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The Desert Lord’s Bride, by Olivia Gates


Second in Ms Gates’ Throne of Judar trilogy, The Desert Lord’s Bride tells the story of Shehab, the second oldest Aal Massod brother. He and Kamal, the third and youngest brother, were introduced briefly in The Desert Lord’s Baby, Farooq’s story (review here).

Once again, this is a short novel-not quite 200 pages long-and it contains a number of category romance tropes and clichés that most usually put me off. We have deception on a grand scale on the part of the hero, fueled by a false image of the heroine. We have a heroine whose singular previous sexual and relationship experience has convinced her she’s frigid. We have love at first sight.

And, amazingly, it works. Not without caveats (yes, I do have quibbles), but it does work.

Here is the back cover blurb, which happens to be better than most:

Seduced for a kingdom!

The future of Judar rest with Farah Beaumont, a foreigner who wants nothing to do with her heritage. And to secure his country’s peace, prince Shehab Aal Masood must make her his bride-by any means necessary.

Hiding his identity and sweeping Farah off her feet is a start. But the joyful, seemingly innocent Farah is nothing like he expects. And Shehab’s calculated seduction soon becomes an affair too powerful to control.

Throne of Judar-For passion, for love… for their kingdom!

The novel starts with a short prologue in which the situation Shehab finds himself in is presented to the reader. (And here I realize that in my review for the previous title I never explained what the big deal is, so apologies and here it is, in a nutshell:)

Shehab and his brothers are the nephews and heirs of the King of Judar, a small but very rich Middle Eastern country. The succession is contested by another powerful family with ties to a neighboring-and also very rich-kingdom. After a number of somewhat dirty and questionable maneuvers, both families reach an agreement that would guarantee the status quo (and therefore peace) to continue in the region: the heir to the throne of Judar will marry the daughter of the King of Zohayd.

Of course, it cannot be that easy, as there are a couple of bumps in this smooth road.

First, Farooq is married and will neither enter a polygamous marriage nor repudiate his beloved wife. He solves this issue by abdicating his position as Crown Prince in favor of Shehab, who finds himself in the unenviable position to wed for reasons of state.

Second issue is that King Atef doesn’t have legitimate daughters, and that his only known illegitimate daughter, one US citizen Farah Beaumont, has refused to do her ‘duty’ and further severed all contact with her father-therefore being ignorant of all that is at stake.

Third issue, Farah is the notorious mistress of a married man who is old enough to be her father, as well as having a reputation for entertaining numerous one-night stands.

And from there all the wonderfully clichéd tropes mentioned above come to play.

Once again I find myself amazed at the fact that Ms Gates managed to grab me-an admittedly picky reader-and made me overlook all the improbabilities and larger-than-life aspects of the story in order to get lost in the characters and their emotions.

And I did.

From the prologue, with its brief-one line, basically-exchange between Farooq and Shehab, to Shehab’s first glimpse of Farah and her reaction to seeing him for the first time, I was completely submerged into their feelings. Yes, improbable as all get out; occasionally giving me the “what on earth could they be *thinking*” vibe, I was still completely invested in them.

Shehab is a wonderful character, mostly because the reader is allowed to hear his inner dialogue-his doubts, his surprise, his confusion over his reaction to Farah, his regret over his previous actions. There is a particular scene, near the end of the book-after Farah has discovered his lies-that moved me deeply. Farah’s desolation, her anguish, are so vivid, so real, it hurts to read about them.

I confess, though, that I was a tad disappointed in the ending. The conversation with King Atef and Anne Beaumont-Farah’s mother-as well as the aftermath of the revelations aired therein, seemed… well, too pat. I would have thought more logical for Shehab to insist that Farah be given time to process all that she had been told before continuing. Instead, we are given to understand that she is able to process the yo-yoing of emotions from despair to elation to despair in a matter of minutes, as if having one’s very foundation erased would be a matter of little importance for her.

Still, this is quite an enjoyable novel, and I liked both characters a lot-Shehab in particular.

7.50 out of 10

The Desert Lord’s Bride is available through amazon.com here and through amazon uk here.

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