Review: The Sheikh’s Forced Bride (Sharjah Sheikhs, #1), by Leslie North

The Sheikh's Forced Bride (Sharjah Sheikhs Book 1)The Sheikh’s Forced Bride by Leslie North
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I downloaded a copy of ‘The Sheikh’s Forced Bride’ as one of my Kindle Unlimited selections. As you can probably guess from the title, this is not a particularly “deep” story. I’m not knocking it, just being honest.

Sometimes, I like cheesy stories like this to help with my “recovery” after reading a really fantastic story that continues to occupy my mind. We’ve all been there. You’ve finished a phenomenal book and are suffering the dreaded book hangover. When I find myself in that situation, I look for something “lighter” to read. I know that whatever book I read next isn’t going to measure up, and usually, I’m not quite ready to lose myself completely to another consuming story. For lack of better words, I need a book that I can read without really having to “turn on” my brain completely.

Again, I’m not knocking this book. You just don’t have to think too much while reading it. It is a straightforward, cheesy romance. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else. You won’t find any deep emotional connection or any bigger meaning here. It was just pure, fun, smutty entertainment.

This story centers on the Sheikh Khalid Al-Qasimi, who is forced by his father to marry or else risk everything he knows – his title, wealth and prestige. In the midst of his arranged wedding, a reporter, Casey Connolly, barges in. She’s looking to score a big story, exposing this controversial tradition and the disregard for women’s rights in Khalid’s country.

When Casey is thrown into jail at Khalid’s father’s orders, she finds herself in a precarious situation. She is not in her home country and learns quickly that she doesn’t have the civil rights that she’s taken for granted in this new land. Luckily, Khalid makes her an offer that she can’t refuse.

To get out of jail, Casey must agree to pretend to be Khalid’s fiancée. Khalid is sure that this will be a win-win for both him and Casey. Surely, his father will not allow him to marry the outspoken reporter and will reconsider his decision to force Khalid to get married. In exchange, he will help Casey secure interviews in order to get the story that she wants so badly.

Of course, what starts off as a farce soon becomes entangled with reality. As Casey and Khalid spend more time together, they develop real feelings for one another. However, given the nature of their relationship’s beginning, it is difficult for the couple to trust one another’s intentions.

There is enough drama along the way to keep it entertaining, but not enough to become all-consuming. It was sweet, fun and smutty. Eventually, the two get their happily ever after.

It was good, but not the type of story that will hang with me. It wasn’t long enough or well-developed enough to feel any type of strong connection to the characters or the storyline. However, it isn’t intended to be that kind of story. An okay way to pass a couple of hours, it served it’s purpose.

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Review: The Painted Veil, by W. Somerset Maugham

The Painted VeilThe Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It had been a long time since I read one of the classics. When I saw ‘The Painted Veil’ on sale at Audible.com, I thought it would be a nice change of pace. I wasn’t wrong. This book proved to be far better than I expected.

‘The Painted Veil’ is set in England and China, taking place in the 1920’s. It is a story of love, betrayal, revenge and redemption. I definitely wasn’t prepared for some of the twists and turns that this story took, but I enjoyed every minute.

Kitty Fane moved to Hong Kong with her husband, Walter. An incredibly intelligent man, Walter is also socially awkward. He loves Kitty, but is rather unapproachable and aloof. Eventually, Walter grew on me, but he isn’t the type of “warm-fuzzy” character that you bond with immediately. From the start, it is made very clear that he is head-over-heels in love with his wife.

Likewise, it is immediately evident that Kitty does not return the sentiment. Kitty is beautiful, vain and shallower than a kiddie pool. While Walter married for love, she makes not ifs, ands, or buts about the fact that she did not. It is clear that she married Walter solely so that she would not be one-upped by her younger sister’s upcoming nuptials. In fact, Kitty seems to loathe Walter…at least, initially.

So, it was no big surprise that Kitty spent her days in the arms of the charming, and also married, Charles Townsend, while Walter was busy at work. No doubt, the dumb twit was just the most recent in what was bound to be a long line of extramarital conquests for Charles. Stupid Kitty believed that he was as in love with her as she was with him. Poor fool.

Unlike his wife, Walter has no illusions. He knew that Kitty didn’t love him the way he loved her, but he wanted her so badly that he was willing to marry her anyway. He may have known that she didn’t love him, but he did expect for her to be faithful.

When he discovers her adultery, he gives Kitty an option. He will grant her a divorce, if Charles will agree in writing to divorce his wife and marry Kitty immediately thereafter. Or, Kitty can accompany Walter into rural China where he has accepted a job assisting with the medical management of the cholera epidemic. Of course, Walter already knows exactly how this will work out. Kitty seems to be the only one surprised by Charles’ duplicity.

I have to say that Walter had a special place in my heart. I love stories with darker themes and am drawn to anti-heroes. There was something so sinister and calculating about Walter that really drew me to him. Kitty was right to be afraid of her husband, even as she knew that he loved her. Walter was kind of a scary guy.

Arriving in the small village, it is immediately apparent that Kitty is being punished for her transgressions. Walter keeps her at a distance and is cold, at best. It becomes clear to Kitty that Walter is seeking revenge, using cholera to commit a passive murder/suicide. It was sick. It was twisted. It was goddamn brilliant!

The more time she spent in the village, the more Kitty came to see the error of her ways. For the first time, Kitty grew to appreciate her husband and even admire him. Though she never really fell in love with him, she finally felt shame and remorse for her actions.

As much as I disliked Kitty at the onset of this book, she grew on me. I came to see her as an imperfect human, a product of her privileged upbringing and societal expectations. Similarly, I came to see some of Walter’s flaws. He wasn’t entirely a victim as I believed, early on.

I can’t say that there is one “moral of the story” that really stands out to me with the book. There were many. This book was a beautiful, albeit heartbreaking, account of the human experience.

Although this isn’t my usual type of story, I enjoyed it immensely. There were plenty of twists and turns along the way that I didn’t see coming. Early on, I thought I had it all worked out in my head, but I was sooo wrong. This story did not pan out the way I had envisioned, but it was strangely fitting for this couple.

Overall, I thought that this was a wonderful book. It isn’t a particularly happy or uplifting read, but it was great in and of it’s own accord. This is one that will definitely hang with me for a while. I highly recommend it.

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