“The last thing Clarinda wants is to be trapped in a palace of sensual delights with the man whose irresistible kisses still haunt her sleepless nights. She quickly realizes that allowing Ashton to rescue her may put her yearning heart in even greater peril. In a journey both tantalizing and treacherous, Ashton and Clarinda resume the impetuous steps of their dangerous dance only to discover the most seductive pleasure of all may be love itself.”
This was a new one for me since I’ve already read a majority of this author’s other works. One of the best parts of her works is the worlds she creates. She really draws you in with vivid imagery and experiences which enthrall all of your senses. I hadn’t yet read a book of this genre set in such a far-flung corner of the British Empire, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. For me, part of the charm is usually losing myself in the elegance and beauty of England/Great Britain because I’m such an Anglophile. Despite my reservations, I was sucked into the lush and exotic world of Clarinda’s kidnappers. The palace and its luxuries with its foreign ways and manners and food captivated me. All of the secondary characters were interesting and unique, each with his/her own big personality. The uniqueness of the setting made this book fun and special, allowing it to stand out in a genre of relative sameness when set during this time period. It provided an exciting backdrop for the development of a unique love story.
Clarinda was a strong, brave female lead. I thought she behaved admirably well given her lot in life (and her kidnapping…and having to adjust to life in the harem). Her struggles felt believable and her backstory seemed to provide enough support that her strong personality was in-character. Her friendship with Poppy was entertaining and provided a bit of levity in a situation where the female lead could have given in to far too much despair and hopelessness so as to make this a much less “fun” read. I particularly liked Poppy as well – she had a sweet disposition and an innocence which I found endearing.
Ash(ton) was everything you’d expect from a swashbuckling, exploring, Indiana Jones-esque male lead. We encounter him just as he’s about to be put to death for a perceived slight against a very powerful man, only to have his life saved at the very last instant. When the reason for the timely rescue becomes apparent, Ash isn’t so sure he’d rather not have perished by the firing squad. He’s sent on a mission to save the last woman on earth who’d probably rather he’d died than rescue her. His struggle to come to terms with both his past and present were amusing and realistic. Ash, while dashing and adventurous, had a bit more to him than a “flat” traditional male lead in this genre. He came with his own issues and complexes. What I found particularly interesting was the change in relationship between Ash and his brother, Max. The backstory and Ash’s childhood speaks volumes to his character and seems to have helped shape him in a believable way. I will, however, say that I would have liked to have read a touch more from his point of view. He’s such a bold, exciting character that I couldn’t help but want more! I think Clarinda’s perspective ended up swallowing most of the story.
Ash and Clarinda have loved each other for most of their lives. They grew up on neighboring estates; Ash, a duke’s second (disappointment of a) son, and Clarinda, the daughter of a wealthy, self-made man. What began as a childhood rivalry eventually blossomed into a passionate young romance. Ash, determined to make his way in the world – determined to make something of himself so he’d be worthy of Clarinda rather than just an impoverished second son – decides to join the navy. Horrified that he’d think of leaving her, Clarinda chases after him. What begins with tears and hurt ends in a passionate embrace the two would remember for the rest of their lives. The years pass and Clarinda sees neither hide nor hair of Ash (except for the tabloids detailing his heroic adventures). Convinced he’s abandoned her, she finally decides to accept the marriage proposal of Max, Ash’s older brother – wealthy, stable, staid, intelligent, and ever-practical. She’s on her way to meet Max for their wedding when she and Poppy are abducted by pirates and sold in a slave market into the harem of an obscenely wealthy, handsome young sultan. While there, Clarinda is groomed and trained in all the ways of the sultan’s harem. After months, she and Poppy begin to despair of ever being rescued and returned home…that is, until a dashing ghost from Clarinda’s past makes a surprise appearance.
What follows is a tantalizing romance of opposing wills. Both Ash and Clarinda are nursing old wounds, but still find themselves drawn toward one another by a powerful force that seems to transcend time and distance. Will Ash be able to save Clarinda from the sultan’s harem and deliver her back to his brother? For that matter, how can he stand by and allow his brother to marry the one and only woman he’d ever truly loved?
I found the plot entertaining and very fun and different from others in this genre/time period. It was refreshing! I enjoyed reading this and it was a relatively quick read. I’ve already begun reading the second in this series and it’s shaping up to be another lively read!