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review 2017-11-18 23:40
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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review 2017-11-18 06:02
Romancing the Scot by May McGoldrick
Romancing the Scot (The Pennington Family) - May McGoldrick
Authors holding $100 Visa gift card giveaway to celebrate new series! Click Giveaway for chance. Ends Nov. 26

3.5 stars

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Napoleonic Wars are over but the political maneuverings are far from, Grace and her father are traveling with messages from Joseph Bonaparte to his wife Julie. They are attacked and Grace ends up hiding in a crate that gets shipped off to Scotland. As the daughter of a French cavalry officer with Jacobite ancestors, Grace finds herself in a perilous position when she awakens in the home of a former English cavalry officer and current judge. 
Hugh still blames himself for not being able to rescue his wife and son during the war; he therefore likes dangerous hobbies such as ballooning. When an unconscious woman is found in the new basket he had delivered, he can't help but be drawn to her. 
Grace and Hugh may have been on opposite sides of the war but their serendipitous meeting will have them joining together.
 
"I shouldn't have kissed you," she finally managed to whisper.
"No, it was I," he said, his gaze still setting her body aflame even from two steps away. "But I don't regret it, and I don't think you do, either."
 

 
First in the new Pennington Family series, Romancing the Scotis a rich and intriguing tale. Hugh is our viscount, former cavalry officer, and current judge hero, whose parents you might remember from the authors' Scottish Dream Trilogy. I greatly appreciated the authors' attention to Hugh as a judge. We don't get a courtroom scene but instead an engaging look at how he approaches his cases, specifically through a case involving a deaf and mute woman accused of murdering her child (in the author's note, the case is said to be based on a real one). This approach not only allowed Hugh and Grace to bond through solving how to work the case, showing how Hugh appreciated Grace's mind and abilities, it also added unique details to an often written about time period. 
 
While Hugh provided the calm and commanding demeanor, Grace gave us the action and compelling components. She at first claims amnesia because she fears that her father fighting for Napoleon and her Jacobite ancestors might land her in trouble but can't keep lying as she grows closer with Hugh. Grace was a wonderful heroine who didn't need to be dramatically overwritten to show her brilliance in strength living the everyday life she was placed in. She traveled with her French cavalry father, fighting sicknesses, helping wounded, and marching in the muck like many of the women in her time did; she's utterly capable but also so human in her vulnerability. The story's drama comes from Grace running from men who killed her father and her thinking they're after a huge diamond she didn't know until later she was transporting. There are English and French spies and some machinations. 
 
The story started off right away at a bit of run and it did jolt me a bit as I had to attempt to place the characters and what exactly was going on but it does level off fairly quickly. The middle slowed a bit as I thought more of a focus on the romance between Grace and Hugh could have sparked vivacity but I also greatly enjoyed the feel of history in this historical romance. There's a mention of the Spa Fields riots, the workings of the law I mentioned, and a focus on the Scottish Clearances. If you read a fair amount of Scottish historicals from the 1800s, you've probably run across this historical event, what made this feel different was instead of just reciting what the Clearances were or did, the authors' focused on the actual people and effects, it felt more intimate. The historical components in this story felt true and woven in a way that immensely added to the feel and created a richer story tapestry. 
 
I thought the middle could have used more romance between our couple but I also believed in them when they made love, the writing sometimes veered toward flowery/purple, the plot was weaving and intriguing, and the historical components highly enriched the story. Hugh's sister Jo was a touching character in her own right and with the set-up (adopted, broken engagement) the authors' have alluded to, I can't wait to read her book. Romancing the Scot was just an all around interesting read and a strong beginning to the Pennington Family series. 
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text 2017-11-18 05:53
Reading progress update: I've read 545 out of 735 pages.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling,Kazu Kibuishi,Mary GrandPré

Nifler

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text 2017-11-16 07:05
Cover Reveal - Kendall Christmas
 
 
 
A Kendall Family Series Novella (#4.5)

 

 
 Jennifer Ann
 
 
Release Date: December 1st, 2017
 
Contemporary Romance
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Family comes first when you’re a Kendall. So when the six siblings are forced to spend Christmas apart, they each struggle to redefine the holiday.
 
Some have found true love, and most have started their own little families. But not all feel merry and bright this holiday season, especially as they’re spread out across the country. Some still strive to find true happiness, and one fights simply to keep going.
 
Will the sudden arrival of Braden and Katie’s twin girls bring the entire family together and save the holiday, or are some of them broken beyond repair?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
#Enter the #Giveaway for your chance to #Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card
 
 
 
 
Jennifer Ann is an award-winning and bestselling author of contemporary romance with darkly complex plots. Much like her characters, she's in love with the city of New York, trips on airplanes or the back of her husband's Harley, and everything rock and roll.
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
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review 2017-11-16 03:40
Fixing
Citywide (Five Boroughs) (Volume 6) - Santino Hassell

This short story collection is set in the series Five Boroughs.  These can probably be read as standalone novellas, but would better read in order with the series.  There are three books included, but for the review purposes we will look at the first story, Rerouted.

 

Chris is trying to move on with his life.  He is trying not to think about his past encounters with both Jace and Aiden.  The couple have a kind of open relationship that leaves room for someone like Chris.

 

Aiden & Jace have been trying to come up with a way to talk Chris into coming back and being with them more.  He has been distant lately, and this is a cause for some concern.  Is  there something wrong?

 

This was such a nice quick read.  Lovely characters I was excited to see again.  Also many visitors from the previous books in the series are present.  I like the fast pace of these books.  I also adore the banter and real world situations that feel like you are right there.  I am always feeling like I am home with this series.  I give this collection a 3/5 Kitty's Paws UP!

 

 

***This early copy was given by Netgalley and its publishers, in exchange for an honest review.

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