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Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Desert King’s Housekeeper Bride by Carol Marinelli

The Desert King’s Housekeeper Bride by Carol Marinelli
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (192 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Housekeeper Effie, a practical yet slightly frumpy virgin, has been summoned to the desert to serve the sheikh!

Ruthless Sheikh King Zakari had gone to seek solitude in the sands, but nights alone are not something this ruler is used to. However, with his housekeeper at his service, there's no need to allow his bed to grow cold….

After hot hours of passion, Effie's heart is near to bursting. But what she doesn't realize is that something has compelled Zakari to take her, a lowly servant, as his royal bride!

I do so love those sheikhs with their heavy burdens, traditions and blinders called ‘duty’. They always seem to focus on the big picture and usually get blindsided by this little thing called ‘love’. Lust they can handle and they are usually well versed in its nuances but the lessons they learn from that other tender, heart effecting and life changing emotion sends them for a loop. It’s fun because they often don’t handle it well. Such is the case with Sheikh King Zakari and it’s why I enjoyed reading The Desert King’s Housekeeper Bride.

Ms. Marinelli set the conflict up beautifully. Effie was so innocent, trusting and loving, and most of all, accepting. She knew her place and was satisfied with the status quo. How lucky she was to have caught the eye of Zakari, the hero. Beware of stories that start off like fairy tales. Throw in a man who is arrogant and vengeful and any fantasy can turn into an emotional quagmire on a dime. That’s the gist of Effie’s plight.

What I enjoyed about Effie is that she persevered and survived. The woman she becomes is forged by trial. She starts off so meek, and is happy to be so. Next she's treated like she doesn’t know her own mind and is pretty much treated like a mannequin. One day she snaps and the emotional conflict and plot intricacies reach a heightened level of suspense and tension. The confident and wise woman inside bursts forth and the heroine stands her ground and manages to rock the world of her sheikh and her peers. The fallout is nothing less than spectacular.

As for Zakari, he really was mixed up in his head and heart. He has some incredible baggage that affected him at a young age so I guess it’s to be expected. His single minded goal, however, has consumed him to the point that he justifies everything he does in its pursuit. There is one decision he makes, however, that is totally unlike him. He wove a sand castle-type reasoning to justify it and tried to tie it into his quest but readers will eventually realize the true reason. The hero’s emotional state hadn’t matured at that moment. It will take the cold wash of reality and loss to understand what his brother had been trying to tell him all along. When he tried to correct his mistake he was met with a woman who humbled him, demanded respect and made him accountable for his actions – his wife.

I agreed with Effie. Zakari did turn a bit fast even for my tastes. Even though the heroine addressed it, I want to take it a step further. I think their reconciliation was too fast. I also think the scene with the big reveal could have been more dramatic. I’m not sure how the author could have done that but I was left thinking, “That’s it? No blanching of the skin, no bug-eyes, no crumpling of paper, no demands questioning authenticity, no grinding of teeth?” I would expect that kind of news to get some kind of reaction other than, or in addition to, what actually did get written. If Zakari is king, I guess I’m a drama queen, because I felt that scene fell a tad flat and I wanted more zing.

That being said, when they finally worked out their differences, it was interesting. I don’t mean it’s lame. I am talking about how the loose ends were tied up and how all the secondary characters reacted and treated the heroine. What was said and how it was done. The most amazing thing happened in the epilogue. The author tossed out a hook that I recognized instantly. I remember what Zakari told Effie earlier in the story and Ms. Marinelli, oh so naturally, slipped in a reason to make the next book an auto-buy. In fact, I bought it as soon as I was done reading this one. That’s how powerful the hook is.

The Desert King’s Housekeeper Bride was a pleasant surprise because of the intricacy of the relationship. Watching Effie grow from a meek maid into the woman she was meant to be was a wondrous thing to behold. Seeing Zakari also grow as a man whom one can respect because his love for Effie matured him in ways he never thought possible was delightful. Together it was magical and the happily ever after was better than any fairy tale because their love was already tested. It survived and they became stronger, together. Now that’s romance.