Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-91727-7
Historical Romance, 2016
Rachel Talbot is the daughter of a baron, but she doesn’t want a typical life of marrying some noble bloke. She loves kids, but she now knows that she will never have any because, you know, she’s never getting married. So she signs up to be a governess to the children of Sheikh Malik, the ruler of the Kingdom of Huria. She ends up marrying him and becoming the wife of a noble bloke anyway, but this is different people, because she is in love. The whole perfect mother thing she throws in for free.
That’s basically the story in Laura Martin’s Governess to the Sheikh. If you have seen and read any stories of English women coming to some heathen corner of the land to bring sagacity and wisdom to the ruler’s sullen brats while winning over the prim and proper ruler in question – The King and I, Anna and the King, etc – then nothing here will surprise you. This one follows the script very closely, with the added bonus of the Sheikh’s dead wife being on the slutty trollop side while our heroine is pure and loyal and hence worthy of placing her rear end onto his mighty throne.
Sheikh Malik has to be an open-minded sort for this story to takes place, but really, this one is basically a character played by… I’m almost tempted to say a white man, but honestly, this man is so bland that he could very well be Indian, Chinese, Eskimo, whatever and no one will know the difference. He and Huria are described in such a bland and flavorless manner that there is nothing about him or his land that stands out as something exotic or, at the very least, difference. Even the secondary characters are stock types that could have fit right in in, say, a castle in medieval Scotland or Wales. Maybe the author and the publisher don’t want to agitate the crowd that will scream cultural appropriation or racism at them, but the end result is something so bland that I don’t know why they even bother setting this story in Huria. Just drop it in some remote English manor, we’ll all be fine still.
On the bright side, he’s a very nice guy who stands up to defend the heroine against the detractors and, despite having the usual trampy dead wife baggage, has very little issues about women in general. Rachel’s a bit on the too perfect side to be believable at times, but she’s good at her job and she is also pretty smart and self aware. I also confess that I find the whole “I can’t love you or anyone because I have to focus on my country and my heart is stone, blah blah blah” thing from Malik to be also unexpectedly moving, and some of the resulting scenes make me choke up inside. Considering my reaction to the author’s previous books, this is a most pleasant surprise to me.
On the whole, though, Governess to the Sheikh sticks too much to the script. It’s just too alike to other stories with similar premise, and the whole thing can be read with the brain on autopilot. A shame, really, as some of the better scenes here suggest that the author could have done much better with this one.