Shadow of the Sun
Shadow of the Sun is an exciting Egyptian adventure tale that should appeal to readers who enjoy action and exotic settings. Unfortunately, it’s also a romance, and things are less rosy on that end.
For most of her life, Sarah Pendergrass’s father, Lord Whitehurst, had no use for his only child. He left her in England to grow up in boarding school while he traveled the world unearthing ancient treasures. She long since gave up on winning his love, until he summons her to the family home to carry out a mission for him. He and his protégé, Jake Mitchell, recently discovered the tomb of an ancient Egyptian queen, Queen Tiy, and brought several treasures from her crypt back to London. Ever since, Lord Whitehurst has been struck by a mysterious illness. Believing he’s cursed, he wants to return Queen Tiy’s treasures to her tomb. Jake refused to do it, and now her father wants Sarah to carry out the task for him.
Earning her father’s affection is not the only one reason Sarah agrees to his plan. The other is her hatred for Jake, the boy her father plucked from the streets and treated like his own son while neglecting his daughter. Assuming her mother’s maiden name, Sarah books passage to Egypt with two bodyguards selected by her father. The last thing she expects or wants to see when she comes on board is Jake, making his own trek to Egypt to stop her father.
For Jake, having his discovery displayed means everything. His reputation is in shreds after another archeologist stole Jake’s previous find, then accused Jake of trying to steal it from him. Because the other man was an aristocrat, he was believed. Everyone thinks Jake is a liar and a thief, and only having his discovery of Queen Tiy’s crypt acknowledged will salvage his reputation. He doesn’t believe Lord Whitehurst’s crazy ramblings that he’s been cursed, and intends to get the artifacts back.
The trip to Egypt is a dangerous one, with Napolean running rampant in the area. Jake doesn’t expect to be distracted by the mysterious Sarah Elston. She claims to be traveling to Egypt to paint, and he thinks she’s a fool for blundering into such a dangerous situation for such silly reasons. Of course, he has no idea who she really is or that she has the artifacts he’s after. They’re both instantly attracted to each other, but Sarah can’t afford to let him stop her mission.
As an adventure, the story features constant action and moves at a fast clip. From the high seas to crowded Egyptian city streets to the open desert, the characters are whisked along from one nicely atmospheric setting to the next. Sarah and Jake’s motivations are established right out of the gate, making it easy to empathize with them and their respective positions from the start. For the most part, they’re enjoyable company for the voyage. While the book isn’t overly heavy in period detail, it should satisfy the armchair traveler. I enjoyed the larger than life feel that perfectly fit this kind of exotic adventure. It’s nicely unpredictable, and the villain’s ultimate comeuppance nicely done. It’s fast, it’s exciting, and most of all, fun.
As a romance, though, it’s a bit more problematic. The attraction between them happens very quickly and sometimes feels forced. For instance, one of Jake and Sarah’s early intimate scenes takes place while the ship is under attack. It felt unbelievable that they would stop in the middle of a battle scene to fall into each other arms. The passages where the characters think about each other and their attraction are heavily narrative and tend to slow down the plot. The story will be moving along and then suddenly there will be a long section of thinking about their feelings. A sure sign that the romance develops too fast is that the author has to keep throwing curveballs at the couple to prolong the happy ending. Just when the misconceptions are cleared up, words of love are exchanged, and it seems like they’re going to be happy, the author throws in another misunderstanding to keep them apart.
Outside the main couple, the characterization isn’t very strong. Jake has a couple of friends who are clearly being set up for books of their own, since they both share their own back stories which have nothing to do with this one. I’ll still probably check them out though, and this book earns a marginal recommendation. For all its weaknesses as a romance, it is an entertaining story. There are enough sweet and romantic moments to make the love story acceptable, and the unique setting and high adventure make the trip worthwhile.