Dear Ms. Mallery:
In an effort to broaden my horizons and understand the appeal of the category romance and to support Harlequin’s phenomenal digital effort, I’ve taken to buying two or three series books a month. A while back I purchased The Sheik and The Virgin Secretary because the title exemplified two of the most villified but standard tropes within the series genre plus it was a play on the Boss/Secretary theme. I had to read it.
Prince Rafiq of Lucia-Serrat is the standard issue prince from some unknown principality overlooking the Indian Ocean. He’s very rich and tends to be a serial monogamist. When his assistant of two years, Kiley Hendrick, is in her office on Monday morning instead of her honeymoon, Rafiq was surprised but even more when Kiley suggests that since he gave his last mistress her conge, she fill that position.
Kiley is a very practical and direct person. She lays out all the reasons that she would make a good mistress. She doesn’t make unreasonable demands; she understands his need to work; she “clean[s] up pretty well”; is smart, and has a sense of humor.
Rafiq is quite taken aback. There are plenty of beautiful available women but not too many excellent assistants. He asks Kiley why. Kiley found out that her fiance was cheating on her and Kiley was crushed. She had actually been saving herself for marriage while her fiance was out sleeping with every woman who would take him. Having an affair with Rafiq kills two birds with one stone – ridding herself of her virginity and getting revenge. Eric, the fiance, would be eaten with jealousy to know that Kiley was with Prince Rafiq.
Rafiq looks at Kiley and believes revenge is a honorable gesture. He finds her to be fair of form and kisses her to see if they would be compatible and they are. Sparks fly.
Rafiq and Kiley agree that the affair will last for three months and Kiley extracts a promise that Rafiq will not fire her at the end of the affair and that if it is at all awkward, he will assist in finding her an appopriate position.
“Nothing. In addition to our sexual relationship, I would expect you to accompany me to various social events.”
“That’s the part I’m most looking forward to,” Kiley told him with a smile. “I want to be seen and have word get back to Eric.”
Rafiq’s expression didn’t change, but she had the feeling she’d said something wrong. She ran over her statement. Oh. Yeah. Maybe that wasn’t the most flattering thing to say.
“Of course, I’m really excited about sleeping with you,” she added, feeling both embarrassed and uncomfortable.
“I can see that.”
She wanted to bang her head against the desk. “Have I blown it completely?”
There is a wonderful ratcheting up of the tension as Rafiq recognizes that Kiley needs to be seduced and so while each encounter is steamy, the actual consummation takes place later allowing the reader to be seduced along with Kiley. Rafiq and Kiley enjoy quite a few amusing and comfortable exchanges.
Kiley didn’t look convinced. “So, is there a place one goes to find a woman fit to be a princess? Like a princess store?”
Her eyes were bright with humor and the corners of her mouth curved up.
“There’s an Internet site,” he said, pretending to be serious.
“Oh, I’d love to see it. Do you type in specifications? Height, weight, number of sons required.”
“Of course. Along with how many languages I want her to speak and what accomplishments she should have.”
“You really need to get going on that,” she said with a smile. “So you aren’t too old when your kids are born. You want to be able to play ball with them.”
“I have a few good years left.”
“I don’t know. You’re over thirty.”
“By a year.”
“Still. You’re looking a little creaky.”
“How charming,” he said dryly. He liked that she was feeling comfortable enough to joke with him.
The problem arises when Kiley falls in love with Rafiq and Rafiq cannot return the sentiment. Or believes that he cannot because Rafiq is a the subject of two careless parents who offered him little affection. Rafiq does not believe in love. He believes in mutual respect and admiration but love can only lead to intense pain and he would rather avoid that.
The best part of this story is Kiley and her honesty. I fell in love with her a little bit too so I can definitely see her appeal to Rafiq. If I had any quibbles, it would be the slimness of the character arc for Rafiq. B+