If you want a good sheikh romance, I recommend putting yourself into the hands of an expert. Since there are few romance writers with more sheikh romances under her belt than Alexandra Sellers, you instantly know that you are in for a treat with her latest romance, Her Royal Protector.
Aly Percy feels like a duck out of water at a Johari royal event, stuck in one of her sister’s cast off formal gowns. With the team leader of her environmental expedition is suddenly hospitalized, it’s up to her to represent their interests at the black tie fundraiser for the endangered Johari sea turtle, a creature so enmeshed with this history of this gulf nation that the country’s legend indicates that as long as the turtle exists, so will the crown. Aly knows her strength is doing research for her Ph.D. dissertation in cut-off shorts and sunscreen, so she is utterly out of her element in this crowd, particularly with one of the Sultan of Bagestan’s stunningly handsome advisors looking right through her in his dress uniform.
Arif al Najimi is irritated that he can’t help but be fascinated by the scientist working so hard to be invisible. She’s in an ill-fitting gown that does nothing for her, trips on her way to the podium and then fluffs her speech and yet he finds himself irritated when his assistant calls her plain. She might have no confidence to speak of, unless she’s talking about turtles, but he sees the underlying sensuality she works so hard to dismiss. When circumstances allow him to take his state-mandated undercover time with her to protect her while she researches her turtles, he finds himself drawn to Aly more and more, yet worried on behalf of his country about her intentions when he finds her acting suspiciously.
For her part, Aly is totally conflicted. Being close to the compelling Arif and learning the extent of his patriotism and honor has her feeling an unfamiliar level of desire. Yet her shattered self-esteem, eroded over years at the hands of her family and led by her deceptive father (a Bernie Madoff-like businessman who bankrupted his family while losing the life savings of thousands of people), can’t bring her to believe that the heat she sees in Arif’s eyes is real. When she trusts him with her suspicions regarding the deliberate sabotage on the turtles she’s trying to protect, the heat between them reaches inferno levels, cracking open her heart. Aly knows that Arif is a player who has made clear that he plans to marry a Bagestani woman after a long life enjoying the stunning women who throw themselves at his feet. But his tender, protective behavior and the way he awakens all her desires is at odds with his declaration, yet she knows she needs to be ready to walk away to minimize the hurt. When the forces who threaten her life’s work also endanger her, Aly and Arif both have to confront their feelings for one another and see if they can work past their individual baggage to claim the happiness that is right in front of them.
Sellers does an outstanding job of building a country rich in history with a stunning coastal geography. Aly is an intelligent, sensitive heroine who has used her scientific interest as a necessary outlet for everything she couldn’t be with her emotionally abusive family. Arif is torn between two cultures, with a Bagestani father and an Irish mother. He’s passionately chosen to embrace his Middle Eastern heritage and work for the good of his country, but his heart is clearly guiding him toward Aly despite all his best-laid plans. While the sexual tension climbs throughout the novel, the nature of Entangled’s Indulgence line has everything built up only to slam the bedroom door in your face and open it the following morning (my only complaint). Even with that frustration, I was so utterly wowed by this book that I eagerly await the additional books in the series. Rich secondary characters and ongoing cultural and political tensions make this fictional country a terrific locale for future plotlines.
I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to ask Alexandra Sellers a few questions about her latest novel.
1) You’re an established romance author with a long history of specializing in the “sheikh romance.” What do you think is the perennial appeal for readers in that sub genre?
Sheikhs can be more mysterious, more masculine, more powerful than many heroes, I think. They maybe hark back to the early days of category romance, when the hero embodied the powerful, unknown patriarchy—and the heroine brought it to heel. I think the hidden masculine is still a draw, even though nowadays we get right inside the hero’s head. Sheikhs seem to represent the masculine as Other. They embody the mystery of romance: that hidden other self that we all need to find before we can become whole. And of course there has never been a period in art and architecture to rival the Golden Age of Islam. From jewels to miniature paintings to palaces, there is no beauty to match it. For fantasy locations sheikhs can’t be beat.
2) Did you have fun putting a sexy scientist and a dashing royal together? What did you enjoy the most?
HER ROYAL PROTECTOR is more an ‘ugly duckling and a protective alpha male’ trope. I always enjoy writing the fun and humorous bits, of course, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading them, too. But this book has a serious side—Aly Percy, my heroine, is trying to save an endangered species from extinction. I worked as a volunteer with sea turtles in Crete while researching this story, and I enjoyed that immensely. Sea turtles are simply beautiful in every way.
3) I noticed on Amazon that there’s a series title next to Her Royal Protector – “a Johari Crown novel.” Do you have other books planned for us? When can readers expect to see them?
Yes, I do have at least two more books planned in the series. The second should be out in November, and the third early next year.
4) Now for the most important question. For your ideal cupcake, what is your preferred cake/icing combination?
My ideal cupcake is one that can be bought at Tim Horton’s with a cup of coffee.
Thanks, Alexandra! A Tim Horton cupcake and Her Royal Protector on an e-reader sounds like an ideal combination, particularly since the book is only $.99 right now with Entangled’s (God bless them) intro pricing.