What do sheikhs and Cajuns have in common with leopard shape-shifters and bloodthirsty archangels? Well, besides the totally possessive hero, they also share Nalini Singh. Like many authors, she sharpened her pen on series romances (in this case, Silhouette Desire) before moving on to prime time. The second book in her Zulheil series doesn’t quite earn the label of an early gem, but it is certainly worth checking out.
The premise is all too killingly common: Oppressive Arab father arranges beautiful daughter’s marriage to American tycoon. Beauty wants to be more than her face. Tycoon is wary of beautiful women, having been scarred in the past. Bor-ing. Alongside the clichés, the initial pages aren’t too promising, being erratic, heavy-handed, and melodramatic. However, the book picks up considerably after Hira and Marc arrive at his home in Louisiana, where the barriers begin to tumble, and their true colors emerge.
The writing gets overwrought and obvious at times – he has scars, and she is beautiful. I don’t need to be told twenty times that it’s a Beauty and the Beast story; I get it. But there are also wonderful moments of sharp honesty and bared emotions. Best of all, totally absent is Ms. Singh’s now totally annoying habit of inserting chapter breaks in the middle of conversations. Overall, Craving Beauty flows very well.
Hira marks the first desert chick I’ve truly approved of; I haven’t read many sheikh books, because a part of me always finds some element of the story farfetched, or demeaning, or both. But Hira’s circumstances strike me as believable, from her own emotional repression to the wings spreading. The only thing I might complain about is that her liberation happens rather quickly (a matter of weeks), relative to the amount of time she spent under her father’s thumb. But then again, Ms. Singh lays the ground-work, establishing that Hira actually is already on the road to self-emancipation when she marries Marc, so the circumstances pass.
Marc is a bit harder to sympathize with, if only because I am deadly bored of the hero who was scarred by a beautiful woman twenty years ago and still can’t get over it. I also found his past a little too Dickensian for taste, but otherwise he’s an alpha hero who listens and knows how to apologize, before the nick of time. Gotta like that.
Luckily for all owners of digital devices, be it mobile or portable, Craving Beauty is now available from multiple online sources. So if you feel like forgoing your weekly Grande Non-Fat Decaf Cocoa Cappuccino, then here’s a perfect spot for that $4.05. (Plus tax.)