Manga Review: The Desert Lord’s Bride by Sakumi Hanada and Olivia Gates

May Contain Spoilers


All of the sheikh stories I have been reading are starting to blend together. I think it’s time for a break, but there seem to be so many of them!  And I really did like the cover, so I jumped into The Desert Lord’s Bride with a great deal of anticipation.

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Review: His Defiant Desert Queen by Jane Porter

May Contain Spoilers


I read His Defiant Desert Queen because it was included in the Harlequin Presents bundle that I borrowed from the library.  I randomly checked it out because it also included a Caitlin Crews title.  I didn’t read any of the descriptions prior to  gobbling them up, and I definitely had mixed success with this collection.  I had so many reservations about this title, my first by Jane Porter.  Though I ultimately enjoyed it, I had to resist the very strong urge to DNF it at the beginning.

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Review: The Sheikh’s Princess Bride by Annie West

May Contain Spoilers


I waited a long time on library hold for The Sheikh’s Princess Bride.  After reading The Sultan’s Harem Bride, I was interested to see what happened to Asim’s sister, Samira.  I was ultimately disappointed, though, because the book featured one of my least favorite tropes – the miracle baby.  There wasn’t one hint in the synopsis about it, or I probably wouldn’t have checked it out from the library.  This trope almost never works for me, so it was no surprise that it didn’t work here, either.

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Review: Undone by the Sultan’s Touch by Caitlin Crews

Contains Many Spoilers


I haven’t read anything by this author before, and honestly, I’m not sure what prompted me to borrow this particular title from the library.  I don’t usually read the plot summaries for Presents, so it wasn’t that.  The cover?  Nah, I don’t think it was that, either.  Sure, the dress is beautiful, spread out around the couple, but the rest of it is a confusing mess.  Are those rose petals? A carpet?  Pink lily pads?  It was probably the latest Harlequin release that was actually available for check-out, so check it out I did.

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Manga Review: The Sheik and the Bought Bride by Mallery and Hashimoto


May Contain Spoilers


I checked out The Sheik and the Bought Bride because the original novel was written by Susan Mallery, without realizing that it was illustrated by Takako Hashimoto, the same artist who worked on A Mediterranean Marriage, my review from last Friday.  I love her artwork!  Her illustrations are delicate and airy, and the exotic village in El Deharia was brought vividly to life, both through background details and Victoria’s wardrobe.  Her clothing was beautifully rendered and I loved seeing all of her costume changes.

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Review: The Sultan’s Harem Bride by Annie West

May Contain Spoilers


At one time, I loved romances with sheikhs.  I loved the desert setting, the opulent palaces, and the armchair travel.  Current events have diminished some of this enjoyment, though, so it’s with a bit of trepidation that I pick one up any more.  I can’t remove myself from reality enough to enjoy them as exuberantly as I once did.  I saw some positive reviews for The Sultan’s Harem Bride and since it was at the library, I decided to give it a read before diving into Anne Bishop’s Vision in Silver.

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Interview with Susan Stephens, Author of Diamond in the Desert

Please welcome USA TODAY bestselling author Susan Stephens to the virtual offices today! Susan is here to chat about her latest Harlequin Presents Diamond in the Desert.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you describe yourself?

[Susan Stephens] The children call me Ninja Carrot.  I prefer to think of myself as driven! I love people and music, art and food, and one of my main passions is travel, which allows me to immerse myself in all these things.

I have been lucky enough to travel the world singing, and now with my writing. It would be fair to say I’ve seen quite a bit of life along the way.

I have a deep love of animals and have never been without a pet of some sort in my life, even when I was forced to smuggle a ridiculously young puppy I found in a disreputable pet shop into my theatrical digs. Poor Fleur was so tiny she didn’t even have proper fur, and the vet told me that if she was still alive the following week she would put her on an inoculation plan. Fourteen years later Fleur left me. She was a life-enhancing privilege,  to know and love.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Diamond in the Desert?

[Susan Stephens] Diamond In The Desert is my first book in the Skavanga series. I feel so passionate about the heroine in this book. Britt is the oldest sister who feels herself responsible for the rest of the family, but Britt cuts herself no slack and has no personal life outside her work and family. I so want Britt to be happy and fulfilled in all areas of her life, and I hope I found a hero in Sheikh Sharif who can both excite Britt and show her that she can enjoy personal fulfilment without compromising her sense of duty.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Susan Stephens] I just love the concept of ice and fire. The characters exploded from these extreme settings and demanded to have their stories told

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Britt?

[Susan Stephens] Britt is strong, loyal, and lonely

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Sharif had a theme song, what would it be?

[Susan Stephens] My way

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Britt is never without.

[Susan Stephens] Care for those who rely on her

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Sharif’s bedroom?

[Susan Stephens] Alarm clock . A mirror. Pink cushions

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Britt’s greatest regret?

[Susan Stephens] She hasn’t saved herself for Sharif

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Susan Stephens] Life, my children, and the wonderful books I read

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Susan Stephens] The love of my family. My Betty dog lying on my feet, and the phone not ringing constantly.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Susan Stephens] Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Susan Stephens] Harper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Susan Stephens] Cook, bake, eat, travel, play the piano, entertain friends, read, walk, think about the next book

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Susan Stephens]

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase Diamond in the Desert from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the links below:

About the book:

Breathless in a Bedouin tent With the future of the Skavanga diamond mine in jeopardy, heiress Britt Skavanga needs an injection of cash-fast. She finds it in the mysterious Arabian investor known only as Emir… 

Britt travels to the desert kingdom of Kareshi to confront her arrogant benefactor. If diamonds are in Britt’s blood, then the scorching desert sand runs through Sheikh Sharif al Kareshi’s. He’s determined to show arctic beauty Britt how things are really done in Kareshi, including how hot nights in the desert can be…

Review: The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh by Ros Clarke

Title: The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh

Author: Ros Clarke

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

His duty, her dreams, undone by their desire…

In the male-dominated oil industry, executive Olivia McInnes plays a careful game – she’s cold, uncompromising, and ambitious as hell. Once she seals the deal to drill in the clear waters of Saqat, she’ll finally prove herself worthy to take the reins of her father’s oil company. Her only obstacle is marine biologist – and Saqat’s royal heir – Sheikh Khaled Ibm Saqat al Mayim, who’s determined to protect both his people and his country from environmental devastation…

It’s not long before Olivia’s icy cool exterior is shattered by the intelligent and wickedly hot sheikh, and business is surpassed by sweet, stolen pleasures. But outside the bedroom, there’s reality to be faced. Soon Khaled must return to his obligations – and his betrothed – in Saqat.

Caught between duty and ambition, can an oil tycoon and a sexy sheikh find room for love… or will this business deal spell disaster for them both?


I wanted to read The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh because I was curious to see how the conflict between the characters would be portrayed.  Olivia is an executive at a successful oil company, and in order to ensure that she will take her father’s place  when he retires, she needs to land the contract to drill for oil in the waters off of Saqat.  Khaled is next in line to rule the country, but he is also a marine biologist.  He has studied the long term effects of oil spills on marine life, and what he has learned is discouraging.  It takes far longer than originally thought for the aquatic ecosystem to recover from the devastating consequences of a spill, and he is reluctant to allow any corporation to set up shop in his coastal waters.  He doesn’t believe that safety precautions go far enough, and he thinks that the cleanup efforts outlined in the contract are also lacking.  But tempering his reluctance to open up Saqat to oil investors is the need to alleviate the poverty of his  people.  The money from oil production would help bring education and improvements in medical care, and it is very difficult for him to turn that down.  I enjoyed this conflict between these two driven people.  Olivia is gung-ho to prove herself to the naysayers at her father’s company, and Khaled wants what’s best for both his country and his people.  This puts them at odds with each other, and it is a heavy weight on Khaled’s shoulders.  Does he allow these foreigners into the pristine waters, when there is a potential that they will bring ruin to the fragile ecosystem?

While I found the business negotiations interesting, I was not convinced about the romantic conflict between Khaled and Olivia.  They are instantly attracted to each other, but because Khaled is next in line to inherit the throne, he tries to put the brakes on their budding relationship.  It just can’t work out for them, because he has a duty to his people.  Their relationship can’t go anywhere, because he is expected to marry a quiet, respectable Muslim girl from Saqat, and Olivia just doesn’t fit into the mold he has imagined his future wife must fit  into.  I didn’t buy into this conflict because the only person who had a problem with them being a couple was Khaled.  Once Olivia arrived in his country, almost everyone was open and friendly with her.  Everyone seemed to accept her.  There was no opposition to her being in the palace, other than the opposition that Khaled brought into their relationship, so I didn’t feel that there was a sense of tension or suspense about their romance.  I was a little dismayed that it took Khaled so long to question his own concerns, because he is certainly smarter than that, and as a scientist, it should have been in his nature to re-evaluate his conclusions.

Despite that complaint,  I found The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh a quick, satisfying read.  I gobbled this one up, was annoyed by Olivia’s distant, clueless father, and cheered her on as she sought to find a purpose in life beyond the one she had envisioned for herself.  Olivia, like Khaled, put pressure on herself to be something that she thought other people expected of her.  She wanted to succeed in her father’s business so much because she sought his approval, something that she never felt he had given to her.  Until she meet Khaled and traveled to Saqat, she never questioned her life goals.  Once she met him, though, she was forced to admit that maybe the career path she was pursuing wasn’t really the one she wanted.  The final resolution ties up all of the loose ends, and finds happiness and a new purpose for both protagonists and the citizens of Saqat.

Grade: B-/C+

Review copy provided by publisher

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