I'd say one of Johansen's finest. The book is set in Sedikhan and a number of villages, deserts in a nonfictional Balkan country, with sheiks, tents, divans and carobels (a pot used in a political horse race in the desert). And as some commentators have asked themselves, HOW DOES SHE WRITE THESE THINGS? Even I wonder the same thing. I could not put down the book and had to will myself to stop midway because it was 3am in the morning.
In a record time of two seating and probably less than 4 hours, I finished the book with a satisfaction- contented at the moment but yearning for the next Iris Johansen I may pick up from my sister's old box of pocket books. Unfortunately, I realized that that was the last of it. I'll have to buy one each week if I'm set out to finish all her historical romances.
Spoiler AlertThe story is about a Tamrovian princess (Tess) who met the sheik of Sedikhan at an early age of 12 while trying to save her dog who got stuck in a bog. The first line of the book being "She was going to die!" as she herself was also sinking. Luckily, her cousin (Sacha) and the sheik (Galen) was there to save her and at that point, they grew a certain connection. Tess found him fascinating for an adult while Galen admired her bluntness and worldly intelligence of how the society works. That night, Tess went to Galen's bedroom to ask for him to save her beloved dogs because her father was about to have them killed and she promised to repay him once she was capable of doing so.
After 6 years, she is picked up by her cousin from the ship sailing from the convent and was met once again by the magnificent sheik. Galen offered her a proposition that she marry him for his cause of unity in Sedikhan. He promised her freedom like no other man could give her, as long as she fulfill her side of the bargain. They marry and find themselves no longer just doing the deed for its duty but for the feelings that are welled up in them.
It's already obvious that they do end up together, but the internal turmoil and external conflicts unraveling while reading page after page was the icing in the cake. Tess is a strong, stubborn and impulsive woman- always feeling the need to protect all women and object to all rules pertaining to making women submissive to men. Galen is mysterious, persuasive and cool with a ferocity that comes out whenever his barbaric side calls it forth. Most of the time, Tess disobeys Galen but still feels he outwits her in most of their ordeals.
When I was 12, I recall a classmate of mine reading these types of books already. And I'd always thought it'd been difficult for her. But now that I've read it, it actually isn't so bad. The words are easy to digest and the romance between the main characters are unambiguous by the descriptions of their interactions between each other. With the exclusion of the passionate scenes, I'd definitely recommend this to my teenage niece.