The Price of Passion
Cleopatra Fraser is the daughter of a respected Egyptian archaeologist, Everett Fraser. Cleo and her father have a partnership: she does all the work, and he gets all the credit. David Evans, nicknamed Angel, was once Everett’s assistant. He seduced Cleo, not realizing (oops) that the beautiful and competent young woman was sixteen and a virgin. He offered to marry her, but Everett, enraged, refused him. Angel went off to a number of shady-looking archaeological forays, which gave Everett the ammunition he needed to blacken his reputation. Cleo, who believes the things her father says about Angel, learns to hate him. Cleo and Angel spent the next ten years trying to scam or cheat each other out of archaeological treasures. In their encounters they’ve saved each other’s lives, but they regard each other as enemies.
We learn about all of that in flashbacks. In the present, Everett Fraser has accepted an academic post in Scotland, and Cleo has been forced to leave her beloved Egypt so that she can continue doing his job. She and her father intend to unveil a magnificent archaeological treasure at the university, and when she learns that Angel is in town, Cleo is convinced that he intends to get his hands on the treasure. She’s right. Angel is being blackmailed by a secret Macedonian organization. He has been told that Cleo will be killed if he doesn’t steal the treasure for them.
This novel is predicated on the love-hate relationship to the ultimate degree, and it works far better than you would expect it to. It’s really very interesting the way, through the years, Cleo and Angel have managed to constantly run into each other, even though they claim to hate each other.
Cleo is a great character. She’s caught in a difficult position: the only way she can pursue the career she loves is to let her venal, smarmy father take the credit for it, because as a woman that credit could never be hers. She’s tough, brave, and intelligent without ever coming across as insanely spunky.
That said, I don’t think that the flashback structure worked very well for this book. The author whets our appetites by giving us flashbacks of brigands, shady deals, prison breaks and tomb cave-ins, and then expects us to be content with a subplot about whether Aunt Saida will come out of mourning. The history between Cleo and Angel is exciting and adventurous – far more so that the events of the present. The flashbacks are like brightly-colored puzzle pieces – really interesting, but hard to put together into a coherent whole. The flashbacks also made it difficult to get to know Angel. Cleo has believed the worst of him for a long time, and because this is a romance novel, we know that she (and we) will discover that he’s not so bad eventually. But we don’t learn the reasons behind his actions until relatively late in the book, which kept me from really warming up to him.
I also had a little trouble with that secret Macedonian organization. For a group of people whose existence has been completely unknown for centuries untold, they seemed awfully willing to blow their cover in order to make this book’s climax more climactic.
I would have loved this book if it had started earlier in the relationship – if a significant portion of it had actually taken place in Egypt. We could have followed Angel and Cleo on their adventures and really seen the way they used competition and revenge to remain in touch, even though they were enemies. Then the way they overcome their prejudices would have been far more poignant, and the book would have been much more exciting.
In spite of this, I enjoyed The Price of Passion very much. First and foremost, that’s due to the character of Cleo. It’s also because of the flashbacks, which were fascinating. Then there’s the chemistry between our protagonists, which was also terrific. For some people the flashback structure might work better. Even though I thought this book could have been better, I liked it enough that I’m going to start looking for Sizemore’s backlist.