Heir to Danger

Interrupted Lullaby

The Monarch's Son

The Princess & the Playboy

Royal Spy

Desert Justice
by Valerie Parv
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1425, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-27495-5
Simone Hayes has returned to Nazaar, the country of her parent’s birth. It is a monarchy ruled by Sheikh Markaz bin Kemal, the now sole surviving son of a hereditary monarchy. Simone’s parents had fled the country years ago to settle in Australia, leaving partly from fear and partly from their resistance to the “old ways.”

Simone has come in search of her uncle, her sole surviving family member outside her mother who is in a nursing home suffering from depression. Simone believes news of her uncle will perhaps stimulate a recovery for her mother. She knows he is working as a palace guard and bears a recognizable tattoo.

And so, she is waiting in the ruins of a castle where Sheikh Markaz is to visit, hoping to catch a glimpse of the retinue of guards. Drifting into the ladies’ room she befriends a woman who seems to be ill. Helping her to her car, Simone realizes the woman is afraid of a man lurking nearby, and her thoughts are confirmed when the woman hands Simone a ring and urges her to get it to the Sheikh.

Simone flees with the ring, noticing the man is forcing her newfound acquaintance into a car and then they drive away. When the Sheikh exits the castle, Simone forces her way into his presence, delivers the ring and is surprised at his reaction.

She is whisked to the palace for protection, the woman is later discovered dead, and Simone finds that she had been the ex-wife of the Sheikh delivering a college ring that contained a code to initiate a weapons system.

The stage is thus set for the unraveling of a rebels plot to keep the country bound to its old ways in opposition to Markaz’s platform of restoring women’s rights etc. It is clear that there is at least one palace insider allied with the rebels, and Simone fears it is her uncle, who had been part of the rebel force when her parents had left.

The story is told amongst a carefully researched background of Arabic clothing, habits and ways. Simone lives in the harem, which had become in this century a sanctuary for the single women relatives of the imperial family.

The attraction between Simone and the Sheik matures, as she runs her internet based business from the harem - a business that has focused on retailing loomed embroidery. Her foray into the Arabic embroideries is interesting and contributes additional interest to the little understood clothing habits of Arabic women.

Parv makes the desert environment come alive, and her out of the ordinary choice of venue is peopled with interesting characters as Simone wrestles with her fear of people trying to exert control of her; and Markaz confronts his fear of marrying someone else who chooses a career and independence setting the stage for later abandonment.

However, the weakness in Desert Justice is the romance. The romance is not as credible as it could be unless readers are willing to suspend a great deal of disbelief.

--Thea Davis

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