Desert Isle Keeper
Behind the Curtain
My introduction to Beth Kery was her erotic One Night of Passion series, originally started under her pen name Bethany Kane back in 2011. I love that series, and it put her on my radar. Since then, however, the majority of her books have been released as serials which are not my cup of tea. Behind the Curtain in contrast is a complete novel, and one I am quite happy to have gotten into my hands. It contains some of my favorite themes – a summer ‘first love’ relationship that is bittersweet, and a second chance/reunion romance to bring the couple back together. It’s also a study in cultural differences and the realities of how they impact relationships. Heartbreaking and intense, this romance – with a happy ending that is all the more precious for its challenges – is one that won’t be leaving my memory any time soon.
Behind the Curtain starts in the present, in Chicago. Asher Gaites is a foreign correspondent and a well-known name in international journalism, having been nominated for a Pulitzer prize for his writing about families in war torn Syria. He’s reluctantly home to tell his parents in person that he’s rejecting the trust fund he’s eligible to inherit now that he’s turned thirty, and has taken a job as bureau chief in London. While home, he reconnects with some longtime friends who take him to a jazz nightclub. There, a woman who sings from behind a veil sparks in him the memories of a summer love affair . In fact, her voice is so evocative that he can’t stop wondering if she could be the girl of his dreams. A little detective work brings them face to face, and it is indeed her.
The story then slips eight years back into the past when Laila Barek is with her traditional Moroccan-American family at Crescent Bay. She meets Asher when he comes across her at a secluded beach, and again when she and her cousins meet him and his friends at a local shop. The attraction between them is instant, and somewhat frightening for Laila who is inexperienced with men, but neither can resist the force that draws them to each other. They have only a short time to spend together but it doesn’t stop them from making some decisions that will affect them for years to come. It doesn’t seem possible that they will get their happy ending – until fate brings them together again. Has their time finally come, or will their hearts be left broken once again?
This romance held me in its grip from start to finish. The story doesn’t move back and forth with tidbits of the past , but delivers the whole of their fateful relationship in one go, taking up half the pages before moving to the present once again. It’s got lots of angst, as the reader knows that they aren’t going to get their happy ever after as young adults, but at the same time, you can’t help rooting for them to overcome the obvious barriers between them.
Both Asher and Laila have family backgrounds that they realize will make a future together pretty well impossible. Asher is from a very wealthy, high society family. They have a media empire and the summer Asher spends in Crescent Bay is meant to give him one last taste of freedom before assuming his position in the family company. Asher comes across as a young man struggling under the weight expectations, yet determined to go his own way no matter the consequences. In this frame of mind, when he meets Laila he knows she won’t fit his parents’ picture of the ideal partner for him. But he doesn’t care. The passion he feels for her is unlike any other he’s experienced and he can’t get enough of being with her, no matter if they are just talking or sinking deeper into a physical relationship.
Laila comes from more restricted and protective background. As a Muslim woman, her family has certain expectations for her behavior and for the most part she abides by them. At the lake with her extended family, she is given more freedom because she’s with her two female cousins and they explore the local hangouts together. She’s a lovely young woman, a bit shy, who has a passion for writing poetry and music and for singing – talents she shares with no one, until she meets Asher. He’s the first person to accept all of her as she is and it’s no wonder she gets swept up in a romance with him, despite knowing it will likely not end well. He’s handsome, he’s thoughtful, he’s understanding (to a point) of her family obligations, and he’s clearly attracted to her. The summer days she spends with Asher change her character, make her bolder and stronger. When they go their separate ways, both hearts shattered, she finds a way to achive her desire to be true to herself while still maintaining a strong relationship with her family. The author does a deft job of showing the complicated reality for many young women of ethnic descent who must try to find balance between American culture and their own.
The sexual relationship between Asher and Laila develops somewhat tentatively at first but rapidly escalates, with the knowledge for both that their time together is limited. Asher is a patient and caring lover, understanding that Laila is inexperienced but eager to learn and their love scenes are fraught with emotion. Youthful lust tries to overtake common sense on more than one occasion. Asher is torn over the risks Laila takes risks to be with him, selfishly wanting to see her as much as possible while understanding the real danger it could mean if her parents find out. As older adults when they meet again, they are emboldened by the knowledge that they can do as they wish, and their passionate affair picks up easily, with some very steamy scenes. There’s no doubt that they love each other, and have been in love since that first summer. But just because they are older doesn’t mean that their families will accept them as a couple. This time however, they have the maturity and understanding of how it feels and what it means to be apart to enable them to fight their way through to a very well deserved happy ending. Behind the Curtain is an evocative and passionate second chance romance.