Monday, January 9, 2012

Book Review: Accidentally the Sheikh's Wife [2010]

My friend Kristin (@shinyinfo) collects sheikh-related romance novels as part of her work at the Arab American National Museum, and I have been happy to send along those that come across my desk, either discards or donations that I don't add to my library's collection. I decided to read Accidentally The Sheikh's Wife before I sent it on to her.

Pilot Bethanne Saunders has been hired to deliver a private jet to her company's wealthy client, Sheikh Rashid al Harum, after picking up his fiancee in Morocco. However, once the plane has landed, it's clear that the fiancee never made the flight. Anxious to save face and conclude the lucrative business deal that the marriage was supposed to consummate, Rashid suggests that Bethanne play the role of his love interest for a short time. Despite complicating factors--her father disappeared several years ago with his father's plane and she is attempting to find out what really happened--she agrees. Mutual attraction ensues. Will these two crazy kids ever manage to get together?

First of all, let's discuss the title. Accidentally The Sheikh's Wife exemplifies a lot of what I dislike about romance novel titles. Let's call them the three Is: inaccuracy, irrelevance, and inanity. It is extremely difficult to imagine anyone getting "accidentally" married. The only romance novel I've ever read where it was almost believably done was Sanguinet's Crown by Patricia Veryan, and we are a far cry from that level of sophistication here. In addition, Bethanne enters into a bargain with the sheikh of her own volition. It is not accidental. It is not even an accident that she's the only eligible female on board the plane when it touches down in his fictitious country of Quishari,* it's the result of his fiancee running off with another man. One could call it coincidence or even contrivance, but it's not an accident. However, it may be an accident of birth that she's apparently smokin' hot. But when it came down to it (on page 182), he asked her to marry him and she said yes.

Author Barbara McMahon seems to quite enjoy the setting; she's written eight books for Harlequin with "sheikh" (or the less preferred "sheik") in the title, and another (Her Desert Family) that features a sheikh. As for the plot itself, it was slight but surprisingly non-mockable. Rashid pursues his business deal, Bethanne pursues her inquiries into her father's death, and they gradually get to know each other against the backdrop of a tiny Middle Eastern country. I am not in the position to analyze the faithfulness of McMahon's depiction of sheikh life, but it did seem a bit strange that no one would bat an eye about Bethanne's extreme whiteness, not to mention her humble origins. Instead, her potential mother-in-law was skeptical of her un-feminine choice of profession and the main obstacle was the fact that everyone believed her father was a thief.

Grade: C+

The text didn't even have that many typos, although I do have a favorite: "Bethanne didn't abuse her of the idea that she was being considered for Rashid's wife" (104). The writing was incredibly tame--there wasn't even any [spoiler alert] sex! Which was kind of refreshing, actually.

Bottom line: It's no The Master's Mistress.

*I've been inspired to start a list of fictional romance novel countries. Feel free to submit any that you know in the comments.

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