Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-24797-8
Historical Romance, 2015
Ooh, a story set in Egypt! With an intrepid desert explorer hero, oh my. Emma Knight, a lass from England, is in Egypt to locate a long lost tomb using her father’s map. She is doing this both for herself – she loves everything there is about the land, from stories told by her father and from what she read in those books – and for her late father, who has always loved this land, until his wife dying in childbirth saw him returning to England with his baby daughter. While her father is no longer here, she hopes to find some sort of closure in his memory. Pretty soon as she reaches Egypt, she meets Sebastian Oakfield, the “runaway son” from England who spends his days here looking for adventures and running away from dangerous men. The perfect man to help her locate the tomb, in other words!
Don’t get so excited about Under a Desert Moon, though. Sure, I had high hopes when I started reading this book, and the first few chapters were promising. Sebastian is roguish and charming, with a hidden hurt that he keeps close to his heart. Emma is a sheltered miss who is not as smart as she thinks she is, but she is pretty charming in her own right and she has some sense of awareness when it comes to Sebastian – he doesn’t pull a fast one over her.
However, as the story progresses, all promise of danger and adventures starts to take a back seat to the characters’ dreadfully repetitive navel gazing as they rehash their issues again and again. This story turns from danger over the Nile into an interminable litany of why each of them doesn’t deserve the other person. Of course, they can’t keep away from one another, so the story soon becomes a bog of circular behavior. They kiss, they touch, and then they sigh mournfully about how they can’t be frisky anymore as being horny with the other person is somehow wrong.
And their angst is so one-note and boring! Sebastian’s father was an abusive villain, and Sebastian beat that bastard in defense of his mother when he was younger. The fact that he lifted his hand on that bastard means that he has violent tendencies too, so one day he will beat the woman he marries. Therefore, he will never, ever marry. He has made this promise to himself, and he will never break that vow! Of course, he can and will rehash this on and on and on until my eyes begin to glaze over.
Emma’s angst changes its nature depending on what chapter we are talking about. She was taken in and ruined by a rake in the past, so her reputation is in tatters. She is convinced that she will never, ever marry. That, or she has discovered that she cannot trust any man – her song changes its beat pretty often. She will never give in to Sebastian because he is very clearly wrong for her. That, or the song changes without rhyme or reason in a following chapter into how she really wants to give it all to Sebastian, but he clearly isn’t interested in her despite the fact that he continuously flirts with and paws her, so oh, they can never be together and she is blue inside. On some chapters, this song once again changes its beat: now. she’s all blue because she knows that he doesn’t want her because of her ruined reputation. On another chapter, it’d be her feeling that they can never be together anyway because of her ruined reputation. But while the beat may change depending on the page number, the phase of the moon, the passing of the tides, or something, whatever that something is, the underlying melody is the same and is also repeated so often: she wants him, but oh, she can’t be with him, oh woe, woe, woe.
These two just keep at it, again and again, until I can only wish that… I don’t know, a giant monster crocodile or something to show up and do something, anything, to distract these two from their interminable whining. Worse, it’s not like their angst is compelling. Sebastian’s is one-note and built on hyperbole, while Emma acts way too easy for someone who supposedly has learned her lesson when it comes to giving free milk samples to every guy that passes her by. Their angst appears to be contrivances to keep the story going a little longer, and I’m bored.
If the author wants to come back to Egypt in the future, I’d strongly recommend toning down the dull hand-wringing and moping while increasing the action and drama. We’re in Egypt! More danger, more dramatic tension, please.