I wanted to read this book because I'm a big fan of Maisey Yates' Presents books and I thought the cover was gorgeous. In this case, completely safe to judge the book by its cover as the story was equally gorgeous - hmm, can you call a story gorgeous?
On a different day, in a different mood, I might have been rolling my eyes at parts of this modern day, grown-up version of Beauty and the Beast with a bit of Lion King. (I'm not going to explain it, but it will make sense if you read the book). However, today, as I spent my third consecutive day sick in bed, realizing that if I succumb to this fever, it will be at least nine days before anyone even thinks to look for my body, this story of two people who felt completely alone in the world finding each other and falling in love through a somewhat arranged marriage was a really beautiful story. If I wasn't so dehydrated, I probably would have cried through parts of it.
There were a few parts of the story that I didn't like all that much. Parts in which the characters behavior didn't seem to fit with their previous behavior. A few too many times they went from so wrapped up in each other to a strange, nope, don't want you. It was as if the conflict was obligatory and not natural to the story. I won't go into detail because I don't want to spoil the story, and it's probably not something that would bother other people that much. But anyway. All that being said, I still really liked this book. The great parts of this book totally make up for any parts I didn't like.
Two years after Olivia's husband - a king of a Scandinavian country - dies, she agrees to meet with Tarek. the new leader of an oil rich Middle Eastern country, in hopes of procuring a marriage. Her husband's brother is now king and he thinks it would be a good way to strengthen ties between the two nations, and Olivia no longer feels at home at the palace she once shared with her husband, so she's completely willing to go.
At first there seemed to be something a little pathetic about Olivia, seeking out a marriage to "find her place" as if a woman can't do that without a husband. But seeing her move beyond that kind of thinking added to my interest in this story. Olivia felt neglected as a child, and her marriage had been happy, but after her husband's death, she found herself alone again, an outsider in the palace she'd once called home. Tarek also has some issues. He's spent the last fifteen years living in the desert, acting as a warrior for his brother and their country. He knew nothing of palace life or running a country when he suddenly found himself in that position following his brother's death. He's very focused on his new job and views marriage as nothing more than a way to produce an heir. He's not very impressed with Olivia at their first meeting, but she convinces him that he needs her to help figure out all the details of running a country and living in a palace - something she knows a bit about.
I very much enjoyed reading about how these two fell for each other. As I said in the beginning, it's quite reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast (one of my favorite movies). And it's very, very romantic. I don't just mean the sex is good - it is, of course - but it's so much more than that. It's the thoughts running through their heads as they discover each other and in turn, themselves and become aware of these feelings they didn't even think were possible. This is two people who weren't at all sure about each other who gradually reach a point in which they can't bear to be away from each other. Two people who had nothing and no one who find everything in each other. I know that's what all romances are to some extent, but this is so good. Yates does a great job of showing just how alone these two people were before meeting each other. You aren't just told they were alone, you can feel their emptiness as well as feel them finally moving away from that. As I warned in the beginning, I'm running a fever and I'm taking all kinds of cold medicine, so maybe I'm feeling a little extra sappy today, but some of these scenes rank among the best I've ever read with regard to pure, indulgent romance. Swoon-worthy. The scene out in the desert when Tarek takes Olivia to show her the place he lived for the fifteen years he was away. Wow.
It's a quick read, perfect for a brief escape from reality. Highly recommend this book if sexy, romantic modern day fairy tales are your thing.
I received a review copy via NetGalley.