Friday, June 3, 2011

Digital Review: The Awakening Of Juliette

If I'm to believe the majority of what I read out there on the Interwebs, I'm one of like three romance readers who likes short stories.  Of course, I know this isn't truly the case.  I mean, if nobody bought them, they'd stop publishing them, right?  I understand that some readers are never going to like the format, no matter how much nagging cajoling I do, but I still maintain that these can be satisfying reads as long as the reader doesn't attach impossible expectations to them.  A short story is never going to be a full-length novel.  It's the authors who know this, understand it, and work with it that are the best at writing "short."  And Marguerite Kaye seems to get it.  With a slew of digital Harlequin Historical Undone shorts already under her belt, her latest, the epically titled The Sheikh's Impetuous Love-Slave, is a tasty prequel to her first full-length novel, due out this summer.

Sheikh Khalid al-Raqam has a lot on his plate.  Not only is he trying to maintain an uneasy peace between various tribes, he's also working to protect his homeland's ancient treasures from looting Europeans.  So he really doesn't have the time to deal with the gift political nightmare that gets dumped in his lap.

Juliette de Montignac is a lone survivor of a shipwreck.  She's "rescued" by men who roll her up in a carpet and bring her to their sheikh.  A sheikh who doesn't look kindly on the fact that the spinster Juliette has spent her entire life aiding her father's archeology work - and uh, that they were in Arabia treasure hunting without permission. 

While sheikhs have never entirely gone out of vogue in contemporary category romance, their historical counterparts are rarer these days.  What I enjoyed about this short was that it had a nice "throwback" feel to it, without any of the Throwback Hangover.  Yes, Juliette is a captive.  And yes, Khalid is suitably Alpha and wants to teach her "a lesson."  But then we veer off course, delightfully so.  Juliette's in a mess, but she's not about to cower in the corner.  She stands tall.  Because of that, Khalid cannot help but admire her determination and spirit.  Dang, he's downright attracted to it!  In turn, while she's technically a captive, the author quickly turns it around to where the couple starts communicating with each other as equals.  Why?  Because turns Khalid is attracted to not only Juliette's beauty - but her brains as well.  Oh happy day!

Again, this is a short story - so readers expecting a full-blown, nitty-gritty romance novel aren't going to get one.  Certain developments in moving the romance forward take place "off-page," I suspect to make the word count fit.  Because of that, the declarations of true lurve do come off a bit hasty, but the steamy Reindeer Games help gloss over some of that.  From a personal standpoint, where this story did stumble a bit for me was in the final love scene when the couple finally gets down to Insert Tab A Into Slot B.  It was a bit overwrought and flowery for my tastes, and Khalid, a mucho studly Alpha hero, gets a wee bit syrupy. 

But you know what?  I still enjoyed it.  It had a great Old Skool Vibe without any of the icky stuff that can make Old Skool romances....well....icky.  The author also segues nicely into setting up the first full-length book in her Princes Of The Desert series, Innocent In The Sheikh's Harem, due out next month.

Grade = B

Note: This short story is currently only available digitally.  You can purchase it from eHarlequin and other fine e-retailers.


Kwana said...

Thanks for this review. You make me want to give reading short a go.

nath said...

I'm probably one of the few romance readers that has never read about sheikhs LOL.

As for reading novellas, I can't help but always wanting more ^_^;

Wendy said...

Kwana: Short stories fill a niche for me. I'm a slow reader, so plowing through shorts gives me a sense of accomplishment :) Also, sometimes I just want a "taste" instead of a full course meal.

Nath: I missed out on the big ol' historical sheikh heyday, and it's a trope that's hard for me to gravitate towards in contemporary settings. So yeah, I haven't read a whole lot of 'em either.