The Sheikh's Forbidden Virgin
Well, I can’t tell you this Harlequin Presents is a hidden gem. However, I can say it’s probably better than most, and possibly worth the $4.75, but it is definitely and unquestionably ridiculous. <a href="http://www.likesbooks.com/banmanpro/a.aspx?ZoneID=4&Task=Click&Mode=HTML&SiteID=1&PageID=33387 ” target=”_blank”> <img src="http://www.likesbooks.com/banmanpro/a.aspx?ZoneID=4&Task=Get&Mode=HTML&SiteID=1&PageID=33387 ” width=”150″ height=”200″ border=”0″ alt=””>
Princess Kalila of Zaraq has been contracted since childhood to marry Zakari, King of Calista. Now the time has come, but Zakari is off looking for the Calista crown diamond, so coming to collect her instead is Zakari’s brother, the scarred and tortured Prince Aarif. During the days before the wedding Kalila and Aarif fall in love – but what about the alliance? And what about their duty?? And where the hell is the Calista diamond?! And will they get married or not?!?!
Okay, so in all seriousness, the book basically works. Aarif could have been a club-wielding oil baron, and Kalila could have been…well, let’s not go there. Instead what we get are two individuals caught between the age-old dilemma of duty or self, and who try to manage it as honorably as possible. Kalila has been freshly wrenched from her liberating life in Cambridge (working towards an M.Phil in Medieval History, so our girl’s got brains, see?), and inwardly rebels against the arranged marriage. But being of vaguely Muslim persuasion (’cause that’s never really explained, although with the desert and sheikh references and names like Aarif al Farisi I’d take that as a given, but maybe being so close to Greece they’re Muslim Orthodox…but I digress), she knows her duty to her family and country, and agrees to the marriage even though she fights it every step of the way, particularly when she realizes Aarif returns her love. Kalila is a sensible, mostly mature heroine, and was a pleasant surprise.
Aarif is a tortured soul, poor guy, and rightly so. (Although the circumstances are a little unbelievable – I mean, Mediterranean pirates? But never mind.) His first duty is to his family, even at the expense of his own happiness, and he is a quiet, rather taciturn, man with heartbreaking glimpses of humor; I love the quiet ones. Overall, I am convinced of their mutual suitability, and the wildly romantic ending is rather satisfactory.
But despite all the book’s positive attributes, I can’t – can’t – in good conscience recommend it. Within the severe limitations Ms. Hewitt has done about as good a job as might be expected, but those limitations exist nonetheless. The constraints of character, setting, plot, and circumstance make it damn hard to write a story of significant depth, and what is left is a pleasant diversion about as memorable as a Venti Frappuccino. And for $4.75, I wouldn’t lay bets on which one I’d prefer.