about his past to anyone, even Khalid, but these tragic events will colour his initial assumptions about Allegra. He is immediately intrigued by her but believes Allegra to be shallow just like Frances, the courtesan who betrayed him, but he finds that Allegra is constantly shattering his preconceptions about her.
Once again, she’d shattered another preconceived notion of his – her simple scent surprised him. he’d expected a musky perfume, something exotic, not something so simple and natural, delicate gestures that were completely natural and without artifice?
He sees a woman with principles…a woman with spirit, who isn’t afraid to defy him or bravely stand up to the cruel Sheikh Nassar. He wants to discover the real woman beneath the façade of a seductive courtesan.
Allegra is attracted to Shaheen but will never relinquish control of her life. He both captivates and infuriates her and throws her off balance. One minute he can be caring but the next arrogant and commanding.
I love the battle of wills between these two strong-willed and stubborn people. Allegra refuses to allow any man to control her but Shaheen is a man who demands total submission. This conflict creates a volatile relationship which only serves to heighten the sexual tension simmering between them. The erotic banana scene, where Allegra wins her bet, is definitely not to be missed!
Shaheen makes a lot of mistakes when it comes to his relationship with Allegra but I could understand his reasoning for acting the way he does even though he is sometimes harsh and hurtful. I was pleased to see that Allegra doesn’t make it easy for him at the end and he has to do some serious grovelling.
There are some interesting secondary characters including Millie, Allegra’s friend and companion; Laila, Khalid’s feisty daughter; Hakim, Khalid’s son and heir, who develops a crush on Allegra creating tension between him and Shaheen; Shaheen’s distant cousin Charles, who presents some problems for our hero and the sadistic villain Nassar, Khalid’s brother.
I enjoyed the fast pace of the story with its mix of regional politics, intrigue and danger and Ms Burns doesn’t shy away from showing Nassar’s cruel and degrading treatment of Allegra. A truly nasty piece of work and I was glad to see him meet a sticky end.
Ms Burns has an innate ability to draw me into her stories with writing that is evocative, emotive and sensual. Her vivid imagery brings to life the sights, sounds and smells of the exotic Moroccan setting.
MY VERDICT: If you enjoy an action-packed tale of passion, desire and love with an exotic setting, then this is for you
REVIEW RATING: 4/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: SIZZLING
Read May 2016
**I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. **