Friday, November 18, 2011
BOOK REVIEW: CINDERELLA AND THE SHEIKH
By Teresa Morgan. Self-published, 2011.
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When Teresa sent me this book, I did not know there was such a thing as sheikh romances, or that Teresa’s other book, Handcuffed to the Sheikh, was the number two sheikh romance on Amazon. I didn’t know that self-publishing, under the right conditions, could be more lucrative for an author than the traditional route. I certainly didn’t know that I would love Cinderella and the Sheikh as much as I do, or that this book would mark a turning point in my relationship with romance novels. I learned all these things from talking to Teresa and reading her book.
Even if Cinderella and the Sheikh had taught me nothing, I would still recommend it. It opens with this line: the happiness of one woman was a small sacrifice compared to the fate of a country. It is part of Sheik Rasyn ibn Bakr ibn Rahman al Jabar’s internal monologue as he watches Libby Fay from across the dining room of a restaurant. Rasyn has come to New York City from his home country of Abbas to find a bride. He does not need a queen; he wants to marry a “commoner” so he can be disgraced and avoid inheriting his uncle Anwar’s throne. Rasyn has no confidence in himself as a leader.
From the beginning, Rasyn deceives Libby about his true motives. She believes she is the obsession of a generous but somewhat uncompromising man. The reader knows this is not quite true, but Libby does not. The irony drew me in, and so did that opening line. I knew no romance novelist would let her male lead get away with such an elitist attitude. I was not disappointed- Libby falls for the exotic Rasyn and gradually uncovers his scheme at the same time. Along the way, she upsets a few Middle Eastern rulers, makes valuable alliances, and even gets Rasyn to update some of his thinking. My favorite romances always include a male lead who is willing to evolve.
I say this book is a turning point because, before I read it, I saw romance novels as part of my project. I want to learn about women’s books; romances are women’s books; they are part of my research. But as I told Teresa, Cinderella and the Sheikh compelled me to put aside my other readings until I finished it. I want that experience again. I used to get it from authors like Stephen King or John D. McDonald. Now I get it from romance novels. They are my favorite books, and I would read them even if I didn’t have a blog called “Women’s Lit Book Club.”
I wanted to document how reading women exclusively would change me. This is the first evidence of that. I am starting to think of my commitment to women’s books as a permanent thing, not a temporary project. Will I ever go back to men’s books? No, not as my first preference. The word that keeps coming up is balance.
How do you decide what books to read? Do you have a bias towards a certain gender? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.