I finished the Lucy Monroe story, Mistress to a Sheikh first, encouraged to read it because it is related to Hired: The Sheikh's Secretary Mistress, which I started first. It reads like a word to the wise about living together before marriage. It was good, but a bit angsty for me. There was a lot of emotional uncertainty in that relationship, but all's well that ends well. I think that Khalil really didn't show the respect for Jade that she deserved. He was selfish and wanted her so took her as his live-in girlfriend, knowing that this would make her unacceptable to his family. His excuse was he was living the now, and he knew he wanted Jade permenantly. But if that was the case, he should have done things the right way, and introduced her right off as his fiance and beloved. Jade put up with it far too long, and things didn't change until her behavior altered suddenly, and Khalil got a wakeup call. It really offended me on Jade's behalf. She loved and wanted him, so she thought that made it okay, but deep down, she wanted the acceptance of his family and a real relationship. Khalil never even said that he loved her, and he thought that his actions showed this. Women need the words, dude. Maybe that would have made the difference. So this story had angst that was unnecessary IMHO.
Desert Rake was the first story that I've read by Louise Allen. I really enjoyed it. She is a good writer with authentic historical detail and an exciting story. Her characters are vividly written and three-dimensional. I love stories set in exotic locations, with lots of adventure, and this one has that. It's set in 1817 and features a widow who decides to follow through on the plans made with her deceased husband to travel to Turkey. She had a happy marriage and misses the intimacy of making love. Although she thinks about taking a lover, she wouldn't have done it, had she not met Drew Fenton. The chemistry between the pair is immediate and culminates in a blazing encounter that ends with disappointment when Drew refuses to take Caroline on a journey into the interior. He doesn't let her down in a nice way, but gives her the impression that he doesn't think much of women other than being good sexual companions. Caroline has fallen in love and gotten her heart broken, but decides she will continue her travels without Drew's accompaniment. The good thing is that she does take lessons to make sure she is ready to travel to a dangerous area. When they reunite, it doesn't take very long before they are declaring their love and facing a future together. It was a short and sweet story. Louise Allen is a good writer, and I am glad that I have several of her novels in my to be read pile.
The Kim Lawrence story, Blackmailed by a Sheikh was more up my alley. It was my favorite in this collection. Prudence wasn't a doormat. She met Karim head on and although he did seduce her, he was going to act honoroably towards her. I liked that Prudence told his father the King that she had seduced him because she couldn't resist him. This was after she saved the King's life by taking a knife wound for him. That's my kind of heroine. I liked that Prudence was more self-sufficient and had healthy self-esteem, although she did consider herself spinsterish. She had made sacrifices for her bother so he could get to college. And Karim called her brother Ian who is a math nerd and on the self-absorbed side, on his selfishness and lack of care for his sister. This was early on when they had a more adversarial relationship, mind you. This story was enjoyable and had humor, even though there was serious issues in the background since Karim's father had heart surgery and he had lost his mother to breast cancer so was protective about his younger sister. I liked that Karim was more willing to be honest about his feelings, and to claim his woman in a manner that showed he admired her and found her worthy (despite the bedouin seduction). What can I say? I'm an old fogie in some ways. Kim Lawrence is a dependable Harlequin Presents author. I am surprised at how much she accomplishes in this short story. She really doesn't disappoint.
All in all this was a really good collection. I would have given it five stars but I didn't really like the unnecessary angst in the Lucy Monroe story.