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review 2017-11-21 23:53
ARC Review: The Secret Of The Sheikh's Betrothed by Felicitas Ivey
The Secret of the Sheikh’s Betrothed (Dreamspun Desires Book 46) - Felicitas Ivey

First off, I had no issues whatsoever with the writing style of this author, or the writing itself. The story flowed along well, and I wasn't bored at all while reading. That is one of the two reasons this book got two stars instead of just one.

The other one is that I was super enraged for most of the book at the treatment Ikraam had to endure at the hands of her sister.

Moving on.... 

After I mulled it over for a while, I realized I had massive issues with some of the characters, the plot, and the setting, as well as the social aspects of this book. The messages within are really problematic for me. 

I mentioned in my status update when I finished the book that "this was different". It sure is. The book is set in a country in the Middle East, where sheikhs and Bedouin tribes are still aplenty. Goat herding is mentioned. Grazing grounds. Filthy rich sheikhs. Camels. Donkeys. Lots of goats. Women are second class, at best, required to hide their faces and their bodies in hijabs, niqabs and veils. 

The basic premise is that rich billionaire sheikh Fathi, who's secretly gay, has been told by his grandfather that he's been betrothed to a Bedouin girl named Ikraam, sight unseen, before the girl was even born, due to some debt the grandfather owed to the girl's father many many years ago.

That's basically believable, right? 

The rest of this? Not so much. 

Ikraam is actually not a girl. Ikraam is a young man who was born to the 2nd wife of a Bedouin tribe chief/leader who thus far only fathered girls. He's been raised as a girl in a large harem because his oldest sister didn't want him to be the heir and remove her from her position of power after their father died. She basically forced Ikraam's mother, and then Ikraam as he grew up, to keep his gender a secret and raise him as female. This was continued after the mother died. The oldest sister married a weak man who became the new tribe leader, but it's really been her in charge. She then set out to marry off all her sisters to other tribes so she could be HBIC. 

I had some issues right there. Not only is this plot point unrealistic, but even if it were believable, the psychological repercussions of Ikraam being raised as a female, and eventually realizing he's not female, are never even addressed. Can you imagine being raised this way? And noticing at some point that, hey, I have a penis, and, hey, the others girls do not? And, hey, I could be killed at any time if someone finds out? And, hey, my oldest sister abuses me daily and I have absolutely no way out of this situation other than death? Wouldn't YOU have some serious psychological issues? Can you imagine how fucked up that is? The suffering? The constant fear? Knowing you will die on your wedding night? Feeling that you have to go along with this plan so you can possibly save your niece from a fate worse than death? 

Additionally, Ikraam has been raised without ever learning to read, without knowing anything about the modern world (which I guess is expected when one grows up in a tent in the desert, weaving cloth and hiding underneath a niqab). And yet, this is never addressed even when Ikraam marries Fathi. The difference between Fathi, who was raised with money and educated in the US, and the poor Bedouin woman/man, who's never even been to a city, who's never read a book, who has no idea how the world works outside of goat farming and weaving cloth and hiding behind a veil - how could they possibly be compatible? And to top this off, when the secret does come out, Ikraam suggests living as a female in public, and as a male in the privacy of their bedroom, and NO ONE questions the feasibility of this and its possible repercussions. Fathi thinks it's a great idea. Is Ikraam identifying as gender-queer, made so by how he was raised? Are we supposed to believe that gender identity is thus nurture instead of nature? What message is the author sending here? 

We are introduced to Fathi and his twin brother early on. Fathi has a secretary whose only apparent purpose was to be a contrast to Ikraam as this secretary is educated and modernized, but then used only to be shamed and ridiculed for her aspirations. There's a scene at the very end that had me cringe in second-hand embarrassment that the way this particular scene played out made it past the editor. What was that, even? This is a young, modern, educated woman, someone who did a good job in the position for which she was hired, and yet, she's shamed for being interested in her boss, and the uneducated, unworldly, MALE-pretending-to-be-female Ikraam is held up as a "better" example of being female than this young woman, going so far as showing up on the arm of his new husband, dressed in traditional FEMALE finery and given an opportunity to announce to the secretary that her boss is now married and she needs to take a hike. How did this make it past the editor? What message is this sending to the reader? Readers who are primarily women? 

Don't get me started on Ikraam's oldest sister and the mother of his niece. The woman was pure evil but basically gets away with it. Not only is she perfectly willing to let Ikraam die for her subterfuge, which his husband would then obviously discover, but she's also willing to get rid of her own daughter by attempting to marry her off to a disgusting and violent man at least twice her age, who will likely break not only her spirit but also her body. Evil sister/mother don't care. And even when all of these things come out, she's not punished for her behavior. Ikraam is safe, and so is his niece, but the evil sister never gets a real punishment for not only the deception but also the cruelty and suffering she inflicted. 

Fathi is secretly gay, as I mentioned. His grandfather, described as a very traditional and old-fashioned man set in his ways, then doesn't even really blink when a) Fathi admits to being gay, and b) Ikraam's secret is revealed, and c) they want to get married anyway. Say WHAT? You're trying to tell me that an old man from the Middle East doesn't care that his heir is gay? Embraces it? Is fine with the Bedouin girl being really a man? And you explain it away by stating that he's not super religious and THAT'S IT?? I'm sorry, but I didn't buy what the author was trying to sell here. 

The secondary men in this book, namely the tribe leader and the niece's potential groom, are either weak or evil. Both were one-dimensional characters and used to provide a specific plot point or two, then discarded. 

I usually like the titles in this very tropey series, but this was a complete miss for me. The gender identity issue could have been handled in a much healthier way here, and I would have expected more conflict and pushback from the grandfather based on his portrayal. I would have liked to see some psychological help for Ikraam, and some education as well. 

This book didn't work for me. YMMV.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A review was not promised in return. **

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quote 2017-11-13 23:23
"What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"
The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories - Agatha Christie

About 15% into the book, the 3rd Chapter story. 

 

 

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review 2017-11-03 23:05
ARC Review: Game Point by M.J. O'Shea
Game Point (Dreamspun Desires Book 45) - M.J. O'Shea

Quinn Valenzuela, heir to the Sparta Athletics empire, has spent most of his life, first at boarding school and then traveling the world, playing on the yachts of the rich and famous, drifting his life away, pretending this is all he wants from life.

Porter Davis, COO of the same company, hasn't had a chance to even enjoy the fruits of his labor, working his way up from athlete using the product to basically running the company for and with Quinn's grandfather and mother. He lives with his sister because it's easy, and pretends he's not lonely.

The book is a little heavy early on as the characters deal with the grief of losing the old man. Both men are adrift in different ways, neither quite sure how to move forward. Quinn decides he wants to learn how to run the company, but needs Porter's help to do so. 

The relationship between the men progresses from reluctant acceptance to realizing that they work well together to developing a friendship to bedroom benefits, and the development felt natural and realistic within the confines of the plot. It was lovely to watch driven, workaholic Porter start to relax a little, and drifting, unsure Quinn find his footing and start to shine. Of course, it's not smooth sailing all the way, and the two men still have to figure out what they need long-term.

I liked the supporting characters as well - Quinn's mother and Porter's sister were two well-developed female characters who both supported and challenged our MCs as needed. 

The requisite relationship hiccup was visible from a mile away, and I liked how the author handled Quinn's obliviousness and panic, but also how it wasn't dragged out for too long. I also think that this needed to happen for the relationship to actually grow beyond what it had become at that point, and for Quinn to think about what he really wants. 

This is slow burn by design, though there's plenty of UST within. And tons of believable emotions, so that worked quite well for me.

It's a sweet romance and definitely worth your time.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A review was not promised in return. **

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text 2017-10-31 08:10
Release Blast - Call To Redemption

 

 

 

Call to Redemption Blurb:

 

The Poseidon team are hard-bodied, fiercely competitive Navy SEALs. But when a sensitive mission goes disastrously wrong, three of the team's finest will have to trust their hearts and instincts to uncover the truth… 

 

No strings. No questions. Just pleasure. For a few blissful days, Lieutenant Commander Nic Savino is enjoying a wild fling with the sexiest stranger he's ever laid eyes—or any other body part—on. It's almost enough to make the stalwart SEAL let down his guard for once. Until he learns that assistant US attorney Darby Raye—his Darby—is heading an investigation designed to destroy him…and Poseidon.

 

The gorgeous eyes that Darby spent her nights gazing into are now glaring at her across a courtroom. This case could build her career, but if Nic's not a traitor, then he's being framed by forces powerful enough to eliminate every obstacle in their way. And the tentative trust she and Nic are rebuilding—as well as their very lives—could become collateral damage…

 

 

Call to Redemption Purchase Links:

 

http://tawnyweber.com/CtR

Amazon: http://tawnyweber.com/CRaz1

B&N: http://tawnyweber.com/CRbn1

iBooks: http://tawnyweber.com/CRiB1

Kobo: http://tawnyweber.com/CRk1

Harlequin: http://tawnyweber.com/CRh1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Tawny Weber Links:

 

Website: http://tawnyweber.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TawnyWeber.RomanceAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TawnyWeber

 

 

 

 

CALL TO REDEMPTION Excerpt:

 

The woman simply stared, those anime eyes assessing for a long moment before she smiled.

 

So, Dominic? What do you recommend?”

 

He started to correct her. He was only Dominic to a few stubborn holdouts in his family. Everyone else had called him Nic since he was ten. But there was something about the way she said his name, the syllables rolling off her tongue, that stayed his words.

 

Are you a fan of fluffy drinks?” he asked instead.

 

Only inasmuch as I can now say I’ve had one,” she responded with a laugh.

 

Then I recommend we get to know each other better over a real drink.”

 

Define real.”

 

Nic’s smile widened. He leaned back in the chair and prepared to enjoy himself. As he did, he noted that the band was setting up. Within twenty minutes of tuning up, the lanai would be crowded with bodies boogying to the island beat.

 

Real, as in not decorated with flowers. If you’re hungry, the food down here is good. Simple, upscale from the usual bar choices.” He tapped the menu she’d yet to check out. “I can recommend the taco platter. The chef has a way with pork and pineapple.”

 

Mmm.” She drew one long finger over the menu but didn’t pull it closer or try to open it. “Any other recommendations?”

 

A few came to mind, but it seemed a little early in the evening to suggest naked dancing. Yeah. His gaze swept over her curves. He’d bet she’d look damn good at it.

 

But he had no clue if she could dance.

 

He should find that out, first.

 

That, and her name.

 

The band is solid and you’ve got a good seat for the show. But if you were more interested in a quiet dinner watching the sun set over the ocean, you might want to try the third-floor restaurant.” He indicated the spiral staircase she’d descended earlier. “The view is worth the climb.”

 

Is that a fact?”

 

Yes, ma’am, it is. Call it my public service announcement for the evening.”

 

That teased a hint of a smile out of her. One she quickly hid by sipping her drink.

 

Do you do that often? Serve the public and help them avoid overly loud dinners?”

 

You could say I’ve made a career of it.”

 

Do tell.” Her body language was subtly flirtatious, but even with those huge eyes locked on his face, he couldn’t read her well enough to know if that was a green light or a cautious yellow.

 

Nic didn’t brag about what he did, but he didn’t hide it, either. Simply put, there was nothing relaxing about talking about his work. Not right now. Not when just thinking about it felt like a blow to the chest, leaving him breathless and empty.

 

So he sidestepped.

 

Let’s just say I’m gifted at seeing my way around any variety of obstacles while engineering the successful outcome that serves people of all walks of life.”

 

Check him, he thought, grinning. He could have a future in politics. Or with the Navy brass, which was sometimes the same thing.

 

Well, that’s intriguingly vague,” she said with a laugh.

 

Intriguing enough to tempt you to have dinner with me?”

 

Narrowing those eyes in a cautious way that made him want to know all of her secrets, she gave him a considering look before offering the smallest of shrugs.

 

I’d hate to let your public service announcement go to waste. And this will give you time to tell me all about how you serve people with engineered outcomes.”

 

Instead of answering, he held out his hand to help her to her feet. As soon as her slender fingers were tucked in his, he changed the subject. Walking up the stairs to the restaurant, he shared the family story of how his uncle and father had collected every single shell that was embedded in the airy spiral staircase.

 

He wasn’t going to talk about his career.

 

He was on leave, and for the first time in his life, he was focusing on his wants. His needs. And right now, he needed to simply be a man.

 

One evening wouldn’t hurt, he told himself, ignoring the stabbing sense of disloyalty.

Not if that one evening brought him even an iota of solace against the pain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-10-18 18:29
Kidnapped! (Harlequin Blaze #345)(Forbidden Fantasies) - Jo Leigh

I've spent the last 7 days staring at it balefully. The back cover reads interesting. But then you get to the set-up...and the end.

 

The h was kidnapped as a teen, along with her cousin. She escaped, her cousin...didn't. She sort of got over that, only to get kidnapped *again* while in college, by a couple of fellow students. So she's become agoraphobic - supposedly. Daddy Warbucks has surrounded his precious darling with ex agents and military types, under the guise of well, household employees. She lives "alone" and is clueless of this.

 

The H is one of these - her chauffeur. He finds the whole thing stupid - he wouldn't mind the elaborate security if it was a head of state, but some pampered princess? Yes, he does hold her in contempt. He's worked for her for a few months. She is attracted to him, and he's aware of it, also finds it amusing.

 

Her therapist suggests a kidnapping for hire adventure to help her with her phobia.

 

He listens in on her telling her friend about it, does research (which he apparently left lying around)

 

She meets her dad for dinner at a restaurant, which is cleared in advance of their arrival, sees pity in the H's eyes, and decides to go through with it.

 

H's brother is worthless pondscum that the H has been bailing out since they were kids. He finds the "research" and decides to fill in...or arrange a fill in - I quit at this point - because he owes some bookie a lot of money.

 

Since I read the last few chapters as well...the h apparently only found out that her staff were all security people after she more or less rescued herself, because her dad was incensed and blamed the H for everything. The H kept to his cover as hapless chauffeur the entire time he was in her presence, and didn't take the opportunity to take care of the bad guys when he had several chances. No - I didn't understand that. She was in her room, he could have taken them out one by one, and solved the whole problem. Granted, he likely wouldn't have killed his brother but still...

 

The part I didn't read - the middle - I can only guess that...the kidnapping happened, he allowed himself to be captured assuming it was just a game, slept with the h (that he considered useless and pitiable), figured out it wasn't a game, didn't do anything about it until AFTER they'd reached the Caymans and she'd been dragged off the boat (read *that* part), etc.

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