In the heat of the desert night, passion rises like a flame...
Raised in a brothel, Allegra Synnford quickly learned that survival meant taking charge of her destiny. Now, as a renowned courtesan skilled in the pleasures of the flesh, she vows she will never be vulnerable to any one man...
Sheikh Shaheen of the Amazigh has been hiding from his past for a long time, but not enough to forget how another courtesan made him abandon his life as the Viscount Newcastle. When Allegra ignites his desire, his need threatens to undermine his cover.
With old enemies circling, experience tells him he must resist her charms at all costs. But Allegra has her own game to play...with a man who can't afford to lose.
Genre: Erotic Historical Romance
Cover Thoughts: Absolutely stunning and even more so in person. The exotically rich colors bring to life the novel's location of Morocco, providing a handy visual along with the page's description. It really drove home the vibe of the land where KISMET takes place.
Single Title/Series: Single title novel.
Why I Read It: From the very first moment I glimpsed the cover, I had to have it. Along with the cover, the title KISMET - meaning destiny - really sparked my interest and I was pleased to read that the plot dealed strongly with the characters musings on fate versus creating one's own destiny.
KISMET is the first historical romance novel I've read that featured a Sheikh for a hero and its really changed my preconceived thoughts - judgements - on Sheikhs. My initial mental reaction at the word Sheikh was the combined thoughts of harem and misogynist but I've realized that this is really an uneducated response. Sheikh is an honorific term that can be applied to both men and women and literally means a person of age or an elder. A Sheikh is a learned or educated person who seeks knowledge and is respected by a community. Hmmm...I don't know where to attribute my first thoughts with regard to Sheikhs but I'm happy to no longer be ignorant of the word's true meaning.
On to the review...
Fifteen years ago, Sheikh Shaheen came to the harsh Moroccan desert to die only to find a new reason to live with the Amazigh. A people of strong values and tradition, the Amazigh live and love a vital land that can be both giving and cruel. It's in this barren wilderness that Shaheen builds a new life that allows him to bury the painful heartache of the name Viscount Newcastle and its association with the family he left behind in England. But when a world renowned courtesan arrives in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh, Shaheen is doomed to meet his destiny and be forced to face his dreaded past whether he's ready for it or not.
Allegra Synnford is a woman shaped by a crime she didn't commit. Barely at the brink of womanhood, Allegra was sold into prostitution by the same person that should have been willing to die to protect her - her mother. But Allegra is nothing if not a survivor and she's come a long way from that black pit of hell to pull herself up in the world by shaping her destiny with one careful choice at a time. Now, confident in her independence after securing the right to choose her lovers, Allegra travels to Morocco for a friends wedding. It's there that she's confronted by the one and only man that poses a serious threat to enslaving her heart and soul.
Within moments of Shaheen meeting Allegra, his emotions tailspin into complete turmoil. Having already acquired a healthy disdain for women, a courtesan has the ability to spark a deep seeded hatred within Shaheen along with the sickening feeling of guilt for he'd once been terribly wronged by a woman of Allegra's ilk resulting in a tragedy that has blackened his soul. Combined, these vicious emotions poison his thoughts and his words making him highly distrustful of Allegra but despite all this, he can't make himself stay away. When Allegra is snatched by a particularly evil rival Sheikh whilst in a seedier end of Marrakech, Shaheen wastes no time and even less thought before he's riding across the desert to save her.
Vibrant and compelling, Allegra is nearly broken by the disgusting Sheikh Nassar and is even further humiliated by Shaheen's retrieval of her. Just like her horrific past, Allegra is bartered and sold to Shaheen. Little does Shaheen know that while his strategy to save Allegra was universally degrading, he'd inadvertantly dug up the horrifics of her past resulting in an incredible emotional impact and igniting a deep distrust. He also underestimates Allegra's desire to return to Marrakech and to her home in England. Her greatest fear is Shaheen and his impact on her. He's a magnificent threat to all the independence that she's built but Shaheen is blinded and befuddled by his fierce craving for Allegra and no matter how tangible her desperation to leave becomes, he can't let her go. Instead he embarks on seducing her and removing her skilled courtesan mask. He's determined to tear past all the shielding layers that hide the real Allegra which is exactly what she fears and is so desperate to flee from. But it's hard to continue to deny what your soul desires and after a tough fight, Allegra succumbs to Shaheen's seduction.
Finally, in a moment of pure beauty, both Shaheen and Allegra drop their shields but fate is not yet content to leave the pair in peace. Once again the evil Sheikh Nassar is circling closer but this time it's with a fatal intent. As war looms on the horizon and Shaheen fears for Allegra's safety, he devises the fastest way of removing her from camp and returning her to England: Breaking her heart. Tearing to shreds the tenuous trust and burgeoning love, Shaheen destroys Allegra - reducing her to nothing but a woman of undiluted anger. Eventually his intentional destruction becomes all for not for in another twist of fate Allegra is kidnapped once again by Nassar but this time he has no intention of selling her.
Shaheen was an arrogant hero but a hero nonetheless. He did his best to keep Allegra safe but with his heart blinded by the emotions that consume him, Shaheen makes many mistakes - some of them are even repeat offenders. He's constantly underestimating Allegra's strength and haphazardly pushes her near her breaking point before he realizes that he couldn't live with himself if he actually "broke" her. Yet Shaheen continued to show major trust issues and its not until he's destroyed Allegra's heart that he finally allows himself to open his own heart to her. It was a bit nerve-wrecking waiting for him to learn from his mistakes and I almost thought the book would end with him unchanged but Shaheen surprised me greatly. His self-inflicting punishment at Allegra's feet had me near tears and it was more than apparent that he recognized his mistakes and that he was deserving of forgiveness. For the first time Shaheen doesn't barge in and demand but instead waits for Allegra to decide their fate and for Shaheen, that's a big deal.
While both characters are incredibly stubborn, Allegra really embodied the true meaning of the word but primarily in a survival sense. Incredibly, she knows when to let go and its only at the times that benefit her soul. With Sheikh Nassar, she stubbornly clings tight to her survival instincts and her desire to live free making her uneasily broken. Conversely with Shaheen, Allegra was stubborn in her refusal of his advances when he arrogantly, and at times cruelly, made hasty assumptions about her character. When she realizes the reason for his initial disdain, her soul hurts for him but she doesn't relinquish it because of guilt, but for love.
KISMET is an epic romance that brings to life the vibrant land of Morocco and its people. Amazingly colorful, one feels like they're right there with the characters riding speedy Arabians across the desert sands. The romance is passionate and the end is heartbreaking, leaving the reader in a puddled mush of tears and smiles. If you're a historical romance reader looking for something new, edgy and passionate, look no farther than KISMET.
The Romance Dish: 4 1/2 Stars
Babbling About Books, And More!: B