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Friday, July 27, 2012

Wedlocked: Banished Sheikh, Untouched Queen by Carol Marinelli

Wedlocked: Banished Sheikh, Untouched Queen by Carol Marinelli
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (190 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

About to lose his kingdom, Xavian is marrying for power—his wedding night will be purely for duty. As he unveils his new queen, nervous and naked, bathed in fragrant oils, he's stunned that she's as beautiful as the desert stars….

This queen deserves a royal bedding worthy of the Arabian Nights…and in her arms Xavian discovers that, though he may not have a kingdom, he has the strength and power of a thousand kings.

But this untouched queen could be his undoing….

What’s not to like about a queen falling in love with a king with a dual personality? It’s fascinating and there’s plenty of feeling and emotion to rope a reader into the plot. It was like watching a big cute caterpillar slowly morph into a bold and brilliant butterfly, set to spread his wings like the hero he is.

That’s how I saw Xavian’s character. He was handsome, born to rule and had everything he wanted, including a new queen. However, a reader can sense that there’s something percolating inside him that needs to see the light of day. If a reader is coming into this story fresh, then they’re going to interpret it as foreshadowing in a huge way. However, if a reader snatched up this novel because of the hook in the previous book by Ms. Marinelli, The Desert King’s Housekeeper Bridethen they’ll know exactly what is pushing through his brain. I read the previous story and I entered into reading Xavian’s story with excitement and great anticipation. I was not disappointed.

Poor Queen Layla. She doesn’t have the insight of reading a book about her new husband’s family. She’s as in the dark as a new reader would be. She knows something isn’t right with her own kingdom but just for awhile, she let it all go and discovered who she was as a woman. She was a queen, why should she have to settle for less, now that she understood the mysteries between a husband and wife. It didn’t hurt that Xavian was knowledgeable about such things and that he cared. Under his sensual touch and burning kisses, she came alive and it was a great scene. I especially liked the part with Baja in the tent. I got the impression that Baja’s own experiences with men weren’t as fun or inspiring. Thank goodness for the new generation of royalty because they are a lot more interesting to read about.

Another thing to admired about Layla was her fortitude, determination and the fact she ruled by sheer grit. The people she should trust the most, her advisors, were a great strain and because of them, her rule was a heavy burden on her shoulders. There was one scene that highlighted the differences between hers and Xavian’s kingdoms and I felt really bad for her. It wasn’t fair. That is why when things came to a head, the hero earned his hero status because he ‘saw’, and acted. It might seem odd, but that moment in time, for me, was one of the most romantic things that man did for his wife and made me sigh in delight. Other readers might choose something else as their pivotal romantic moment because

Ms. Marinelli certainly provided many to choose from.

Secondary characters were the triggers that shifted the focus of the story and ramped up the tension and suspense. Presented with the truth, the facts about the scars on his wrists, and the ramifications of his life, the hero had some hard choices to make. He wasn’t exactly graceful about it either. That’s the only thing that wasn’t perfect about this book -- Xavian’s yo-yo shunning of Layla. I understood that he was going through an emotional morass, vacillating between accepting he was actually Zafir, a missing prince, and resisting it too. What I couldn’t accept was his reasoning that he was ‘giving her a choice’. Some choice if she didn’t even know what her options were because he initially, absolutely and unequivocally refused to tell her anything. How typical for a male character to assume a lady’s reaction and make a decision on that assumption instead of truly informing her and giving her the option. I expected more from his character because in every other aspect, he was a well written hero.

The dialogue was well done and the pacing always moved forward with no slow parts. Most of the story is told in either Xavian/Zafir’s POV or Layla’s. However, the author chose to briefly add one more POV from one of the secondary characters. I understood why she did it, but it was sudden and unexpected. Perhaps the author was stymied as to how to move the plot forward. It broke the flow but was effective and it did the trick.

Wedlocked: Banished Sheikh, Untouched Queen was everything I hoped for. It had a wonderful conflict, a strong hero and heroine, exotic locale and a delightful romance. I was thrilled with the plot resolution and the happily ever after. The greatest result of this story’s journey -- Zafir now has the best of everything. After what he’d been through, he deserved it. Pick up your own copy to see why.