I must say it is great to read a turn of the century romance in an exotic setting. Monica's descriptions had me wanting to jump on a plane and go ride a camel or sleep in a tent in the desert. She really does have a wonderful historical fiction voice. The way she builds up the attraction between her hero and heroine shows her skill as an author and I can assure you there is a great deal of this in Kismet.
Allegra Synnford is a courtesan from London, England who has come to Marrakech, Morocco to attend her friend Isabella's wedding to Major Brant Hastings. Allegra is relived to have a vacation because she is a bit stressed out. Her niece Cordelia is set to marry the Earl of Bledsoe. Cordelia doesn't have a clue that Allegra was forced to work in a brothel because her mother sold her when she was a barely a teen. Allegra went on to tone her skills and became the mistress of Arthur, the former Earl of Bledsoe who died in her bed from a heart attack. Cordelia's fiancé is the nephew of Allegra's dead lover and Allegra is concerned that Arthur's widow may find out about Cordelia's family connection to her. Controversy and gossip follows Allegra wherever she goes, even to Morocco, which may seem a bit odd, but Allegra has quite the reputation. A man would do anything to spend one night in her arms because she is so skillful in the art of pleasure.
Allegra appreciates fine horse flesh and when she first arrives by train she spots an out of control horse. Without any concern for her safety, she is almost trampled by the horse, but rescued by a tall man who has a powerful presence surrounding him. This all happens in a moment and Allegra is intrigued by her savior even though he is all dressed in black, and his face covered with only his brown eyes showing. From that moment on, Allegra's life will change, perhaps because of fate or possibly because of kismet...
The man who rescues Allegra will do whatever he can to have one night in her bed. He is Sheikh Shaheen of the Amazigh and serves Sheikh Mahmoud. Shaheen is also negotiating treaties between the different Bedouin tribes, as well as working with the French and Spanish governments to make everything run smoothly. Shaheen is very powerful in his own right and proud to be a part of the Amazigh nation. But Shaheen hides another identity. Shaheen was born in England and is a Viscount who left because his father disowned him due to the death of his brother James. Shaheen lives with the guilt over James' death daily and will never return to England. But a distant cousin, Charles Shaftsbury, has come to Morocco looking for Shaheen. He knows who he really is and coincidently happens to be an old lover of Allegra's.
Shaheen assumes that Allegra won't refuse him because she is a whore after all. He corners her one night and tells her his wish, which really insults Allegra. She thinks he is rude, too egotistical and too possessive in his regard towards her. Allegra has dealt with men like Shaheen in the past and thinks she can simply turn her nose up in the air and walk away. She may find Shaheen desirable but refuses to be owned. Allegra gives Shaheen a merry chase and after a dare, that shows Allegra's skill at eating a banana, Shaheen backs down. But then Allegra is kidnapped by Mahmoud's brother, Sheikh Yusuf Nassar. Nassar is a disturbing and sick individual who believes women are cattle and live to serve him. Even though Allegra can see Nassar is not right in his mind, she stands up for herself and won't let him near her. Unfortunately her actions have consequences and with that she is placed in great danger. But, the one man she first refused comes to her rescue and in turn he will expect Allegra to pay him back with her body and sexual techniques. Shaheen will no longer be pushed to the side and will enjoy the delights found in between Allegra's thighs. Unfortunately for Shaheen, Allegra undermines him at every turn. Bedding a woman like Allegra is a welcomed fight Shaheen looks forward to, where not only his body will be satisfied but as well as his heart.
Kismet is a steamy, well written historical romance with two strong willed and very stubborn characters. Shaheen is very alpha and some of the things he says and does to Allegra may make you want to slap him across the face. But Monica makes sure we see what type of man he is inside and why he acts the way he does. I can promise you that Allegra is no wilting violet and she has quite the mouth on her. Her outspoken nature gets her into trouble. What she goes through at the hands of Nassar is horrible but Shaheen is partly responsible because he believes that Allegra would be better without him.
Shaheen's non-stop guilt over his past ruins everything between Allegra and himself up to the very last moment. Shaheen has some of those "Too Stupid To Live" moments. Allegra is a wonderful, "I am woman, hear me roar" heroine. She keeps Shaheen on her toes and fights because she refuses to be a victim. She has taken life by the horns and made a life for herself on her own terms. She is a survivor and will continue to be. I wish there were more types of heroines like Allegra being written in historical romances.
I found Kismet to be great reading even though there were some parts I was confused with because past events were mentioned that may make a reader think this is a book in a series, even though it is a stand alone. But even with those small issues, Kismet is a solid, nicely written passionate desert romance that tales place in Morocco 1893 with a heroine who won't take any crap from anyone, including the sheikh who wants to own her body and soul.