I’m going to start off with what was good about this book, and that was the editing and technical writing, and the hero; I liked Zaid a lot. A lot of Sheikhs in romance novels have a severe allergy to the words “I’m sorry” and an inability to accept that they might on occasion not be correct about everything. Zaid was definitely not that guy. He even apologised WITHOUT having a mistake rubbed in his face.
Unfortunately, he was afflicted with a heroine who was the opposite. Rebecca was convinced of her own righteousness; she Knew Everything about Sharjah despite not having been there for about 15 years according to the book’s timeline. She came across as the worst kind of social justice warrior; as opposed to someone who genuinely advocates for social justice, she appears to be just in it to be morally superior and pat herself on the back every time she is Proved Right.
Rebecca also contradicts herself at every turn. She sneaks off to go alone into what she apparently Knows is one of the poorest slums in a Middle Eastern city, dressed in a glamorous skirt suit and blatantly a foreigner, with her red hair and white skin, not even covering her hair… and then acts shocked and distressed when she gets mugged. She then spends the rest of the book asking Zaid “Are you sure it’s safe?” Pity she didn’t think of that before acting like a naive idiot.
There are a few too many obvious tropes in this book. A Dishonest Grand Vizier (the Sultan’s chief adviser) who suddenly backs out of a trip to a factory in a slum at the last minute… I saw the bomb coming a mile off. Kind of strange though that Zaid, who is from the MIDDLE EAST, is the one who is so shocked by a bomb and says that nothing like that has ever happened in his life, whereas Rebecca is the one who thinks that she’s been closer to bomb blasts in the past. Strikes me as unlikely to say the least. And then offensive that she thinks Zaid can’t protect their son in a PALACE, when she has left him behind in America. A country known for its GUN CRIME. Oh, but of course Rebecca has to be Proved Right again, hence the bomb blast and Zaid grovelling an apology because She Knew Best.
The absolute deal-breaker for me, though, is that Sharjah is a REAL COUNTRY, and one that is thoroughly misrepresented in this book. A five minute read through a Wikipedia article told me that Sharjah is extremely conservative, with a strict dress code for men and women. Appearing before a member of the ruling family in a skirt suit which showed her legs would actually be a criminal act, as would being alone with Zaid at any time – contact between unmarried men and women is strictly prohibited.
The story is ill-researched and carries decidedly racist undertones, considering Rebecca’s White Saviorism. I reserve one-star reviews for poorly edited, mistake-ridden manuscripts or ones that dress up abuse as romance, but this one rides very close to that line. Two stars.
The Sheikh’s Secret Son is available now on Amazon, if you have a particular passion for White Savior SJW heroines.
Disclaimer: I received this book for review through NetGalley.