by Monica Burns, historical (2010)
Berkley, $14.00, ISBN 978-0-425-23215-6
Don't think that Monica Burns's Berkley debut Kismet is a typical erotic historical romance just because it is in trade paperback. It has its share of steamy scenes, but the overwhelming impression you will get of this book is that, oh boy, the characters sure are angst-ridden to the wazoo. Readers of the author's previous books from Samhain Publishing won't be surprised by this, but Kismet veers into the Too Much Drama territory where I am concerned.
Let's start with the unconventional character first. Allegra Synnford is a courtesan who had done well for herself. Plucked from the brothel by a generous benefactor, she has since played by her own rules. She still makes money on her back, but she picks her clients and makes them play by her rules. Rightly proud of what she has attained for herself, Allegra still cringes when her beloved niece lands herself the Earl of Bledsoe. Allegra was the mistress of the Earl's late father, and she has this feeling that Cordelia's future mother-in-law will not be amused should she discover Cordelia's relationship with Allegra.
When Allegra is invited to her friend's wedding in Morocco, she meets our hero Sheikh Shaheen of the Amazigh. Now he's the conventional one in this coupling. He's also a English Viscount but he has at the moment been forced to cut off his ties to England because both he and his father blame him for the death of his brother James.
Because Kismet is set in the Land of Sheikh and Sundry, expect plenty of All Men Are Rapists drama (poor Allegra is besieged by men who want her booty and won't accept no for an answer). But ultimately, the characters' angst wears me down and leaves me exhausted by the last page.
Shaheen, as you can imagine, goes all sparkly and THIS IS THE SKIN OF A KILLER, ALLEGRA due to his tedious and incessant guilt trip and pity party for one. Unfortunately this means that he will constantly say hurtful and nasty things to Allegra while trying to drive her away. Were not for his nonsense, Allegra wouldn't have fallen into the clutches of that insane relative of his and endured the horrible things that befell her as a result. Allegra is no prize either. I'd think a courtesan who has been in the business for as long and successful as her would know how to use her wiles to bend a situation to her favor, but her past is only an excuse for her to have a chip on her shoulder the size of Greenland at the very least. She is rigid, so determined to be independent and play games by her own rules, that her very inability to bend ends up making her the very victim she refuses to be. Allegra pulls off some stupid stunts here in her own right, forcing Shaheen to come over and save her. Then again, if Shaheen doesn't have to save her, these two won't have an excuse to keep bumping into each other.
After a while of such drama, my head begins to spin. Why can't these two behave like adults and start talking to each other more often? Instead, they keep playing all these silly and hurtful games with each other, prolonging all the melodrama. Yes, they all have issues, but in this story, they behave like silly children rather than adults with issues for pretty much the entire story.
Kismet has that rare unconventional heroine, but the story itself has too much melodramatic childishness for my liking.
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