Prince Khalil Khan's three-week business trip to America is not going as planned. His regular assistant could not join him so he is dealing with an incompetent temp and because his private plane had mechanical problems, he had to charter a replacement plane that requires a refueling stop in Salina, Kansas. So, the dark-haired woman in an ill-fitting wedding dress walking toward him seem bound to be another difficulty.
Dora Nelson has to ask the handsome businessman for a ride. After a terrible argument, she had marched off her fiancé’s plane and refused to get back on. She had left her purse and all her luggage on the plane and Gerald, the fiancé, left. She just wants to get to a big city so that she can figure out the mess she is in. Khalil agrees to take her to his next
stop, New York.
On the trip, she is able to help him with some business papers that the temp can't handle. When they land, he fires the temp and asks Dora if she is willing to work for him for two weeks for a good salary plus clothes plus room and board. She agrees. They work well together, but he does not think any more of her than as a competent assistant until he overhears a phone conversation she has with her ex-fiancé. Gerald berates Dora so badly that Khalil gets furious.
Khalil receives a visit from Amber, the daughter of the prime minister of El Bahar. Khalil's father is King of El Bahar and the two fathers have arranged a marriage between Khalil and Amber, but he does not want to marry her. She has been a hedonist since she was thirteen, though her father does not know it. Khalil can't tell either father about Amber's ways because their country's customs would require her father to take responsibility for her shame and leave his post.
Khalil decides to convince Dora that he is extremely attracted to her and that they should get married, thus keeping him away from Amber and giving Dora back some of her dignity. Dora gets caught up in the wonder and excitement and before she knows it, she is married to him and on her way to El Bahar. Thus begins a struggle between two people from different cultures trying to make a marriage work.
The differences between Dora and Khalil are not just cultural. He tends to be arrogant and she is stubborn, but has low self-esteem. The story is at its best when it details how each of them learns to give a little, then a little more as they struggle to find happiness.
Amber is a nasty character. She does her best to poison Dora and Khalil's relationship. I could understand why Dora listens to her during their first encounter, but the last encounter is shown bothering Dora more than it should. By this time in the story, Dora had become a much stronger person and Amber's attack should have had less sting.
A few inconsistencies marred the book. Early in the story, Dora is described as having short hair. A few pages later it is described as shoulder-length, and then a few pages after that, short again. This statement was also odd: "Once in New York, she could phone her bank and get them to wire her some money."
As a Midwesterner, I know that there are phones in Salina, Kansas, that could have been used to call her California bank and transfer money to a Kansas bank.
Despite some flaws, I enjoyed Dora's struggle to create a happy marriage and to find a place for herself in a country reaching toward the modern age. This is the first of the "Desert Rogues" books, so I'm sure that Khalil's brother's, Jamil and Malik have their stories told as well.
--B. Kathy Leitle