Forged in the Desert Heat
Harlequin / January 1, 2014 / $4.99 print & digital
The Gypsy Sheikh, betrayer, modern-day marauder—Zafar Nejem has been called many things. And now he is to be called Your Majesty. Returning to the throne of Al Sabah, his first act is to rescue American heiress Analise Christensen from her desert kidnappers.
Since Ana is engaged to the ruler of the neighboring kingdom, her discovery must be concealed until Zafar can explain her presence, or else he risks war. But as the sun rises over the sand dunes, so does the forbidden heat that burns between them, threatening everything….
Personally, I do not read romance novels for escapism. Certainly a really good romance can make me temporarily forget an awful day I had at work, an argument I had with my boyfriend, or the fact that I still haven’t finished my Christmas shopping, but it’s not the driving motivation behind why I personally like the genre. That being said, I understand how important escapism is for other readers. They like that ability to travel outside of themselves, their daily lives, and get swept away to some other world—a world completely foreign to their own personal, day-to-day experiences. Be it a romance set in a paranormal world, a historical setting, or even that staple of the Harlequin Presents universe, the sheikh romance.
When it comes to throwing stones, category romance, Presents in particular, are an easy target for those who sneer at romance, and even readers within the genre. The truth of the matter is much more complex, and not often discussed. Presents, when done well, exhibit a kind of fairy tale quality—and nowhere is that more evident than in romances featuring sheikh heroes. The appeal, I think, is that for most readers, a hunky desert sheikh is completely out of the ordinary. It’s a very Calgon-take-me-away kind of moment. With Forged in the Desert Heat, Maisey Yates seems to be embracing that idea. While reading I concocted this image in my head, of what it was like for the author to pen this story. I had this image of her sitting in her office, typing away at her keyboard, muttering to herself, “Yeah, they think they know but they don’t know. They want a sheikh and a virgin? Wait until they get a load of these two!”
His uncle’s death means Zafar Nejem has inherited the throne. The sticking point is that many in the kingdom believe Zafar directly led to the murder of his parents and the rule of his uncle, a man who wasn’t exactly beloved. Zafar, haunted by tragedy, has spent the last decade or so wandering around the desert among the Bedouin tribes. He’s on his way back to his newly inherited palace when he rescues kidnapped American, Analise Christensen. Adding further complication is the fact that Ana, a Texas oil heiress, is betrothed to a neighboring sheikh. Relations between the two kingdoms are particularly strained and even though Zafar rescued Ana? Yeah, her betrothed probably won’t see it that way. War between the two is something Zafar really does not need or want. So he has no choice but to keep Ana at his palace until he can figure out a way to return her to the bosom of her family without inciting bloodshed.
This seems like a pretty straight-forward set-up and the story has an almost historical feel to it, even though it is set in present day. What really makes the whole thing intriguing though is that the author has given us a classic Presents set-up with 21st century characters. Bless her heart, Ana is a 21st century virgin. Funny, complex, a little sassy, and not afraid to speak her mind:
“I think you’ve changed. Granted, I didn’t know the boy you used to be, but the man standing in front of me would never sacrifice anything for love. I doubt he could even feel it.”
“I thank you.”
“It wasn’t a compliment.”
She also acknowledges the absurdity in the importance placed on her virginity. Once rescued by Zafar, her hymen is a bit of a bargaining chip, much to her amusement and disgust.
A war over her hymen. Yuck. But potentially true. And if it would help protect her, well, she wasn’t above using it as an excuse. But she would save it. Because…yuck.
Ana has spent her life molding herself into the image of the woman she thinks everyone wants her to be. In turn, Zafar has spent his adult life trying to run away from a youthful transgression that led to terrible consequences. Both of these characters feel that they are at fault for events that have come to greatly shape their lives. The truth isn’t that easy. Those events were already in motion, whether or not Ana and Zafar had done things differently—a lesson they both learn over the course of this story. It is a classic Presents, with some refreshing twists along the way.
Learn more or order a copy of Forged in the Desert Heat by Maisey Yates, available on January 1, 2014:
Wendy the Super Librarian also blogs at WendyTheSuperLibrarian.blogspot.com. So dig that library card out of your pocket and head for the stacks.