Sunday, November 16, 2008

As You Desire by Connie Brockway *****

Wow! I can't believe that I've been reading romance for more than a year and can still find authors I'd not even heard of who are writing incredibly wonderful books that no one seems to be talking about!!

Wait, of course, this is an AAR Top 100 of 2007, so someone has talked about it and read it. I just don't see this name (Connie Brockway) mentioned frequently on the forums. Why is that? Well, she's still writing, so I don't know how I have missed out on her books before.

OK: plot first. Desdemona Carlisle is a prodigy - an Englishwoman who, as a child, learned to read a dozen languages. Not speak, just read. Her parents - uhm, archeologists? well, whatever they were, they dragged her all over Europe, displaying her talents and simultaneously depriving her of a real childhood, with friends and school and such. She used romance novels to fill in her lonely life, and in her head has a constant inner monologue that translates her experiences into Romance-speak. That is one of the funniest parts of the entire book!

Her parents died when she was 15, and her only living relative is her grandfather, an Egyptologist living in Cairo, so she has lived there with him for 5 years. She does translating and other odd jobs to help support them, as grandfather is not a good businessman and they live on the edge of genteel poverty.

Harry Braxton has made a life for himself in Egypt, trading antiquities both above and below board, as it were. He has a rather sordid past - he was thrown out of Oxford for cheating, and left England "under a cloud". He suffers from dyslexia, known in Victorian times as "word blindness" - he cannot read. He discovers he can read hieroglyphics, and he has a wonderful memory and ability to mimic what he hears, so he picks up Arabic and other local dialects very easily.

Desdemona, or Dizzy as Harry calls her, has been in love with Harry forever - and, to be honest, Harry harbors the same for her but cannot bring himself to act on it. For one thing, there is the age issue: when she finally declared herself to him, she was only 17. For another, there is the shame of being unable to read - some even call it retardation. So he rebuffs her, and keeps her at arms' length, even though he does have to keep rescuing her - over and over - from the many scrapes she finds herself involved in.

Harry's hand is forced when his cousin arrives from England and tries to woo Dizzy for himself. And Dizzy is put into a more serious situation, requiring one more rescue by her knight-errant.

Ok, it's more complicated than that. There's another woman in Harry's life - well, she wants to be in his life anyway. And there are several feuding elements - grandfather feuding with other explorers; Harry feuding with an unscrupulous site foreman; Harry and his cousin feuding over their ancestral lands and Dizzy's hand. And of course, the English, Turks, Arabs and native Egyptians feuding over who is in control, of the government and also of the discovery and transportation of antiquities.

Yes, it's complicated, and it's fun, and there's intrigue and kidnapping and sandstorms and relics - there's really only one evil villain, and a number of rather misguided folks whose actions take on more than they intended, and the wonderful love story of Harry and Dizzy.

5 stars and a keeper to boot!

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