REVIEW: Innocent In the Harem by Michelle WillinghamMonday, August 2, 2010 1:00
If you are a reader predisposed to disliking the captive trope, Michelle Willingham’s latest short story for the Harlequin Historical Undone line isn’t likely to change your mind. But for readers who can roll with the plot, given the right set of circumstances? The author avoids some of the more obvious pitfalls and delivers a quick, tasty read.
Prince Khadin has been summoned back to his father’s palace for what he fears will be bad news. Oh, namely his execution. He has troubles enough without getting wrapped up with some Bedouin princess turned slave girl, but that he does. After witnessing Laila’s failed escape attempt during a slave auction, he immediately purchases her, saving her from a far worse fate. Now all he has to do is convince her of that.
The obvious land mine to avoid with captive stories is “forced seduction,” which is (blessedly) not present here. Khadin gives Laila a choice. Admittedly, not much of one – but a choice nonetheless. I’ll admit that I like my characters to have free will, and it’s in pretty short supply here. That said, while Laila’s choices might not be all that grand, Khadin wants her willing, or not at all. And certainly while the power element to their relationship is a wee bit lop-sided, the author evens the playing field somewhat by having the hero fear for his own life. It’s not like everything is sunshine and roses for this guy either!
The author handles the setting well, using some real history as a nice backdrop, while tweaking things enough to deliver a highly readable short story. It’s sexy, quick and a snappy read – which is what I want out of the Undone line. Certainly the plot isn’t going to wind every reader’s watch, but for those hungry for harem stories, this one is worth a look.
Ottoman Empire, 1565
Prince Khadin knows his days are numbered. His death could come at any moment, but even he cannot help but be distracted by the Bedouin princess he sees making a daring bid for freedom from the slave market. Even in captivity, her courage and purity attract Khadin to her as much as her beauty. Unable to resist the temptation, he takes the maiden back to the palace harem—to be brought to him at night….