As I turned the last (electronic) page of Guarding the Princess by Loreth Ann White, there was a smile on my face — for more than one reason. The first, this book was really refreshing and I enjoyed it. The second, it’s the first book I’ve read on my new Nook HD. (Yes, I know, I’ve turned to the dark side. I caved and purchased an eReader.) I still prefer the feel of print beneath my fingertips, but thanks to NetGalley, it was worth it because now I get to read advance copies. 🙂
“You’re not just a job anymore.” It was supposed to be a 72-hour mission, in and out, until Brandt Stryker got stranded in the arid African plains with predators before him, a killer at his heels and an exotic princess by his side. Dalilah Al Arif stirs his blood, makes him crave things he’d lost long ago—but she is off-limits, promised to a sheik.
Dalilah’s wedding contract stipulates she must wed before her 30th birthday—just months away. It’s a duty she accepts. But in the arms of her handsome protector, she’s torn between her sense of duty and honor, and her freedom. And as the terrorists close in, she fears the most dangerous creature in the savannah is Brandt himself.
I was immediately drawn to both of these characters. I could relate with each of them and also understand their initial contempt for the other. This is definitely a character-driven story. I was expecting a fast-paced romance but White delivered a slow, sincere romance that blossoms by the end. I felt invested in their lives and well-being. There was a connection that isn’t easy for a writer to create.
My favorite aspect of this novel that surprised me was the setting. This adventure takes place in Africa. White has certainly done her research or made a convincing fabrication because I feel like I’ve been to Africa. When Brandt and Dalilah are on the run, they traverse the wild of Africa; it was fascinating. I loved that she pointed out the terrain and the animals. She didn’t just mention these things in passing, she would stop and explain them but in a way that was pertinent to the story so it didn’t come off like a Discovery Channel segment. I loved it.
White’s writing style is very vivid and descriptive. I could see, taste and feel what the characters were, and that’s why I have a weird non-issue with this love story. If you’re looking for a take-me-now passion extravaganza resulting in the tearing of your own clothes, you won’t find it here. This love story is slow and sweet. There is one sex scene that White makes you wait for, and I found it lacking in emotion and quite frankly dull. It was “sweet” and “nice” but it wasn’t what I expected from a Princess and a Mercenary. I signed up for some battle-fueled passion! I commend White for not having scene after scene of carbon-copy love scenes though, which is expected in romance novels, but I wanted more. I felt she could deliver more. If this was book one in a series, I could understand but as a stand-alone, I found it lacking.
There were two other things I didn’t like about this novel. One: the cover. I felt like the couple on the cover didn’t match who I saw between the pages. However, the cover is what drew my eye. Two: the villain. Within the first few pages we are introduced to Amal, the one-armed killer. (I couldn’t help but hear Jim Carey’s voice as The Mask saying, “It wasn’t me, it was the one-armed man!”) Needless to say, I didn’t take him seriously at first; it was too cliché. However, White slowly changed my perspective throughout the story but I wish she would’ve showed how mean and cruel he was. Amal was constantly in the background and only a minor secondary character. He could have been more important, bigger, better.
I loved that this story has a happy ending. I’m actually glad that there wasn’t the expected showdown simply because my heart couldn’t take it. I wanted both of them to live — and live happily ever after. The story was tied up a little too nicely with a big, African-inspired bow, but it was just what I needed: A cool glass of water in the book-filled desert — a lovely, sigh-worthy, adventure-filled refreshment. This book will be released on December 18, 2012. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin books for providing me with an advanced copy!