The Spare

by Carolyn Jewel
(Berkley Sensation, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0425-23099-2
This tale has a little bit of everything: ton scandal, travel in Turkey, a Pasha trying to kidnap a beautiful woman for his harem, and a rescue by a Marquis. While the tale was interesting, it was a little slow at times.  Overall Indiscreet was an enjoyable romance with some less-traditional plot lines making it memorable.

The story opens as Edward Marrack realizes that as an engaged man, he is less likely to find the exploits of his bachelor cronies interesting or something to be proud of.  He is at one of his last bachelor events and listens to his friend Lord Crosshaven telling tales of a young woman who has no fortune whom Crosshaven supposedly bedded. What little hope she had as a ward of an academian at Oxford is now ruined by his gossip. Edward is thrilled he will be marrying a neighbor soon, a lady named Roselind he finds he may actually love. But Crosshaven seduces Rosalind into eloping with him, leaving Edward broken hearted barely a month before his nuptials.

One and a half years later, we see that Edward is now the Marquis of Foye, having inherited his title from his brother, who died suddenly. Edward is now traveling about Europe and Asia and is currently in Buyukdere, Turkey. There he meets Sir Henry Godard, a man who is traveling around Asia and writing a book. Sir Henry was forced to leave Oxford following a scandal caused by his ward, Sabine Godard.  This is the woman Crosshaven lied about. Sabine was innocent but had no way of proving it and of course, no power to confront it at the time. She is now twenty-three and resigned to a life serving as her uncle’s secretary.

Edward wears his scars on his sleeves. At thirty-eight he has vowed not to marry and not to beget any heirs. He hates both Rosalind and Crosshaven. Edward is just traveling and exploring a little before returning to England. He senses Sabine’s heartache but doesn’t know how to approach her about the minor part he played in her downfall.

Edward and Sabine meet and instantly feel an attraction.  Sabine is leery since she is aware of his friendship with Crosshaven. She is certain he will offer her an unsavory seduction, just as others have done. Meanwhile she is trying to conduct herself above reproach, because Sir Henry has never fully trusted her around men since the scandal broke. Sabine is a scholar and her intelligence is often her defense. Edward hopes to get her alone and let her know that he is sorry he had anything, even remotely, to do with Crosshaven’s plot.

The story is set in Syria, Turkey and other areas in the Middle East. The strictures of the cultures are often seen as stifling by the English, who also impose their own traditions due to their arrogance. On their journey, Sabine catches the eye of one Pasha, a man who is known for his ruthless demeanor and his women-enslaving ways. The story follows as Sabine is caught in his grip and Edward is determined to rescue her before she is lost in harems, never to be found.  .

This story is rich in history and culture. It is fun reading about a place where few historical romances are set. Edward and Sabine are well matched and their friendship grew into love.  There was a little too much distrust at times but ultimately, they worked together and became convinced of their love for each other.  The story bogged down at times, especially when the author added a bit too much detail during the build-up to their main adventure and again when the two characters debated whether their love could survive. At other times, the tension was strong and filled with suspense, with the chase scenes and their efforts at outsmarting the Pasha two examples. This uneven pacing kept me from fully embracing the tale.  Yet, Indiscreet had a unique setting and two main characters worth rooting for, and sometimes that makes all the difference.  

--Shirley Lyons

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