Kahramaan
Book One of the Castles In The Sand trilogy
by Rhonda Collins and Sandra McLaren, historical (2000)
Castle Publishing, $8.00, ISBN 0-615-11823-2


Kahramaan is the first book in an epic love story of an Englishwoman Amber and an Egyptian man named Anwar. This book spans from 1958 to 1963. The biggest problem I have with this story is that when they first meet in 1958, Amber is twelve to Amwar's forty-three. Anwar has an harem, mind you, so I think this series will appeal only to readers that find polygamy and romance with pedophilic overtones. If one can overcome this huge hurdle of a premise, Rhonda Collins and Sandra McLaren have written a rather campy, soap-opera-like story that is pretty engaging in its own right.

Amber is the daughter of the best friend of Terri, whom Anwar plays the piano for one night when he meets Amber. From thereon, he turns into what is best described as a Linda Howard series hero minus the extreme cruelty: Amber and Anwar engage on a "love-hate-love-hate" style romance. It is creepy and disturbing to read about Anwar acting territorial about boys sniffing around the thirteen-year old Amber while nursing feelings that will get him a yearly free pass to Michael Jackson's Neverland. They kiss when she is fourteen going on fifteen, and by the end of the book, she is pregnant with his child but refusing to marry him because she can't bear to have him cast aside his crippled first wife to make her the new first wife.

This book can be amusing in a campy way as the hero doesn't seem to know whether he's a father or a lover to Amber. I can't help laughing at the ridiculousness of him ordering Amber to stay at home and act like, well, his daughter, even as he impregnates her with child. But at the end of the day, Kahramaan is about escaping into a polygamist fantasy of which I do not find appealing in any way. The vast gulf in age between the hero and the heroine is another problem I have with the story, as is the pedophilic overtones of the romance, even if technically they don't consummate their relationship until she's sixteen.

I am not going to pass moral judgments on this story. Kahramaan is set in a different place and time where such practice is normal, and the story can be entertaining if a reader is willing to embrace the premise of the story. But I can take issue with the one-dimensional characters, Amber's spineless malleability at Anwar's hands most of the time, and a romance that relies too much on love-hate-love-hate bickerings. I doubt good writing can make me overlook the premise that I cannot get into at all, but it could have helped improve my overall impression of the book. Alas, the level of writing in Kahramaan - it's a soap-opera alpha-male story that reads just like books they stopped publishing after 1990 - isn't enough to do that.

Rating: 50


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